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

  2. 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

  3. 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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