The Guys Who Named the Sunset Cliffs Surf Breaks

by on December 10, 2018 · 11 comments

in Ocean Beach

Bob “lizard” Chapman, John Holly, Jim “Mouse’ Robb, Billy Chapman and Marsh Malcom. Photo by Albert C Elliott. 12/8/18 at the OB Library.

If you ever wondered about the names of the Sunset Cliffs surf breaks – these are the guys who named them.

Bob “lizard” Chapman, John Holly, Jim “Mouse’ Robb, Billy Chapman and Marsh Malcom.

If you’ve been surfing the Cliffs for a few years – like decades maybe – you might be fortunate enough to know these guys. They’re OB and Point Loma legends. And there they were at the OB Library, Saturday, December 8, just yakking it up about the good old days of surfing.

This photo is by Albert C Elliott.


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page December 10, 2018 at 2:19 pm

I would love to have these guys draw up a map of the spots with the names. I’ve been surfing out there for years but still don’t have all the names and locations straight. For example, from north to south, which is first, Subs or Abs? New Break is the next one south and north are north and south Garbage. The rest I’m unsure of.


triggerfinger December 10, 2018 at 2:31 pm

I knew a guy who drew a map once, the next day he had 10 broken fingers.


Geoff Page December 10, 2018 at 3:42 pm

I’m guessing that was meant as a joke. It’s not like any of the surf spots along Sunset Cliffs are secret any more, or ever were really. I’d just like to see an accurate depiction of the names.


George J December 10, 2018 at 4:06 pm

I have a book describing California’s surf breaks. Its map for Sunset Cliffs and Point Loma lists breaks in order from north to south as follows: Pescadero St.; Osprey St.; Bird Shit; No Surf; Indicator; Needle’s Eye; Luscomb’s; Rockslide; Lizard’s; North Garbage; South Garbage; Sub; Ab; South Ab; Newbreak; Chasm; 33’s; Pink House; Pillbox; and Ralph’s.

The book is entitled: Surfing California: A Complete Guide to the California Coast / Allan “Bank” Wright Jr. : Redondo Beach, CA : Mountain & Sea Publishing, 1985.


Tyler December 11, 2018 at 9:25 am

That’s correct, although South Ab is often referred to as Out of Sights.


Tyler December 11, 2018 at 1:11 pm

Also to my knowledge Sub is short for Subleo.


ACE December 12, 2018 at 7:52 am

The name “Subs” was from a large chunk of cliff that fell in to the water and looked like a “submarine”.. That is what the story was the other day.


Tyler December 13, 2018 at 7:40 am

Interesting. Thanks for sharing. I heard Scat called it Subleo once and wasn’t sure why… perhaps that’s his own nickname!


Melinda White December 23, 2018 at 10:13 am

Subleo is just a horked guys way of saying Sub Left. Theres an inside left at sub that you can ride almost to the cliff and its fast. It’s a way of saying Sub Left but not really saying the name so people don’t overhear you talking.
For the guy who said the cliffs were never really a secret didn’t grow up here, obviously. There was MAJOR localism for decades. There were constant brawls in the water and on the beach. Like Pitbulls when you come into their yard. Unfortunately, too many guys with not enough sea time go out there now when they really should be practicing on softer, more forgiving waves at a beach break before paddling out at a reef break.


sealintheSelkirks December 10, 2018 at 10:00 pm

I guess Dolphin Tanks was a later name added due to the buildings and tanks used in trying to turn dolphins into weapons?


Rich December 17, 2018 at 4:32 pm

I was a Cal Western student beginning September 1967…from the North

Garbage – looking up to what is now the parking lot, south of the streets (because we could see trash dumped up above)

Sub (named after the submarine shaped rock as noted above)

Ab (left)

South Ab (right)

Newbreak (mostly right)

Lighthouse (into the Navy area south of campus)



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