POLYNESIAN ORIGINATOR , fun-in-the-sun enthusiast , counter-cultural vanguard . That ’ s pretty much how things went for the image of the wave-rider , from surfing ’ s inception all the way to the early 1970 ’ s , when young practitioners started routinely shunning the establishment and ditching class left and right . Once Fast Times at Ridgemont High hit theaters , it simply catalyzed a freshly gelling reputation — surfers , as far as the general public could tell , now held ground somewhere between pathological deadbeats and brain-dead hippies . The slightest whiff of surf association got you socially and intellectually pigeonholed in the back of Spicoli ’ s van . To society at large , surfers and rocket scientists occupied opposite ends of the spectrum . All I need are some tasty waves , a cool buzz , and I ’ m fine — said no one in a lab coat , ever .
Luckily , stereotypes meant little to the surf-scholars who entered UC San Diego in the late 70 ’ s and early 80 ’ s . There were only two things that mattered to this independent-minded lot : access to a great education and access to great waves . That ’ s it .
Our campus was ideal because just down the cliff was one of the best surf breaks in California — Black ’ s Beach . There is well-known bathymetry at work there , mostly due to the ultra-deep Scripps Underwater Canyon , which funnels larger and better-shaped waves toward Black ’ s more than anywhere else in Southern California . Instead of dreaded close-outs [ 1 ], Black ’ s is famous for producing powerful and bowly A-frames [ 2 ], beautifully tapered two-way waves perfect for aficionados . With the freshman dorms just a short hike away , UC San Diego was a backstage pass to this coveted phenomenon , and still is today .
1 . A close-out is a wave that breaks all at once , preventing a ride of any appreciable distance . Vast stretches of the world ’ s coastlines — including Southern California — principally yield close-outs , which explains the hordes of surfers at the less-common , non-closed-out spots .
2 . “ Bowly ” refers to a slightly concave wave-face that provides more desirable opportunities than flatfaced or dribbly waves . Think of a skateboarder in the scooped-out curvature of an empty swimming pool . An “ A-frame ” is a wave that breaks in two directions from its center peak , highly regarded by surfers for doubling the potential . As for a bowly A-frame — that ’ s as sick as it gets .