The Same Stretch of Sand: Blackie’s Then and Now
Blackie’s, Newport’s classic beachbreak, bordering the pier and the 28th Street Jetty, carries the weight of its history lightly, constantly refreshed by new blood. Some distance from PCH, it seems to have escaped the gentrification and makeover that has rendered classic surf spots like Huntington nearly unrecognizable from their earlier, funkier incarnations.
Referred to initially as 22nd Street, it eventually became known as Blackie’s, named after Blackie’s By The Sea, a bar visible from the line-up. In the longboard era it was the main base for the Newport Beach Surfing Association and the home break for notable surfers of the ’60s such as Ron Sizemore (from Laguna Beach), Hawaiian transplants Ilima Kalama and David Nuuhiwa, and John Peck. Surfboard shapers such as the late Robert “Russell” Brown and Mike Marshall were also part of the original 22nd Street crew.
As surfboard designs advanced and shrunk, the more challenging breaks to the west and north of Blackie’s became the spots more popularly associated with Newport. The resurgence of longboarding revived Blackie’s as an important proving ground, mixing the old guard with the younger generations. In recent years the local standouts have included Alex Knost, Jared Mell and Tanner Prairie (who became the late shaper Mike Marshall’s protégé and now shapes his own longboards). On early mornings, especially in the winter, with the marine layer still hanging over the shoreline, the parking lot fills up with an assortment of old-timers, burnouts, and the new guard—coffee cups in hand—checking the surf. —Kevin O’Sullivan