Toll Road Rage: Pave Trestles?

Illustration by Matt BorsIn your full manhood and womanhood, you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied and man so thoughtlessly destroyed. (Theodore Roosevelt, 1907)

Nature works in great complexity at Trestles, a spot known worldwide as the Yosemite of surfing. Rocks washing down inland creeks and streams dump into the blender of San Mateo Creek, where they are tumbled—smashed, pulverized, ground into sand over the course of years—and poured into the Pacific. The sand comes to rest in the large cobbles and small boulders that create Trestles' world-class waves; over the years, it's swept out into deeper waters and replaced by new sediment from San Mateo.

The waves at Trestles aren't perfect; they might not be giants. But thanks to the San Mateo Creek and the sandbars, they're usually well-shaped, big-shouldered waves, a broad canvas for surfers.

The Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) hopes to extend the Foothill-South toll road all the way to San Clemente—right along San Mateo Creek. Surfers say the TCA project will likely destroy Trestles.

That explains why the Surfrider Foundation has reinvigorated its Save Trestles campaign, complete with a new logo reminiscent of a ransom demand. And it explains the terror surging through a surf community concerned about “wave degeneration.” According to the Association of Surfing Professionals (the governing body of the World Championship Tour), any change to San Mateo would “definitely bring Trestles' inclusion on the WCT into question.”

The TCA's own evidence supports that conclusion. In April 2000, Skelly Engineering sent the agency its final report on the “Impact of Foothill Transportation Corridor-South on Surfing Resources.” The report suggests that construction will “alter” about 152 acres of watershed and “slightly decrease the sediment delivered to the shoreline.” The result, says Skelly in the colorless language of bureaucracies: “The form and quality of the surf spots at the delta of San Mateo Creek will change.”

When you're among the top spots in the world, where can you go but down? “It's a downward spiral,” says Pat O'Connell, surfer and star of Endless Summer II. “Look at Dana Point. Go back 30, 40 years and remove that jetty. The whole town of Dana Point would be completely different. It'd be a bitchen little zone. It'd have character.”

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