By Pat Sherman
Though it's known as a spot where the clothing claustrophobic can shed their inhibitions-and bikini bottoms-Black's Beach has more to offer than a pound of flesh and moonlight drum circles.
Its scenic, secluded shores beneath the bluffs of Torrey Pines are known by surfers worldwide as a great spot to catch steep waves. Black's large, fast-moving breaks are largely a product of Scripps Canyon, a narrow underwater gorge located off the La Jolla coast. The path down Black's unstable cliffs can be precarious, but the vistas from top to bottom are as breathtaking as the long hike back up.
Another feature that puts Black's on the map is the Torrey Pines Gliderport, located atop the beach's more than 300-foot cliffs. Jeremy Bishop, a tandem hang gliding instructor and president of the San Diego Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, has stepped off those bluffs thousands of times, sometimes making as many as three flights per day.
"The prevailing wind is straight from the west," Bishop says. "As it comes in, it hits the vertical cliffs, generating the wind energy-the lift-that you need to sustain flight. That's what makes that spot happen."
As many times as Bishop has soared above Black's, he says he never tires of the view.
"That area always seems to generate a surprise or two, whether it's the whales migrating, dolphins migrating or sharks migrating," he says. "Plus it's just the feeling-the gift-of free flight. It's always been a dream of mine to fly like a bird. At Torrey Pines, that's as close as you can get."
Stripping on the sands of Black's, though sanctioned by the City of San Diego from 1974 to 1977 and largely overlooked today, is still illegal. Bare buns may be cited by city officials on the southern, city-owned portion of the beach, should a wayward church group lodge a complaint. To dispose of their board shorts with a clear conscience (and rap shee t), exhibitionists venture north, to the portion of the beach owned and managed by the California Department of Parks and recreation, which turns a blind eye to bare breasts and dangling modifiers.
The siren song of Black's
To kee p your visit safe, consider theSE points: Large chunks of the bluff above Black's have dislodged in the past, killing sunbathers lying too close to the base of the cliff. Inexperienced beachgoers should exercise caution in the water, as swimmers and surfers are frequently caught in strong rip currents, which can have fatal consequences. Through a grant from the University of California San Diego, the City of San Diego recently reinstated its lifeguard se rvice at Black's, which it nixed last year due to budget woes .