The idiots in this truck spun around the guy writing in the sand, then turned around and did it again. And again.

Say you’re out for your daily constitutional on one of Humboldt’s fabulous beaches. The sun may or not be shining, but the view is fantastic and the stroll good for your soul. Or maybe you’ve brought the family out for a Saturday afternoon away from all the screens. Perhaps you and your sweet pup are getting some exercise together. Or you’re out fishing. Or surfing. Or collecting sand dollars. Whatever your motivation for finding yourself on the shore, you’re one of Humboldt County’s many beach lovers. You nod at folks as you pass by, pick up random trash you find and otherwise treasure this place we call home. 

And then some jerks in a big truck come along, driving way too fast on a beach where vehicles aren’t allowed. Even worse, they’re whipping U-turns and doing high-speed S-curves around some hapless individual who’d been happily playing in the sand. What can you do when witnessing such behavior?

a) Yell, “Hey, assholes!” and give them the middle finger.
b) Throw rocks at their truck.
c) Call law enforcement. 

While the first two options may be more immediately satisfying, the correct answer is “c.” Take photos if you can, note the make and model of the vehicle, and try to get the license plate number. 

Now, to be clear, not all driving on the beach is illegal. Humboldt County has plenty of places one can haul oneself out to the shore via internal combustion: areas of Shelter Cove, Centerville, Table Bluff, the South Spit and Samoa Dunes are all open to vehicles to some degree. And individual permits can be obtained for a few other places as well; most of the folks driving on the beach are doing so legally and responsibly. 

But many beaches – most of the North Spit, Manila, Ma-le’l Dunes, Moonstone – are typically off limits. And driving in an unsafe manner is always illegal (see: “unsafe operation,” “reckless driving,” etc.), especially if the jerk behind the wheel is endangering other people.

On Bureau of Land Management-managed property, which includes the Samoa Dunes Recreational Area and the Mike Thompson Wildlife Area on the South Spit, unsafe operation is defined as, “Operating a motor vehicle without due care or at a speed greater than that which is reasonable and prudent considering wildlife, traffic, weather, road and light conditions and road character.” And there’s a bunch of rules about how, where and when vehicles are allowed on the beach. 

The best way to know the rules for BLM land use is to head into the Arcata office and ask. Officer and Chief Ranger J.D. Updegraff explained some of laws governing the recreational areas. “Any vehicle on the beach falls under the California Vehicle Code, which means it has to be licensed [and] has to obey ‘safe practices,’” he said. “You can’t go too fast or get too close, must go at a reasonable speed, can’t cut people off and [must] obey any signs.” 

If people experience or witness harassment, they’re encouraged to report it. Given that the broad swath of land BLM officers must cover extends into Trinity County on one side and down toward Mendocino County on the other, there’s no guarantee a ranger will show up immediately. But, Updegraff said, complaints can result in dedicating more officers to an area.

Back to the jerks who thought whipping their truck around a lone person on the beach was a hilarious way to spend their time. In that case, if the situation looked threatening enough, a 911 call would be warranted, according to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. If not an immediate life-death situation, witnesses are still encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at one of the numbers below:

  • Eureka: (707) 445-7251
  • Garberville: (707) 923-2761
  • McKinleyville: (707) 839-6600