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How Did Black’s Beach Become A Nude Beach?

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Black’s Beach is a more 2-mile-long stretch of sand up against steep 350-foot cliffs. The Torrey Pines Gliderport is above the cliffs and hang-gliders can be seen soaring above, while surfers are in the water enjoying this popular and secluded surf spot. The official name of Black's Beach is Torrey Pines beach.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Well, you may be dreaming of a winter Wonderland. For this next story, we're going to take you to the beach. Here's midday edition cohost Jade Hindman. Black's beach is one of San Diego's most popular surfing spots known for its big winter swells. It's also a favorite among nudists, but how did Black's beach become a nude beach? That's the question on the mind of at least one San Diego resident.

Speaker 2: 00:29 My name is Liam Bates. I live in Carmel mountain ranch and I've lived in San Diego since March and yeah, I was just interested in finding out a little bit more about the history of black speech and why it is the new to speech and how it came to be.

Speaker 1: 00:43 I'm a newish San Diego too. I moved here about two years ago and I too wanted to get to the bottom of Liam's question, but first I had to see black speech for myself. I went with KPBS producer Brooke and videographer Mac. We drove to the LA Jolla farms area, which is near UC San Diego, where there are multimillion dollar homes with ocean views. We parked in front of one of those homes and then tracked about a mile down, a windy, steep access road to get to the beach. And then we walked along the ocean waves until I started to see bare bodies. Black's beach is an over two mile long stretch of sand up against steep 350 foot cliffs that Torrey Pines glider port is above the cliffs and hang gliders in be seen soaring above while surfers are in the water, enjoying this popular and secluded surf spot. So with microphone in hand, I went to talk to a few of the nude beach goers. That's when I met Julio Rivera and Madison funk who were visiting San Diego from Kansas.

Speaker 3: 01:47 Uh, I'm on vacation with my friend Madison and we decided just abruptly that we're definitely going to try to check out a new beach. So we're in the area. Um, just Googled nude beaches near me. Saw this one, had good ratings. I saw a few pictures of the cliff side, so I was like, you know what? Yeah, perfect. This is like number one on the list. We were like, get there. Get naked. What is so intriguing about going to a nude beach? Um, well, I mean it's just, I guess like it feel, it just, it feels nice. You know, like you're no tan lines for one. I don't, I don't like tan lines, but it just, it feels nice. Get in the water. It's like nature's bath. It's great. I love it. It's really freeing. But there's also like a childish innocence to being naked at the beach. Like you're just like playing around, you're having fun. And some people are like, Oh, isn't it like weird being out there? Which is like all these people you don't know, like you're not paying attention to them. Like you're there to have a good time. You just happen to also be naked.

Speaker 1: 02:40 We tried to ask a few more people questions, but they waved us off. Who knew? People in the nude would be so bashful about doing a news interview. So back to Liam's question. How did black speech become a nude beach? Longtime LA Jolla resident, Carol Alton has been the historian at the LA Jolla historical society for the past 15

Speaker 4: 03:00 years. She explains how Black's beach got its name. It's called black speech after William Black. He was a gentleman who came out here from Santa Fe, New Mexico, and he asked the architect William Lumpkins to design a house for him. And he had a large house on the Hill above black speech and he raised thoroughbreds there from for several years. And so it just, since he owned the land up top and it just became known as Black's beach. Um, his widow, after he died, I have the city formally received the name Black's beach. It's now called Torrey Pines beach, but all the locals still call it black speech. Carol said people started going down to blacks in the early seventies and word quickly spread. It was just a place you could go is very forsaken. People took their clothes off, other people found out about it. Black speech becoming a nude beach was a sign of the times.

Speaker 4: 03:57 The neighboring UC San Diego campus was relatively new and there was a lot of liberal thought on the campus. Not to mention it was the end of the counterculture movement. Uh, people had a desire to be very free, so to speak. And a nude beach was an expression of freedom. In 1974, the issue of nudity at black speech came before the San Diego city council. According to newspaper archives, the representative for the LA Jolla farms homeowners association told the council that area residents were concerned that making Black's beach a nude beach would change the character of the wealthy neighborhood. Following hours of testimony, the council voted five to two to make Black's beach a clothing optional beach while prohibiting nudity at all other city beaches. That vote made black speech the only legal nude beach at the time in the country. Carol said the neighboring community was not happy with black speech being a nude beach and not for the reasons you may think it was that a, it was a very, it was a nude beach that was very, very difficult to get to and you had to go down a very severe cliff to get there.

Speaker 4: 05:05 Uh, there was no a really good public access. Uh, so people parked in this wealthy neighborhood around LA Jolla farms road. And of course when thousands and thousands were turning up on a single day, it became a nuisance with trash and uh, people parking cars and being noisy, et cetera, et cetera. So that led to a lot of the controversy about it. In September of 1977, San Diego went to the ballot box to weigh in on proposition D, which asked if it should be illegal to be nude at all public beaches in the city. The majority of voters said yes and nudity was banned on city beaches. That's when black speech lost its distinction as the nation's only legal nude beach. It became illegal to be new to the beach. But of course the nude beach enforcement, very difficult for a life guards and police officers. So even today, I mean, people go down there and it's a nude beach.

Speaker 1: 06:05 Here's Madison funk again who was visiting from Kansas.

Speaker 3: 06:08 We like kind of walked. We were like, okay, we kind of see people in clothes over here, kind of more people naked down here, like got farther down there. We saw these cones and we're like, maybe that means something. So we kind of stuck close to them not knowing which side was like really the line. Cause we've seen there's some people right over here, but there's also some people like right over here. So we were like, we'll just show right here. We don't want to take it or nothing. We're trying to have fun.

Speaker 1: 06:29 Those orange cones, Madison's talking about Mark the boundary separating the state and the city portions of the beach on the city run portion, which is the most Southern part. City lifeguards enforce the clothing requirement, but that's not the case for the Northern part run by the state and a statement a state parks spokesperson said quote, even though nudity is prohibited due to limited resources, state park police officers patrol the beach on an as needed basis. He said state park officers respond to the highest priority calls that impact public safety and health issues. So it's not actually legal to be nude on the state run portion of black speech, but you probably won't get ticketed for it either. That was a brief history of San Diego's Black's beach hosted by midday auditions, Jade Heinemann and produced by Brooke. Ruth.

KPBS Midday Edition Segments podcast branding

KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.