Rob Caughlan

Environmentalist | Politcal Pro | Surfer

People Magazine wrote “Righteous, Dude” in praise for his work in saving the ocean.


Vanity Fair called him a “Golden State Eco-Warrior.”


When he was called "president" of the Surfrider Foundation, membership grew from 200 to 25,000.

Rob Caughlan on suspension cableThey asked Rob Caughlan if he wanted to go up on the suspension cable of the Willie L. Brown Jr. Bridge and he said yes. Why are you surprised?

I was honored to serve as President of the Surfrider Foundation for six years and we won some major victories. In l990 with the legal leadership of Mark Massara and Pete McCloskey we won the largest clean water action in American history in our fight against the ocean polluting pulp mills in Humboldt County.

More recently I became active in the battle to open Martin's Beach. The bluff along the top of the cliff-lined cove had been purchased by a mysterious absentee landlord. Eventually a news reporter discovered that the new owner was venture capitalist Vinod Khosla.

Khosla had put up a gate and five surfers were arrested trying to go down to the beach. The Surfrider Foundation's San Mateo Chapter led by Mike Wallace, Ed Larenas, Dylan Christensen and Amber Gill tried to work with Khosla for three years to resume open access to Martin's Beach – but Khosla stonewalled them.

So Surfrider asked Massara and McCloskey and myself to get involved and escalate the effort. McCloskey recruited his law partners Joe Cotchett and Eric Buescher; Surfrider then sued Khosla for not getting a permit to shut the gate and change the use of the beach. Surfrider also assisted Senator Jerry Hill in his effort to get the State Lands Commission to negotiate a public easement to the beach.

Surfrider won in court. The judge ruled that the gate was illegal. Surfrider also won in the legislature. Both the Assembly and the Senate sent the bill to Governor Brown and he signed it.

In February of 2013 at our first press event, the San Jose Mercury reported me saying that the owner (i.e. Khosla) made a mistake in bucking California's historic support for public access to the coast:

“I can't believe how you're a billionaire, you don't think this kind of thing through. You want to pick a fight with all the surfers, the fishermen, the people of San Mateo County?” Caughlan said. “We always win these fights. So for Vinod Khosla to come in here and think he can push all of us around is really shortsighted.”

I am so happy I was right! It would have been tough to eat this kind of crow. But as my grandmother would have said, “I'm not wrong all of the time.”

Here's a quick re-cap of the fight:

Read more about the fight for Martin's Beach at the following links:

Billionaire Vinod Khosla Can’t Block Surfers From Martin’s Beach, Judge Rules

Surfers, Beachgoers Celebrate Reopening Of Martin’s Beach Near Half Moon Bay

Fight for coastal beach access moves to state Capitol


When Rob Caughlan speaks his topics are based on his own personal efforts involving historically important and newsworthy events.

Click here to go to a profile and speaking sampler video.

Rob's speaking topics include:

• Making A Difference
• History of the American
  Environmental Movement
• Ocean Protection