Meet Robert Anthony Dias, the man who claims to have reopened Californias beaches in the late 1950s, early 1960s.
Disclaimer: this may not be considered a news article.
However, we love good narratives, and it’s always up to the reader to decide what to think about… stories.
It all started when Dias wrote a comment on one of SurferToday’s news pieces. He said that, back in the 1960s, he was responsible for reopening California beaches that had been closed to the public after episodes of surf localism.
Robert, also known in the internet world as Bobby Dias, was born on May 24, 1947, in Santa Barbara.
He is a controversial character. At least, that’s what the average person concludes after visiting his official website at bobbydias.com.
Dias’ favorite beach has always been Pismo Beach.
“One day, I went for a swim there, and when I got out of the water, the chief of the local police department was standing next to the beach closed sign smiling at me,” Dias tells SurferToday.
Why? Bobby says that “all beaches were officially closed from the early 1930s until the mid-1950s. But there was no money for a lot of law enforcement in those days.”
Dias underlines that America was living the post-Depression years and World War II days.
The California Surfer Wars
But how and why did the authorities closed those California beaches?
“Surfer wars,” alleges Bobby Dias. “Outside surfers were traveling with their longboards and often upset local surfers and even non-surfers.”
“I heard many stories from residents while I was working on the engineering team of the US-101 from Calabasas to King City, the Interstate 405, and the Interstate 5, in the 1950s and 1960s.”
We asked: How aggressive were these surfers and those wars?
“Most of them were good people, but some carried baseball bats to try to intimidate others. Did anyone get hurt? I heard there were some deaths and many stories of broken bones. It is hard for me to comment on the truthfulness of those stories,” stresses Robert Anthony Dias.
And for how long lasted these conflicts?
“The length of a day – people did not like to fight, but resentment lasted until each beach was closed. I don’t think it was a problem of localism – it was more about outsiders moving onto a beach without respecting other people,” states the 72-year-old Californian.
Why did no one complain about closed beaches for 20 years?
“No one complained because there were bigger troubles – World War II was the biggest. But the lack of affordable transportation for the beaches is another reason, so no use complaining.”
Time to Act
That’s when Bobby Dias decided to act.
“I recognized that the people who were causing the trouble were not there anymore because they were doing the family thing, not being a bunch of teenagers without responsibility,” notes Dias.
“I also saw the new roads being put in that could be used for people to get to the beaches. I hired people – with donated money – to put in the State Beach campgrounds along the coast, plus added camping facilities to the water reservoirs I was in charge of developing.”
“The entities were billed for ‘changing the environment’ of the projects. I took over each dam project because the Sierra Club and the National Audubon Society could not ‘touch’ me in court because I was a minor.”
“I went to every chief of police and County sheriff that had a beach and asked each one of them for a statement on their expectations if their beach was reopened.”
“With all positive statements, I made lots of copies to give to every City Council member and board of supervisor members where they had a beach. Two months later, every beach in California was open.”
Robert Dias says he has no copies of the files presented to the authorities because “the extras I had I gave to Catholic Charities to auction off, which I guess they did.”
Welcome Again to California Beaches
The Californian says that he noticed the closed beach signs disappearing, and many people starting to use the beaches again.
Did he receive feedback from the local communities and surfers?
“The communities, yes – and the surfers definitely. I was not sure about the safety of surfing, but I said ‘yes’ every time a surfer offered me his board, just to please him at first. But later, I got good enough to have a good time.”
Bobby Dias says that things changed for the better at California beaches.
“Back in the 1930s, there was very little activity on the beaches regarding law enforcement. But now, for example, there are signs telling us what to do and what not to do,” he adds.
“I have not heard of surfer wars for a long time – maybe a drunken fight or something or another once in a long while.”
Dias says he doesn’t surf anymore. But he sometimes stops at Rincón.
“A friend of mine, George Allan Hancock, put in houses there and gave me the rest of the land, with me splitting it between the State and the County,” concluded Dias.
“I had the parking lots put in, formed the beaches, and seeded the initial grass and other plants.”
What a story.