Stab Magazine | From Where You’d Rather Be: The World's Best Beachbreaks – Blacks, San Diego

From Where You’d Rather Be: The World’s Best Beachbreaks – Blacks, San Diego

Words by Tom Freed | All photos by Myles McGuinness (IG @9mphoto / Portal here/ FB here) Whenever someone utters the phrase “from where you’d rather be,” Stab’s collective mind’s eye immediately focuses on a sand-bottomed setup beneath a smiling sun. We’re talking beachbreaks. Trunks. Bath water. All the finer things! And, since we so adore […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Words by Tom Freed | All photos by Myles McGuinness (IG @9mphoto / Portal here/ FB here)

Whenever someone utters the phrase “from where you’d rather be,” Stab’s collective mind’s eye immediately focuses on a sand-bottomed setup beneath a smiling sun. We’re talking beachbreaks. Trunks. Bath water. All the finer things! And, since we so adore such things, we’ve decided to team up with our like-minded pals at to deliver you a new series: The World’s Best Beachbreaks.

We’ll be detailing, visually but also through written text, all our favourite sand setups from around the world. The requirements? Nothing but golden grains beneath, nothing but a warm orb above, trunk temperatures only, and a perfect setup to end the day with a Corona and lime.

No. 7: Black’s Beach, California

Yes, we broke the rules on this one. You’re more often in a 3/2 fullsuit than you’re in boardies here (although tell that to global warming this year!), but this Southern Californian beaut just had to make the cut. Black’s, San Diego’s cherished golden shore. Miles of towering, sheer cliffs guarding tee-pees and blue wedges of a different breed for gentle So-Cal. Wedges with oomph. A beach that collects surrounding swell, bottles it up, shakes it and pops the top a la an underwater trench guiding this mischief. With one of California’s most lovely cities winking in the background, a nudist zone of the beach smirking in the foreground, and actual standup-pits spitting out front — who cares about “rules,” anyway?


Lemme break it down for ya:

Go: Dec-Feb (bigger in winter, warmer in summer obvs).

Land in: San Diego International Airport, California.

Then: Rent a car and drive 20-minutes north.

Stay: Preferably in North County, SD. There are cheap motels/hotels, Airbnb options and if ya wanna camp, San Elijo State Beach in Cardiff is a great place to do it.

Bring a: Standard shortboard, and/or a step-up if you know a big West is coming (you could actually use it there) and a big bottle of water for the walk to-and-from.


What’s she like? Over a mile of wide, protected State Beach shoreline hidden by bluffs, a 20-minute walk from the nearest neighbourhood. Silver-cerulean seas sparkling beneath a warm Californian sun. Paragliders jumping from the bluff and dancing in the air above the surf. Seals and dolphin frolicking in the lineup, signalling those incoming “Canyon Sets.” K, maybe they’re not, but Black’s is one hell of a treat when it comes to the surf. Usually twice as big as anywhere else in the area on a swell with any West in it, as the swell gathers toward that underwater trench and magnifies. This creates a few different wedging A-frames that make up the break(s). A steep, quick, backdoor-able right on one hand, a longer more predominant apexing left on the other that drains, then bends into a workable wall. Rampy and rippable on smaller windswells. Fairly clean mornings and blown-out afternoons. A penchant for crowds as a city — and university — are quite close.

What really makes her tick? That sweet, unusual bottom. As in exceptional underwater topography with a submarine canyon out front funneling in long-period energy from the West-Northwest. While 20-second periods give you them big “Canyon Sets” that wedge and teepee, big seconds also give you big crowds. A little shorter period swell (15,16 seconds) in the 5-6-foot category is still double-overhead and consistent, and pretty much anything with West in it in the 280-degrees zone is what yer lookin’ for to get drained. An East wind is offshore, but as Black’s is sheltered by the cliffs, it’s kinda got its own little atmosphere and wind program. (Northern Hemi) Winter’s better than summer and all her glory depends on if the banks are right.

Other options in the area… Torrey Pines, a smidgen north of Black’s, is a beach break with similar size and power at times, but not the same shape. Scripps Pier, south of Black’s, is another fun beachie, which you’ll have the pleasure to share with a few dozen college kids. Further south is glitzy La Jolla which holds a handful of reefs and slabs that have their day.


For a good time the city of San Diego is just 15 minutes south of Black’s and is like a prettier Los Angeles with far cooler people. Yeah, I said it. Bars and clubs and big concerts and foods of all nations down there, but for a more small-town feel (and hotter babes). North County towns like Cardiff and Encinitas are about 15 minutes north of Black’s and are probably where you wanna stay to play.

