SUNNYVALE -- It was raining the morning of May 18, 1974, Harry Boos recalls, but the sun had broken through the clouds by the time he arrived at Martins Beach.
Boos and his wife, Marion, were married that afternoon 40 years ago on a bluff overlooking the beach. They wanted to celebrate Sunday at the beach south of Half Moon Bay, but they can't. Their anniversary falls in the midst of a trial over whether a billionaire who closed off the strand in 2010 has the right to ban the public from ever visiting again.
"It's a great place. I miss it," Boos said. "That's one of my soul spots right there."
Boos, 72, first visited Martins Beach before he was born -- his mother carried him in her womb while netting smelt. A native of the South Bay, Boos spent countless hours fishing there as a child and adult. It's where he taught his own children to fish.
"That was the place to go," said Boos, who remembers hundreds of people crowding the beach on summer weekends. The family that owned the property, the Deeneys, charged a parking fee and operated a snack bar. "If I had a nickel for every fish I've taken off that beach, I could fill up a Brink's truck."
Marion, who turns 70 in August, was a self-described city girl when she met Harry. Martins Beach was the backdrop for their romance, and the place she learned to enjoy being in nature and catching her own food -- "what is really real in life," she said.
Surfing wasn't nearly as popular back when they were regulars. The main draws for Harry were fishing for perch and scooping up smelt. People waded into the surf to catch the small fish in nets. Harry fried them right there at the beach or smoked them in his backyard.
On the day of their wedding, several dozen friends and family members drove down Martins Beach Road to a grassy area overlooking the ocean. It was both Harry and Marion's second marriage, so their six daughters -- he had four and she had two -- served as bridesmaids. They said their vows, drove down to look at the water, then returned to Sunnyvale for the reception.
Now retired with 14 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, Harry hasn't been to Martins Beach since the new owner, venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, locked the gate off Highway 1 in 2010.
Nearly four years later, a trial stemming from that decision is underway, with testimony set to wrap up Monday.
Attorneys have until June 24 to submit written closing arguments to San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach. Oral closing arguments are scheduled for July 1.
The trial focuses on whether Khosla requires a coastal development permit to eliminate public access. The plaintiff, the Surfrider Foundation, claims that locking the gate, by changing the public's use of the water at Martins Beach, amounts to development under the California Coastal Act of 1976. Khosla's attorneys argue the Deeneys ran a commercial enterprise, and a right of public access was never established.
Not long before Khosla bought the beach, Harry attended a memorial service where a friend's ashes were scattered in the surf. Learning the beach had closed, Harry said, was a different kind of loss.
"Unfortunately, I can't do a lot of the things I used to do physically, like walk on the sand," said Harry, who has knee problems, "but my heart is still there."
Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.