The Outer Banks has long existed in a state of flux. Violent storms (Nor'easters come December. Hurricanes come August) have shifted sand in places sand never knew it could live – like on the second floor of stilted beachfront cottages – but at the moment, a man-made storm known as Off Road Vehicle access is currently under scrutiny by policy makers.

Environmentalists have raised concerns that beachgoers' long-loved pastime of off road driving (usually in search of quiet a-frames or troves of bluefish) may be destroying an endangered population of nesting birds like piping plovers, American oystercatchers, three species of terns, and black skimmers. The current decree requires that questionable areas of the beach "be shut down as soon as protected shorebird breeding activity is observed," despite the fact that "it is impossible to predict exactly when and where breeding behavior, nests, or nesting colonies will occur."

Although the current policy doesn't enact a zero tolerance policy against off road access, National Parks Services is in the process of finalizing its stance on the matter, and has invited the public to influence the final outcome.

We contacted Outer Banks surf celebrity Jesse Hines, who just got back in the water after breaking his leg a while back, to weigh in on the matter.

Jesse, what are you hoping will happen with this resolution?

Like everyone else I am hoping that they will realize how vital it is that the beaches be open. It drives the local economy for tourist to simply “drive” on the beach.

Do you think this event will resolve the problem?

Based on what has happened in the past at the hearings, I don’t know that it will resolve the issue. There are two totally different mindsets that strongly disagree with one another trying to cancel one another out. I hope there can be a compromise, but in my opinion, the evidence is a little more convincing to keep the beach open.

Usually surfers and environmentalists fall on the same side of the fence. How do you think this conflict represents surfers' interests?

Well, we are all for keeping the beach and water clean and preserving waves, but this plan really does neither. The birds and other species are not killed by trucks on the beach, but die mainly from the environment. Hatteras is a hard place to live, and shutting the beaches down is not preserving any life form, but it is killing the local business.

How good are the waves on the stretches of beach in question? And how important to the experience of being an Outer Banks surfer is driving on the beach?

They shut down Salvo last summer, and it always has a really good sandbar. They also shut down the point, which rarely breaks, but when it does it's a local anomaly. It’s the only true point type of wave here, so it was rough not be able to get there when you know it's firing.

To me, driving on the beach defines this place. It gives you a sense of freedom and adventure that only the Outer Banks can offer.

So speak now (That means you, surfers!) or forever hold your peace.

Past Coverage on

Groups Aim To Ban Driving on the Beach in Cape Hatteras

Dueling Perspectives on Cape Hatteras Beach Access


Ocracoke, NC – Monday, April 26, 2010, 9:00 am to 11:00 am
Ocracoke School, 1 Schoolhouse Road, Ocracoke, NC 27960
(Doors open at 8:30 am for sign-in, the meeting will begin at 9:00 am)

Buxton, NC – Monday, April 26, 2010, 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Cape Hatteras Secondary School, 48576 Hwy. 12, Buxton, NC 27920
(Doors open at 4:30 pm for sign-in, the meeting will begin at 5:00 pm)

Kill Devil Hills, NC – Tuesday, April 27, 2010, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Wright Brothers National Memorial First Flight Centennial Pavilion,
1000 Croatan Hwy., M.P. 7 , Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
(Doors open at 5:30 pm for sign-in, the meeting will begin at 6:00 pm)

Raleigh, NC – Wednesday, April 28, 2010, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
McKimmon Conference & Training Center (NC State University Campus),
1101 Gorman Street, Raleigh, NC 27695
(Doors open at 5:30 pm for sign-in, the meeting will begin at 6:00 pm)

Hampton, VA – Thursday, April 29, 2010, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Holiday Inn & Conference Center,
1815 West Mercury Boulevard, Hampton, VA 23666
(Doors open at 5:30 pm for sign-in, the meeting will begin at 6:00 pm)

Coalition for Beach Access is holding work shops on making informed public comments at the following Outer Banks workshops:

Thur., April 15, 6:30pm – KILL DEVIL HILLS, First Flight High School