(Reuters) - A group of surfers in Southern California should be designated a criminal gang after years of intimidating visitors and vandalizing property to keep their slice of the ocean to themselves, according to a federal lawsuit.
The class-action lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, seeks an injunction that will bar members of the surf crew, known as the Lunada Bay Boys, from gathering together in Palos Verdes Estates, a wealthy beachside enclave south of downtown Los Angeles.
The lawsuit also alleges that Palos Verdes Estates Police Chief Jeff Kepley has failed to enforce state laws or adequately investigate after crew members were accused of crimes.
Kepley and Palos Verdes Estates City Manager Tony Dahlerbruch could not immediately be reached for comment.
Though surfers can be notoriously territorial, the actions of the Lunada Bay Boys extended beyond localism to verbal threats, taunts, and vandalism of cars and personal items, the lawsuit alleges.
The actions of the surf crew have prevented visitors to the public beach from “full and equal enjoyment of rights” to use and enjoy the ocean, the lawsuit states.
The picturesque Lunada Bay is considered one of the best spots in the region for experienced surfers, with waves reaching 10 to 15 feet.
Among those involved in the lawsuit, Cory Spencer, an El Segundo police officer and longtime surfer, said his hand was intentionally slashed by the surfboard of a Lunada Bay Boys surfer.
Plaintiff Diana Reed said she was heckled and Lunada Bay Boys hurled vulgarities at her during her attempts to surf in the area.
The lawsuit said visitors have had their cars vandalized and personal items damaged while police looked the other way.
Surfing Magazine describes the Lunada Bay Boys as “the roughest and toughest wealthy middle-aged surf gang in the world”.
Editing by Alison Williams