Liquid Portraits: Blacks Beach 1998-2018

Twenty years of archived imagery from one of San Diego's most photogenic beachbreaks

Winter 2002. Early morning was absolsutely massive. The only two people where Mike Todd and Ross Garrett. I believe they paddled out from Scripps Pier — Pete Taras

Welcome to our new photo series Liquid Portraits. In editions to come, you’ll see a broad spectrum of photography covering the world's most iconic surf breaks by the photographers who know them best. We ask every photographer in this series to showcase their most iconic images and to dig out the unseen gems that reveal their special bond with whichever break we’re featuring.

First up is our own Pete Taras, who’s been shooting at San Diego’s Blacks for more than 20 years now, capturing its many moods from pristine and playful, to dark and stormy, to thunderous and majestic. He’s thankful to be part of a lineage of talented Blacks photographers.

“It’s incredible to see the amount of amazing photography that Blacks has produced and how each photographer has approached the place dating back to Ron Stoner--who was a creative god,” Taras says.

“Rob Gilley’s usage of light there was always stunning, unorthodox and refreshing considering the popularity of morning frontlit exposures. Don Balch seemed to capture the largest sets from every swell without missing a single moment, and Aaron Chang was just brilliant from the water. Rick Doyle shot some incredible moments too.

“Today, there's another new batch. Myles McGuiness for example has really perfected the glider port image. Showcasing a style of oil slick lineups so pulled back and perfect, you fail to see the hundreds of ants paddling around jockeying for position. Todd Glaser too seems to really get some brilliant photography down there from the water and also from down on the beach. His stuff of Tudor is always beautiful."

Enjoy Taras’ work below and stay tuned for the next Liquid Portraits.

Photographed in 1998. Hard to tell how big it is in this image, but when there’s a ski in the water asking you if you’re ok, then you know it’s sizeable. This was 15 minutes prior to a near-drowning experience. I never swam big Blacks after this. Surfer: Banning Capps, Rest In Peace

The calm before the storm. 2013 evening afterglow

Showtime. Fall 2015

The view on the beach sometimes can be just as majestic

Not an uncommon sight.

Eric Snortum. This day Snortum and Burch put on an absolute clinic. Over-gunned in the best way possible, which allowed them any pick of any set they wanted.

Taking a peak at north peak.

Evan Geiselman, 2010-ish

Pre-drone angle 2010. Warren Smith summertime blues.

Heavy head count this day. You can’t blame them when there’s a chance of getting one of these.

The wind never stays completely offshore even when they say it will. Pre swirl-bird gem.

Deep south. 2014

Midday sun at Blacks can be scorching. It can be 90 on the beach, and 58 in the water. Enjoy the shade while you can.

Golden California. 2014

Winter 2002. The first canyon set of what was to be a very large swell.

Post sunset acid drop

Winter 2002. One of the largest swells in the last couple of decades to hit San Diego. If you look close you can see two poor souls about to be demolished.

Mitch Coleborn on an incredibly packed, hot day in late summer 2013.