Bare on Black’s Beach

Stunning Blacks Beach sunset. Photo by Haocheng Tang/UCSD Guardian
Stunning Black’s Beach sunset. Photo by Haocheng Tang/UCSD Guardian
Stunning Black's Beach sunset. Photo by Haocheng Tang/UCSD Guardian
Stunning Black’s Beach sunset. Photo by Haocheng Tang/UCSD Guardian

As she started to collect her clothes to hike out from Black’s Beach, Kat, a middle-aged, unclothed aeronautical engineer and blogger, talked about her experience at San Diego’s premier nude beach. Though it wasn’t her first experience being nude in public, it was her first time coming down to Black’s, and she had just finished drying off after boogie boarding with a male friend of hers.

“There are actually a lot of women out here today, as well as men. That made me feel really good right off the bat because, having come from a conservative background, I’m really respectful of women and don’t want to just stand out”, Kat said.

Many UCSD students regard the nudity at Black’s Beach with a range of attitudes, from acceptance and curiosity to hesitancy and outright disgust. Because of the large cliff one must hike down to get there, many students avoid the less clothed parts of Black’s.

To give a brief overview, Black’s Beach is home to primarily two communities: nudists and surfers. Surfers frequent Black’s Beach because it’s often less crowded than other nearby breaks and because it’s often considered one of the best surfing beaches in Southern California, if not the West Coast. Its ability to hold high quality surf anywhere between three and 30 feet as we saw in winter 2005 draws many serious surfers from the San Diego area.

One fully clothed mat-surfing couple, Chris and AJ, said that they make the hike down to Black’s Beach because the waves at Black’s are better than any of the nearby breaks and because the water is cleaner than spots near Pacific Beach. They enjoy the waves and the smaller number of people compared to La Jolla Shores.

“We come here a couple times a month. The water’s really nice, and usually it’s pretty empty here,” Chris said. “The waves are bigger here and more intense than those down at the shores.”

The couple sat in the sand only a few hundred feet south of Kat and the nude part of the beach,  a mile-long stretch just north of the waterfall and south of Flat Rock Point. However, they refrained from commenting on their beachgoing companions.

“I have to admit, I was at first very uncomfortable with this. It took a while for me to get used to this and strut my stuff,” Kat said. “If you have a judgment, you suspend it for a little bit. I think [you] need to be open-minded and experience life. You have to judge the situation as to whether or not it will be a safe place to be.”

Although it seemed unnatural, for Kat, and for many at Black’s Beach, the “au naturel” reminds them of vulnerable beginnings.

“We weren’t born in clothing. When you put on clothes, your personality changes to match what you’re wearing, and you are sort of acting,” Kat told the UCSD Guardian. “It’s like a costume in a way, and you act according to what costume you have on. When you don’t have anything on, you are not hiding who you truly are.”

Growing up in a conservative environment, Kat wasn’t always interested in public nudity. She changed her views about nude beaches after trying it several years ago with her then-boyfriend.

“Society tries to tell us certain things when we see certain things”, Kat added. “I liked my boyfriend as a person and everything about him before he was a nudist. There’s a part of me that is open. I ask myself why some people do things a certain way, so I guess I was open just because I felt safe with my boyfriend.”

For those who have been to Black’s Beach, the area seems to be mostly populated by older men. However, the community is actually much more diverse.

“Not everyone on the beach is retired. There is also a nudist society for people of younger ages who visit Black’s. I think that younger people are more open-minded than older people,” Kat said.

Currently, the Friends of Black’s Beach provides guidelines and advice to beachgoers. Dave Cole, a West Coast Representative of the Naturalist Society, started the group with the intention of “preserving the clothing-optional status of the southern section of Torrey Pines State Beach in a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere”. The association emphasizes etiquette and respect as a crucial part of the beach experience.

At another part of the beach, a retired trial attorney, who requested to remain anonymous, sat peacefully bare under the umbrella while eating his mac and cheese. He has been going to Black’s Beach for 20 years now.

“People who come here and don’t wear clothes do it for all kinds of reasons,” he told the Guardian. “I’m here, like this, because I’m from Europe. I grew up in Italy and this is how it is at the beaches there. Some people here are social and some want to be left alone. It’s really a mixed group of people here.”

He then indicated a fit, nude man in his 30s pacing along the shore.

“Notice how that guy is walking around toward the south end of the gay part of the beach,” he said. “He knows he’s attractive, and he wants guys to go up and talk to him.”

After offering a sip of his Coke, the man gave some advice to UCSD students at Black’s Beach.

“Be yourselfdon’t be fake,” he said. “If something is for you, then fine. If something is not for you, then don’t do it. And students who are uncomfortable with the nudity should just turn left when they get to the bottom of the cliff.”


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