by lyle e davis
People who do not live here in paradise all wonder the same thing about LaLa Land.
“Is it true what they say? Do Californians all run around naked?”
The answer, I have learned after much research is, “no.”
Only some of them.
You mention San Diego and most everyone has heard about the famous Black’s Beach. Few really know much about it. All they usually know about it is it is the world famous nude beach in San Diego.
Most of Black’s Beach is inside a state park. It’s about a two mile stretch but it usually doesn’t have a whole lot of people on the beach. Why? Because of the 300-foot bluffs that offers a fairly easy walk down via some stairways . . . but a rather tiring walk back up, once you’ve spent the day sunning and swimming, and are a bit tired to begin with.
Right above Black’s Beach is a historic gliderport. A very relaxing thing to do when you come to San Diego is to kick back, relax, and watch the hang gliders do their thing. You can watch the aerial shows from the fairly comfortable gliderport grounds. You can look down on Black’s Beach and see a bunch of nude people walking around . . . but they are so far away it’s hard to tell whether they are nude or in a bikini or other type swimsuit. If you really want to see nude folk, you have to walk down the ladder. As we say, not that strenuous going down . . . sometimes a bear coming back up.,
Once you get on the sand (and it’s perfectly permissible to go on Black’s Beach with clothes. It is, after all, a clothing optional beach. You can also see Black’s Beach from the shores of La Jolla Cove or the Children's Pool, but what you see is basically some rather pretty cliffs framed by the pretty blue Pacific Ocean in the front, and a (usually) pretty blue California sky above.
Because Black’s Beach requires a bit of work to get to, you usually find plenty of privacy. Those who are there are there because they want to be there. The larger percentage of them are nude. Again, because they want to be.
People from outside the area, or even locals who have never been to Black’s Beach, are likely to find it rather a letdown once they get there. At least they would if the expect some type of supercharged erotic experience. Nude folks come in all sizes and shapes . . . and usually they are not much different than you when you are au naturel.
You do tend to find a rather carefree, natural, and uninhibited atmosphere here, perhaps more than anywhere else in San Diego, with one or two exceptions. More about them later.
Probably one of the best people to talk to in order to get the real ‘skinny’ (I couldn’t resist) is Lloyd Johnson, 44, "the mayor" of Black's Beach. Johnson is the websmaster of a website that has about all you want to know bout Black’s Beach. (http://www.blacksbeach.org/)
It’s been operational since 2000. He also puts out a newsletter. He and his cohorts also walk up and down the beach and pick up trash, keeping it tidy.
He heads up an organization known as "the Black's Beach Bares." They hoist a flag to represent their crowd, and they claim an area of the beach and organize activities for other like-minded beachgoers. On any given summer Sunday, you’re sure to find not only people who are tanning, barbecuing, horseshoeing, volleyballing, or chatting on Black's, but you’ll find some folks who will look after you and make certain you’re not bothered by inconsiderate people. Yes, they also come to Black’s Beach. But it is manageable.
"We usually refer to the Black's Beach Bares as 'a group of friends dedicated to preserving the beach's clothing-optional status by educating visitors of the boundaries of the clothing-optional section as well as about proper nude-beach behavior,' "
says Lloyd. "We're a loose-knit group of beachgoers who have adopted this beach as our own. We want it to be a clean, safe, and fun beach for everybody to enjoy."
Those who visit Black’s Beach for the nude beach element, the regulars, so to speak, are amused at much of America’s concern about nudity. In Europe, they say, nude recreation is more of a family affair.
It’s just no big deal. Whole families go, the people are much younger than here, and you see all ages -- young kids, high school students, college students, everybody.
Over here on this side of the pond it would seem that most nudity is either private or specifically intended for consumption. Nudists would have us believe that they're nude because they enjoy being nude, and that's it. I know a few people who are practicing nudists and I would say that is pretty much close to accurate. For most, at least. There are, as in all walks of life, a couple of buffoons here and there.
