The Black's Beach Bares have amusing names for many of the gawkers they've picked out repeatedly over the years. Linus (always with his towel over his shoulder), Poco (a small Hispanic fellow), Humpy (needs no explanation), Sniffer (sniffing for ladies), Señor Libro (with his book upside-down, never turning the pages), Gawk-a-mole, Robo-man, Swisher, and so on.
Johnson stressed to me that just because masturbation might go on at a nude beach, this perversion shouldn't implicate all naturists. "A few months ago," Johnson said, "I read where they caught a guy jacking off in a library. They arrested the guy. They didn't close the library."
A partial list of summer reading, summer eating, and summer drinking at Black's Beach:
-- Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
-- Chosen Prey, John Sandford
-- Trading Up, Candace Bushnell
-- People magazine
-- New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle
-- Fuji apples
-- Green grapes
-- Roast beef sandwich
-- Miller Genuine Draft
-- Keystone Light
-- Ice tea
"Black's Beach is a small section of Torrey Pines State Beach," Cole told me. I'd asked him if he could relate anything about the place's vaunted history.
"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."
What about the story that the beach got its name because of its blackish sand?
"That's a myth," Cole said. "It might have something to do with it, with how the name stuck in people's minds. But from what I've been able to find out, this is the beach that was under the property of William Black. 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."
Next I asked Cole about the beach's history as a nudist paradise.
"In the '70s, for three years, it was actually on the books, legal, to be nude at Black's Beach," Cole began. "And then the law was rescinded because there was no beach access, there was one road, and beachgoers were parking in people's yards and urinating on private property, all kinds of problems, and this was a rich neighborhood above the beach, full of people with influence in city council. And they got the law rescinded."
Cole went on, "But we operate now under what's called the Cahill Policy. Russell Cahill was a state parks director in the '70s, and there was a landmark case where a guy was arrested for sunbathing nude. And Cahill decided that rather than enforce this benign problem, he brought this policy that's still in existence today. Basically it says 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.
Cole said, "If somebody comes here, and they're offended by the nudity, they can go to the Torrey Pines park rangers and file a complaint, and then the rangers could come down to the beach and ask everybody to get dressed for the rest of that day. And then things go back to normal. It's happened before, actually. It happened this year. They found a guy way beyond the clothing-optional border, way up north, and they cited him and then came down the beach, and from what we understand, they found three or four people on the beach who were nude -- it was cold -- and they told everybody to get dressed, and they did."
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.
"We've been trying to get the park rangers to define the border of the clothing-optional beach for us," Cole said. "Because how can you cite somebody for being on the wrong side of the border if you can't determine what the border is? But if they recognize a border, then they'd also be saying that nudity is okay on a part of the beach, and nobody in the city government or the state wants to go that far. As it stands, the nudity's not legal, but it's tolerated on the state-beach section. So we put up boundaries ourselves, the Bares, so that people know where to go and where not to go. If nudity offends them, then all they have to do is stay outside the boundary."
South of where nearly everyone's wearing the emperor's new clothes, around a bend in the cliffs and down the strand a half mile or so, you're sure to catch that old familiar San Diego sight of surfers paddling and angling into waves.
The website surfline.com calls Black's Beach "the best beachbreak in the country" and rates the surf an 8 out of 10. Other surf centers rate Black's as highly, or even higher.
Nick Carbonne, 32, has been on longboards and shortboards in San Diego since 1992. "I learned to surf in Pacific Beach," he said. "But we used to hit Black's Beach a lot when I was a kid. There wasn't a crowd element, and it usually was pretty big."
Now Carbonne avoids Black's for the same reasons that he used to like to go there. "It's out of the way, and it's kind of a hassle," he said. "And now that I've gotten older, I've gotten into riding longer boards, and I'm not into getting barreled and hammered out there as much as when I was a kid. Paddling back out past the waves is really tough at Black's because there's no channel and you just have to battle."
But sometimes, Carbonne still likes to drag out the shortboard and test his surfing mettle.