ONE OF THE FIRST groups to take full advantage of this stellar surf / academic duality was the freshman class of ’ 79- ’ 80 . Despite academic priorities , most of these undergraduate wave riders scheduled courses with surf time built in . A typical day might involve a morning session at Black ’ s , followed by a few classes back-to-back , followed by another hike down to Black ’ s for the evening glass-off [ 3 ]. As these students soon discovered , Black ’ s is an education in itself — presenting multi-faceted lessons in time management , courage , discretion , and humility . In surf terms alone , Black ’ s involves a difficult paddle-out , a complex lineup , and unusually heavy
beatings [ 4 ]. Even for experts , it ’ s quite possible to drown there . You add to this experience a steep , heart-pounding cliff negotiation , an abnormal abundance of sea life , thick , aggressive surf crowds , sub-60-degree water temperatures , groups of creepy nudists , and well … it was a radical school of another sort .
Black ’ s wasn ’ t just a great training ground ; it also provided a social framework . Inevitably , you ’ d see the same faces doing the same beach-schoolbeach loop , and this familiarity usually led to conversation and bonding .
How rad was that morning session ?
BY MID-FALL , most of these surfer-students already knew each other , and any awkwardness had dissipated like an outgoing tide .
Which might help explain the atmosphere in a Revelle College classroom one evening in October , 1979 . At the given hour , a curly-haired , smiley graduate student by the name of Michael Shand , MA ’ 75 , PhD ’ 80 , stepped in front of a group of abnormally tan and thoroughly relaxed young men and women and commenced to sell the group on becoming part of an official UC San Diego surf team , with himself as coach .
A surfer himself , Shand knew his pitch needed to be delicately balanced , catering to the authority-suspicious , bohemian DNA strands embedded in all wave riders . So he started things off with a bang : a fully sponsored 10-keg beach festival , an Isla Vista blowout Halloween weekend , and an adult film fundraiser [ 5 ].
Having captured the group ’ s attention , Shand launched into details on the competitive season . The team would travel up and down the coast for bi-monthly contests to be held at venues like Huntington Beach , Ventura , Mission Beach , and Santa Barbara . Other colleges on this recently sanctioned circuit included SDSU , USD , Orange Coast , Saddleback , Golden West , Pepperdine , and UCSB . There would be three divisions : men ’ s , women ’ s , and knee-board , with try-outs and practice contests to be held at Black ’ s , of course . With an A and B team structure , no one got cut — if you showed up , you made the squad . Lastly , there was just enough in the near-term budget for team t-shirts .
3 . Glass-off is the desirable , progressively smoothing ocean surface condition associated with a late afternoon drop in wind speed . For San Diego surfers who sleep in , it ’ s a means to fend off the inevitable shame , regret , and potential teasing that comes with missing a righteous morning session .
( Right ) The legendary
Lowenbrau surf contest and festival was hosted by the UC San Diego surf team at Black ’ s Beach in the late ’ 70s and early ’ 80s . As the cliché goes : if you remember it , you probably weren ’ t there . Read Lowenbrau stories at tritonmag . com / surf Photo : Mark Johnson ’ 88
( Far right ) Field of Dreams . This is what perfect
A-frames at Black ’ s look like from the Scripps Coastal
Reserve , just across the street from Revelle College .
Photo : Rob Gilley ’ 84
4 . Waves at Black ’ s can be as punishing as they are perfect — a ‘ standard ’ surf session involves being bashed about , held underwater , and generally brutalized by the ocean . A ‘ heavy ’ beating at Black ’ s would involve a thrashing so significant that most non-surfers would immediately panic , cry out for a loved one , then drown .
5 . Believe it or not , during the morally questionable late 70 ’ s and early 80 ’ s , student organizations really did screen adult films on campus for fundraising efforts , as they usually guaranteed a sell-out .