There are a lot of activities in and around Black’s Beach . . . most of which you actually participate in while wearing clothes.
For example, the Torrey Pines Gliderport has graced the cliff-tops at Black's since 1928. It has been the learning place for aviation greats including the Lindbergh's, Boyles, and many more. Today the Gliderport is home to hang gliding, paragliding, scale models, and sailplane flight.
Torrey Pines Gliderport provides quality instruction, certification, tandem flights, equipment sales, adventure tours, repair services, and fantastic year round flying conditions. So, while visiting the Black’s Beach area you might just decide to take up hang-gliding. They can tteach you the ropes, all the way from first day instruction to master pilot and instructor certifications. And you can even keep your clothes on!
Talk to most any glider and they will rave about the Torrey Pines Gliderport. They refer to it as "the Kitty Hawk of the West Coast."
Gliders will tell you that gliding is not a dangerous sport at all. They argue it is safer than driving a car. So far, we have no record of fatalities reported at the gliderport and no serious injuries or accidents in the past 20 years.
When a glider describes the feeling of gliding you’ll hear phrases like, "beautiful, complacent, free, very nice." It’s a feeling, they say, that you can’t get in an airplane or any other mechanical device . . . only via a glider.
But back to ‘the naked truth,’ which is what caught your eye and interest initially, and caused you to commence reading this cover story . . .
Again, Lloyd Johnson:
“Standard procedure for the Bares when they catch a gawker getting overly inappropriate is to approach him and serve him with a flyer. This long piece of paper thoroughly outlines the penalties for illegal beach conduct and suggests a better beach etiquette.”
Black's Beach is a small section of Torrey Pines State Beach. The background of the beach is basically this:
There was a gentleman who lived up in the La Jolla Farms area whose name was William Black. He owned all the land up there in what's now the La Jolla Farms area. And everybody referred to the area below it as Black's Beach. That's how it got the name. Although it's never been officially designated Black's Beach. The part that goes north is Torrey Pines State Beach. And to the south is Torrey Pines City Beach. Black's Beach is just a local nickname.
The beach became known for its nude participants back in the '70s. For three years it was actually on the books, legal, to be nude at Black's Beach. Because there was no beach access the law was subsequently rescinded. There was only one road and beachgoers would park in people’s yards and for some strange reason the property owners didn’t like that. The properties above the beach were owned by wealthy, powerful people . . . the movers and shakers of the community. They buttonholed the city councilmembers and voila! The law was changed.
Enter Russell Cahill. He was the sate parks director in the 1970’s. He adopted a policy which is still referred to as the Cahill policy. Basically, all it says is that any state park land that's been traditionally used for clothing-optional activities can continue to be used as such unless somebody makes a complaint. But even that's a gray area. Public indecency carries fines that begin around $156 and go all the way up to $483, and, presumably, jail time for multiple or serious offenses.
South of where the nudists get their tan, around a bend in the cliffs and down the strand a half mile or so, you're likely to see surfers paddling and angling into waves.
Surfers go to Black’s Beach because it’s rated about an 8 out of 10 as to the calibre of beach break if offers. Getting to look at naked people is not a compelling reason to surf there. The surf is. If in doubt, go to surfline.com . . . and get the latest surf info.
On a good surf day you might see up to 500 surfers out in the ocean, waiting for the next set. The lifeguards have a mobile unit that patrols the area; there is no permanent lifeguard tower there. There may, however, be as many as another 5,000 folks who come down the cliffs to enjoy the beach. Some of them actually enjoy the beach with clothes on. Or at least swimsuits. Others go au naturel and no one really seems to mind.
There are, if fact, about 59 topless beaches in California today. (See About.com). None, however, boasts even half as many regular visitors as Black's. Black's is, in fact, the largest and most popular nude beach in the United States. It's also, in all probability, one of the oldest. World-renowned oceanographer Walter Munk reports that when he arrived at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1939, the locals called the place Bare Ass Beach.
