La Jolla’s Blacks Beach Key – Surfers, UCSD & Scripps

Ron Stoner captures Dickie Moon streaking across a see-through wall at Black's, circa 1967

Ron Stoner captures Dickie Moon streaking across a see-through wall at Black's, circa 1967

Way back when, the Black Family moved to La Jolla and bought a bunch of acres on Torrey Pines cliffs alongside a canyon that lead to the beach.  A dirt road for horse and buggies followed the cliffs to what is known now as Torry Pine State Park.  With Del Mar Fairgrounds getting the A-OK for horse racing, the Blacks started a premier thoroughbred horse farm on about 10 acres. The horse farm was never that successful so they sold the land and it was subdivided into lots, where the area got its name, La Jolla Farms.

During the early days Black family built a private road through the canyon down to the beach and for a long time it was protected from public access by a cheesy wooden fence and just as cheesy lock. The Black family gave the La Jolla Farms residents a key to the road that was duplicated God-knows how many times. If one did not have a key, a single swing of ball-peen hammer and the lock would swing open.

Needless to say, the lock looked like a battering ram and if you did not have a key, you had a ball-peen hammer in your glove box. It got to the point a few hard shakes, the lock would spring open. Which came in handy for the Mac Meda’s special event, pushing cars off Torrey Pines that started in 1961.

Black's Beach Road  - Bill Andrews at the wheel - Photo by Doug Moranville - 1969

You do not see this anymore - Driving to Black's Beach Surf - Bill Andrews at the wheel - Photo by Doug Moranville - 1969

According to Billy Andrews website, the first group to surf Blacks Beach was in 1959 or 1960, were Peter Lusic, Don Roncy, John Light and Joe Trotter.  They came back to La Jolla Shores raving about their discovery – and the next day Bill Andrews, Bill Ogelsby, Mickey “Scoops” Gordon, Tom “Nobs” Barber joined in a very well kept secret in La Jolla until 1964…

… that was when Surfer Magazine did a small bit on Blacks and another one in 1967 when the shit hit the fan and launched Blacks Beach into Surfing History and the surf break become grand central station.

With that said, in about 1968, the Black Family  made a deal with UCSD and Scripps Institution of Oceanography to use the road. UCSD put a huge steel gate, with just as big padlock to keep the surfer traffic out. Suddenly the accessibility to the beach became an ordeal and getting a key was just as hard. Obviously if you had a  key to Blacks Beach … you had a ton of surfer friends.

Bill Andrews- Photo by Ron Stoner For Surfer Mag 1964

This 1964 Surfer Magazine photo of Bill Andrews by Ron Stoner started it all at Black Beach.

About the same time, the semi-private beach  attracted La Jolla’s  gay crowd.  Strangely, the gays and surfers got along.  Surfers were there for the waves, and the gays staked their territory  farther up north so they could  flaunt their wee-wees and lifestyle.

Getting to Blacks Beach was always one big royal pain in the ass (no pun intended for the gays).  There was three ways, 1) climbing down the cliff, which was very dangerous, 2) taking the long trek from the Shores pier, which was a bummer at high tide, since there is rocky point where one had to paddle around, 3) and/or take Blacks Beach road down, which was always under protection of old man Black who used to fired his shotgun at you loaded with rock salt. A small pellet of salt breaking the skin caused a bit of pain.

Obviously the real trick to surfers was, getting a key to the road and let the gays take the trail.  And for a while just about every local surfer had one or knew someone who had. In about 1971, UCSD thought they would get smart and changed the lock to one of a non-duplicated dimpled key.

But did that stop the use? Hell no, in typical Meda tradition… and without naming the cool locksmith in the Pacific Beach area, once again the road was accessible until the mid 1970s when the city just said, “Screw It.”  That was when they began changing locks as often as one changes underwear to keep surfers out … and claiming the road for emergency vehicles use only.


  1. Call Me Ishmael says:

    History gets pretty condensed, hindsight myopic.

    A lot of changes occurred between the early guys (1950s) who surfed Black’s and the bitter end of SD city lifeguard road down from by the Salk Institute.
    That canyon was an alternate route, due to Gospodin Black’s escalating to having his gardener give chase, armed with uncongenial and vociferous large dogs. The north canyon had a big drop in which some older guys had hung a rope to ascend. If you were there, You’d remember how the rains had created a cavern in that spot with the aid climb.

    On an early morning you could run from Farms Road to connect with Black’s road below the part visible from Black’s house risking a Volkspolizei response to breaching the Lockean barrier – it was always a dice toss; coming up in the heat seems to have been less sporting to the inhospitable plutocratic, and we seemed always welcome to leave..
    Many preferred the common path from the big bend in Shores Drive where selves and boards were hoisted over the fence. Down that path on a cold Santa Ana dawn was where, if you were tardy, festive compatriot waited, swinging a torpid rattlesnake, launching it into you to assist your awakening.

    Generations were marked more closely then, and no aggrieved elders were present as one common perfect morning Tommy Ortner, arriving late, ran straight down the steep diretissima.

