The Coast News Group
Community Commentary

Hey locals, it’s Beacon!

In 1963, Dave Stern and Bill Cleary published “Surfing Guide to Southern California.” 

At the time, Stern was an economics professor at UCLA. Cleary later became the editor of the highly regarded “Surf Guide” magazine. Those roles probably account for their book’s thoroughness and accuracy.

“Surfing Guide to Southern California” details six breaks in Leucadia. Among them is “The Beacon.” The text reads:

“THE BEACON — Much like Grandview Street, in that outside breaks become good at

5 to 8 feet. An easy break. Peak just south of parking lot behaves more like reef at times than other nearby breaks. Restaurants close by. No facilities. Located at foot of Fulvia Street (now Leucadia Boulevard).”

Why did Stern and Cleary call it “The Beacon”?

A 1939-40 nautical chart1 shows nine aeronautical lights from Dana Point to Point Loma. One light that flashed every 10 seconds was on the bluff at 33 degrees 4 minutes north latitude. That spot is now the overlook at the north end of the Beacon parking lot, behind the sign that erroneously names the place “Beacon’s.” If you stand at the fence and look west through the brush, you’ll see two concrete pillars jutting vertically out of the bluff edge. They’re in precisely the right spot to have been part of the footing for the aeronautical light tower.

A 1948 topographical map2 shows and labels a “Beacon” on the bluff edge north of what was then Fulvia Street and south of what is still Jasper Street. It’s the exact location where the nautical chart shows an aeronautical light.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors adopted a blackout ordinance that went into effect on Dec. 11. A headline in that day’s edition of the Encinitas Coast Dispatch read: “You Must Black Out or Face Arrest Under New Ordinance.” The text warned that anyone who failed to comply with the blackout rules faced a $500 fine or six months’ imprisonment or both.

In its Feb. 26, 1942 edition, the same newspaper advised readers with the headline “Good Blackout Signal” and the text, “Persons desiring to play safe against possible blackout can find assistance by looking for the ray from the beacon light in the north end of the district . . . If the beacon is not lighted at night do not turn on your own light.”

Somewhere along the line—maybe when the sign was made—somebody in local and/or state government made a mistake and named Leucadia’s midway beach and surf break “Beacon’s” rather than the historically accurate “Beacon.”

Because the sign erroneously says “Beacon’s,” people who have no way to know better think that name is right. City documents are riddled with the incorrect name. A nearby mobile home park that used to be called “Evergreen” changed owners and was renamed “Beacon’s Beach Village.” A contagious infection is still loose among us.

Some locals, probably realizing that “Beacon’s” implies that somebody named Beacon once owned the beach, have taken to writing “Beacons.” As the documents cited above show, there was one beacon, hence the singular name “Beacon.”

I first surfed Beacon in 1966. Back then everybody called it “Beacon.” I think it’s high time we locals reclaimed the correct name.


Doug Fiske lives near Beacon Beach.


1. San Diego to Santa Rosa, 1537 NAUT-5101A-1939/40.

2. Encinitas, USGS Topographical Map, 1948.


1 comment

Sonny March 25, 2014 at 7:19 am

I surf beacon’s everyday and it’s great to read the actual history of the name. I’ll have to spread this knowledge to the locals and try to resurrect it’s original story.

It’s definitely my favorite break in San Diego. A quiet, hidden gem that I live 3 blocks from.

Great article… keep ’em coming!

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