At all costs, don’t drink and drive. Not that you should or could anywhere else, but San Diego cops nail kids every hour for DUI’s and do you wanna be the next schmuck? Also don’t mess with the seals; they’re feral. Period.

OK, I hear ya, but what’s a local say? Ricky Whitlock says, “I personally try to get pretty mysto with Black’s. I’ll avoid those few first Northwest winter swells because of all the crowds ‘cause everyone’s frothing. I also won’t even waste my time with the morning crowd because of all the kids trying to get a session before classes; I’ll go mid-day, even. But what’s special is that there’s the main peaks, but then there’s quite a few other peaks you could just paddle down to and surf away from the crowd — that’s what’s special about it to me. And mid-day with the sun and all, the waves have this crazy turquoise reef-break color, even though it’s a beach break; it’s pretty magical. The cliffs light up with the sun, the water is this weird blue, and the lefts — because of the canyon — look like a south swell is pushing, even though it’s not. They’re rare sessions like that, of course, but they’re worth the years of waiting.”


Get at beachbreak number 12, Ehukai Beach Park, right here.
Get at beachbreak number 11, Bocas del Toro, right here.
Get at beachbreak number 10, Fernando De Noronha, right here.
Get at beachbreak number 9, Outer Banks, right here.
Get at beachbreak number 8, SW Beachies, right here.


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

Want Taj Burrow’s Boards? There’s 4 Up For Grabs

Wrap your mitts around one of TB's new Lost 'Lightspeed' weapons.

Aug 9, 2022

The Pick-Up, Vans US Open: In The Belly Of The Beast

Finger flips, shaping with Zion Wright, slurpees, Hawaiian takeovers, and the king of Surfline rewinds.

Aug 8, 2022

Albee Layer Discusses His Not-So-Budding Acting Career And The Upcoming Film “Sweet Adventure”

"Matt and Nora were tripping a little harder than I was just because they weren't…

Aug 8, 2022

Zeke Lau & Bettylou Sakura Johnson Win The Vans US Open Of Surfing 

Hawaii dominates HB.

Aug 8, 2022

How A Former CT Surfer Gets “Absolute Beginners” Barreled In A Matter Of Months

Luke Stedman elaborates on his Blackball surf programs.

Aug 7, 2022


Sweeter Than Stolen Honey 

A versatile Haydenshapes x Dylan Graves HP (and soft board) tested in weird waves.

Aug 7, 2022

15-Year-Old Ladybird Erin Brooks Makes Final In All-Men’s Tuberiding Event

And Clay Marzo takes the dub.

Aug 6, 2022

Are We Looking At Reef Sculpting The Wrong Way? 

The pros, cons, possibilities, and mechanisms of changing reefs to suit our surfing desires.

Aug 6, 2022

The Gudang Trio Discusses Brotherhood And How To Make It To The Mountain Top Together  

Positive sibling vibrations we should all aspire to.

Aug 6, 2022


Everyone’s Local Zone Has A Mythical Wave

Kai Lenny, Imaikalani DeVault, Eli Hanneman and friends get to surf theirs.

Aug 5, 2022

The Pick-Up, Vans US Open: Harry Bryant Vs. The Wedge

A lot of swell, stolen identities, surf masochists, mutilated noses, The Wedge, skull-crushing pylons, and…

Aug 5, 2022

When Gabby And Kolohe Pull Out, The Hog Pulls In

Tahiti wildcards named.

Aug 5, 2022

First Look: The 2022 Electric Acid Surfboards

Did our questionable EAST gamble pay off for Mick Fanning's Maldivian quiver ?

Aug 4, 2022

How Boardshorts Work

They are your one chance to look cool while actually surfing. Don’t blow it.

Aug 4, 2022

A Surf/Snow/Music Fez In The Heart Of Melbourne 

URBNSURF is throwing an action-sports/live music DOOF this month and Stab Premium members are getting…

Aug 4, 2022

Peace, Love, And Mung Beans: 7 Things I Learned From Mick Fanning

Ranging from surf travel hacks to philosophy to jingle lyrics.

Aug 2, 2022

The Three Million Dollar Chinese Storm

500 board orders, coaching armies, and trips around the world — here's how China’s Olympic…

Aug 1, 2022

The Pick-Up, Vans US Open: Does The Huntington Hop Actually Work?

Ed Templeton explains Huntington Beach, the ugliest maneuver in surfing returns, a horde of strange…

Aug 1, 2022