To access Garbage Beach, which is a long and narrow sandy strip nestled under 80-foot-high bluffs, one has to negotiate an extremely steep and slippery trail along a broken drainage trough and then use a fixed rope for the last 10 feet.
“Look at that beach, it looks awesome. How do you get down there?” is what’s often overheard from visitors to Sunset Cliffs as they stop to peer over the bluff.
Locals love to hear that. Because the beach is awesome, and getting down to it is a dangerous trek, which means fewer interlopers, no rules, and more freedom. It’s worth it.
Like New Break Beach to the south, and the pocket beaches to the north in OB, and Kellogg’s Beach on the bay side, the fewer visitors who know where they are, and how to get there, gives locals exclusivity and makes these beautiful beaches a favored destination.
But unfortunately for locals, the word is out.
“I like the quiet and I like the privacy,” said Shelby, a millennial, who grew up on Orchard Avenue and frequents the pocket beach at the end of Santa Cruz Avenue. Last weekend, with heat and humidity soaring, the beach at Santa Cruz, and its sister beach off Bermuda Avenue, were lightly attended, which suited Shelby just fine.
“Nobody owns the beach, everyone is welcome,” she said. “But be respectful. Clean up after yourself and don’t be rude. These little beaches can get overrun with people. I think social media is one of the main reasons.”
That same sentiment was expressed by Stephen, a La Jolla resident who has been coming to Ocean Beach for 20 years. On Sunday, he and his girlfriend were hiking through the ravine south of Garbage Beach to a secret spot below Point Loma Nazarene University that’s only accessible during low tide.
“I want to show people these hidden hikes and beaches, but I don’t want them to end up crowded. It’s a conundrum,” he said. “No Surf Beach and Garbage Beach never used to be crowded, but now, especially in the summer, the millennials have taken them over.”
He also blames social media for bringing out more beachgoers. “Now everyone knows where they are and how to get down to them. Years ago, I don’t remember these beaches even having names. Then they named them, and everyone found them.”
Jumping off The Arch at Pappy’s Point has been a rite of passage for locals for generations. It still is. But they have a lot of company. Last weekend, dozens of teenagers gathered to watch and film video of their friends taking the 35-foot plunge off The Arch.
“I used to jump off The Arch when I was younger, but it got too crowded, and that brought out the police and people started getting tickets,” said Shelby. “Social media has exposed everything.”
During the heatwave two weeks ago, Ocean Beach resident Sarah and her three friends, who were visiting from out of town, took turns jumping off The Arch. Why take that chance of receiving an expensive ticket, or even worse, of getting hurt?
“It’s sick. It’s an incredible adrenaline rush,” she said. “When my friends visit me, I bring them here to jump.”
Her friend Emily, from Indiana, said she wanted to test her boundaries. “It’s about making every day an adventure,” she said. “When you jump and you’re in the air, it’s sweet – just remember to close your mouth before you hit the water.”
But smile for the Instagram post.