    Some anonymous author was one of a few who learned how to surf from the congenitally small closeouts to big peaks and walls, leapin’ and hoppin’ round the point, or even invited up the elevator of the mushroom house, too young to form part of the assault on Der Festung Schwarze. This in a short season, when dolphins used to surf alongside us, breaking the water just a foot away.

    Kegs rolled there, my children, propelled by hordes of invaders from the steppe above, for ages preceding Tommy’s giant step for mankind. The beached huge wooden barge, rarely unearthed, was a hideout for perhaps the first “nudists” who, after surfing, accosted a pair of unimpressed UC female students.

    Yet UC was neither a glowering presence, as can be attested by children who urinated of an eve from the marine corps bridge, raining gold upon the travelers of Hwy 101 following green days, or supping on pies after hiding in a later bun-warming cafeteria room there.

    Aye, there have been many favored offspring who had beguiled keys to this kingdom. Even, there was, a time when the stealthy wheeled could coast silently down, subject to either rockishly salty or acrimonious canid attentions.

    Yet, alas! there shall arise false prophets, who to you shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if ’twere possible, they deceive the very elect. Let it be not so among us.

    I’ll spin you a tale of a day there, an afternoon in sun and the verdant waters that richly produceth barbarous stings of offended rays among thee:

    September it was, and upon a country day, a ne’er-do-well educational refugee sat alone, immersed. Looking north, a dark cloud appeared at eye level, it closed and swarmed around me, several hundred yards wide. Passing, the creatures swept toward the Jeweled City for 20 minutes. Ducking low, the water pellucid crystal glass; above, the sky, cliffs, sun, blue and pale and sere. Within the cloud, though, my eyes stared across millions upon millions of Monarch Butterflies.
    Never before had I ever heard of such an event; nor ever again since.

    Most often in that place of sudden thundering cliff or other avalanche, there was distance sufficient for the species to evolve seeing little or none of their own kind. But the strata are not well-exhumed; perhaps each inhabitant left but a shard, without which the whole cannot be perceived.

    It is with such perception that you will see yourself mirrored in the waters so clear. See yourselves in the following epilogue in some future or past, when the delphinidae frequented that shore.
    Stand on your cliff , bathe, away from the ills of men. Listen to Herman, speaking of dolphins: “They are the lads that always live before the wind. They are accounted a lucky omen.”

    I will not ask that you think of that story of fate pushed like Jagganath by men named in the allegory from which this is taken. Better, place yourself here:

    Epilogue (paraphrasing Moby Dick, although mine own be of no such proportions):
    “And I only am escaped alone to tell thee.” — Job
    “It so chanced, that . . . I was he whom the Fates ordained to take the place of Ahab’s bowsman, . . floating on the margin of the ensuing scene, and in full sight of it, when the halfspent suction of [memories] reached me, I was then, but slowly, drawn towards the closing vortex.
    When I reached it, it had subsided to a creamy pool. Round and round, then, and ever contracting towards the button-like black bubble at the axis of that slowly wheeling circle, like another Ixion I did revolve. Till, gaining that vital centre, the black bubble upward burst; and now, liberated by reason of its cunning spring, and, owing to its great buoyancy, rising with great force, the coffin life-buoy shot lengthwise from the sea, fell over, and floated by my side. . . .
    The unharming sharks, they glided by as if with padlocks on their mouths; the savage sea-hawks sailed with sheathed beaks. . . . A sail drew near, nearer, and picked me up at last. It was the devious-cruising [Albert MacMeda and Company], that in retracing search after [his] missing children, only found another orphan.”

    Salud, Dale; if you be about, remember the time you were driving Bill’s van back from K-54 and the border guard asked if we had anything to declare? And you said, “only a dead Mexican” jerking your thumb behind.
    I couldn’t stop laughing as the guard shouted “Get the hell into secondary!”

    I still laugh at the million moments of beauty; the grey dolphin still leaps from the gray wave face, somewhere.

    “Accept one of these cigars, professor. ” “Delightful smoke. Different somehow. Havana?”
    Captain Nemo: “Seaweed.”

  2. Parker Rothman says:

    So many awesome memories at Blacks. My brother & I & our friends grew up here in Windansea & would ride our bikes to Blacks when it was going off. So many days spent surfing Blacks & with limited crowds. Today we still surf Blacks but with some pretty gnar clouds. We are both in our 30’s now & have kids of our own. I still live in Windansea. Luckily enough I live on the same street I grew up on (Cam De La Costa) I’ve seen some positive changes for our local break & ive heard the stories of Back in the day. We all still meat at the Shack & we all still talk story about growing up here & now watching our kids surf the same break we did when we were their age. My daughter Paige Rothman is 6 years old and is shredding pretty damn hard & giving most of the boys a good run for their money & waves. As for myself I can feel the history every time I paddle out. Ya, pretty damn lucky to grow up in Windansea. – Parker Rothman

  3. My brothers nickname was not “nobs”. Tom Barber was known as The Grub.

  4. Yes I remember the trips down the road , than I found a dirt road I could use with my jeep. Till they built a house
    at the top of the hill.
    great article

  5. Rob Wintringer says:

    A lot of good memories of Black’s and no crowds. The cliff trail was never that bad except after the rains.

    Nice web site Kip, thanks.

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