Only six guards patrol the beach in high summer, and only two guards make the rounds in winter. Besides the mobile trailer with first-aid facilities at the south end of the beach, their equipment includes a tent, fold-up chairs, an ATV, a jet ski, and a jeep. There's also a lifeguard with binoculars and a walkie-talkie in an elevated chair at the top of the bluffs, precisely one long 300-foot freefall from interceding in any trouble. In addition to the lifeguards, however, there are up to four full-time park rangers that patrol the two-thirds portion of the beach that is subject to state control.
State park figures shows that Torrey Pines State Reserve averages 1.6 million guests per year.
The park rangers pretty much follows the same rules as to nudity. Unless they get a complaint regarding the nudists or naturiests, depending upon what title they give themselves, the pretty much spend a minmal amount of time addressing that issue. With only four ranters, they’ve got plenty of other issues to keep them busy.
While prancing about in the buff, or clothed, for that matter, there are plenty of other sights to occupy your time. You’ll find sand dollars, stingrays, terns, sandpipers, pelicans, gulls, dolphins, seals, squid, jellyfish, starfish, squirrels, chipmunks, and even, in among the cliffs, the occasional lizard or snake.
I once found a baby rattlesnake high above the cliffs, nestled in amongst some iceplant. Actually, a young lad from a group I was leading on a hike found it first. They had all been taught to be alert for animal life and to leave whatever they spotted alone. Sure enough, this young lad spotted the rattler, we all had a nice view of the snake, and then continued our hike. (And, no, we couldn’t see any nudists that day; we actually weren’t looking for any. We were out to enjoy another element of Mother Nature’s wonders . . . the seascape and the seashore, and the mighty bluffs). We did, of course, see the rarest pine tree in the United States -- the Torrey pine which lives and thrives within Torrey Pines State Park. .
There is a not so ancient saying . . . “the folks you see naked at a nudist camp are usually the people you’d least want to see naked.”
Why is it do you suppose that when you go to a regular, beach in San Diego, and you see hundreds of young, athletic, beautiful, toned, taut bodies in bathing suits. But then you go to Black's Beach, and you see older, saggier, flabbier, more wrinkly bodies in the buff.
How come the ones who should be proudest of their bodies are the most self-conscious, and those who should maybe be the most self-conscious are parading around perfectly carefree?
It all boils down to nudists being quite content with their bodies, no matter how frumpy -they might be. (And, to be honest, they ain’t all of the frumpy type). Nudists, I have found, are, for the most part, pretty normal folks. They like to do the same things you and I do. They just like to do it naked.
More power to them.
If you want to explore other nude venues in the San Diego area, there is a nude beach near San Onofre Beach. The locals can direct you. Or, there is a nudist resort (they don’t like the term ‘nudist colony’) at a place known as Swallows, Sun Island, in the El Cajon area.
If, on the other paw, you just want to see and enjoy San Diego, there are lots of things to do in the San Diego coastal area . . . particularly near La Jolla (which in Spanish means, ‘the jewel.’)
Just window shopping in La Jolla is quite a treat . . . going through ‘the Cave’ in La Jolla is a different experience. Taking a little hibachi and cooking up some steaks or other tasty meals on the expansive grass lawns in La Jolla, sitting back and enjoying fresh cooked foord, taking in the sights of the pounding surf . . . . or heading down to the seashore and exploring the tide pools (please . . . do not take the sealife. Leave them alone. They are a lot more beautiful in their natural environment than being dead.)
The Scripps Aquarium is another lovely place to stop and relax while in the La Jolla area. A drive through the campus at UCSD is also a relaxing treat, watching all the young folks as they move from dorm to class room to recreation centers.
See? There’s lots to do in the La Jolla area . . . where you don’t need to get naked to have a good time.
‘Course, it that is what floats your boat . . . you always have Black’s Beach.
We’re always here to help. Have a great time visiting San Diego! Whether an out of towner or a local . . . learn what a fun place this is!