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The Long, Slow Journey to Nakedness
How Did You Get Started in Naturism?
Four of us were sitting around the dinner table at Paya Bay Resort (Roatan, Honduras) one evening. I was new to them, but they knew each other from several years past. One of them asked me the question, "how did you get started in naturism?" I told the tale as I remembered it and since then, after more thought and reflection, here is the expanded and updated version.
Aged 11, around 1953, I just stopped wearing pyjamas at home. They got twisted and wound up with seams cutting into the tender parts of my body; they were just downright uncomfortable. My mother must have noticed but said nothing that I recall. I continued to wear them at the all-boys boarding school and when visiting other peoples' homes. However, the only times I have worn pyjamas since leaving high school have been when staying in another person's home or some communal dormitory-like settings. As Wendy in the Canadian burger commercial said, 'Now, that's better!' The upside is freedom of movement and comfort, even in midwinter. The downside is that the bed sheets seem to need changing more often and sweat stains migrate further into the mattress unless there is added protection – for the bed! Incontinence pads work well too.
I was in and out of the sea, lakes and rivers from a very early age and began 'real' swimming without water wings at about age six. So far as I recall, I always wore swim trunks, which gradually evolved from knitted wool to nylon to an even thinner, lighter stretchy material; what we now call 'Speedos' regardless of manufacturer. These were always worn in public, at beaches and swimming pools and are still my third preference for swimwear. Second preference is something I have recently discovered made by Kiniki; a similar swimsuit in a fabric design that is woven with very many small holes which are masked by bright colours and wild patterns. Supposedly they allow the suntan to get through.
Those swim and board-short thingies - a real drag in the water and my opinion is that they are dangerous for swimming. They do not even look good, even if they protect the body from the board when surfing.
At age 12, I went to a 'big boys' boarding school, the equivalent of North America's Junior High; swimsuits were not worn in gym class when we were in the pool or at closed, in-school, events and I concluded ‘I guess that's what big boys do'. Comfort, ease of movement, and no longer wearing a cold, damp and clingy woollen suit that never seemed to dry before the next time you had to wear it looked like considerable benefits. I do not recall any sense of loss of privacy or embarrassment, except the day I did a spectacularly good belly-flop off the springboard, with no textile protection at all; that stung, all over! After that event, the gym master slowly walked the length of the 25-metre pool, came up to me (I am terrified now, as well as bright red and stinging!) ...and asked me if I would come to practice with the junior swim team! That meant even more time in the pool, free of swimwear - that could only be good, and much better than the cold, muddy football or field hockey pitches or the hot, dry, dusty cricket pitch which were the seasonal alternatives!
We used communal showers in a large, open common shower room after gym class or any other sports event; again, 'I guess that's what big boys do', and there was no sense of embarrassment. We had a communal changing room - there was no space for shyness or modesty, and when changing quickly after the gym and before the next class, there was no time for those luxuries.
The swimming pool was shared with other schools and colleges, so we were always anxious to be out of the pool and into our 'private' communal change rooms on time in case we were seen by the visitors - which included a couple of girls' schools. We teenage boys weren't ready for mixed-gender nudity (I believe the girls always wore swimsuits)!
On open days and during competitions, we always wore swimsuits; I am sure that was why I usually came last in the races, the extra drag slowed me down.
During that time at boarding school, I managed to sneak out to a movie theatre which was showing a movie very appealing to teenage boys. It was a movie showing a girl with long blonde hair swimming naked underwater, probably off the Ile de Levant in France. Filming this must have been difficult in the mid-1950s, but the imagery and freedom of movement have stayed in my mind over some 60 years. ‘So, people swim naked in the sea? That looks good!'
Many years passed; I was rarely in a swimming pool or sports changing room similar to my high school situation. However ...
YMCAIn an attempt to become fit and improve our long-lost swimming skills, in the late 1990s, my wife and I joined the newly-opened YMCA near our house. I was aware that in years gone by, the Y had promoted boy's and men's nude swimming, but obviously, times had changed. This Y swimming pool had big windows facing the parking lot. There are of course separate men's and women's changing rooms – even family changing rooms. For more money, there are more elegantly equipped changing rooms, with a hot tub and steam room as well as showers and lockers and even a carpeted lounging area with TV and magazines. I had no problem using the change rooms and showers, hot tub and steam room nude, but I got some funny looks from men and boys to whom this was strange behaviour. It amused me to see some men struggling to retain coverage and ‘dignity' with towels while drying and changing back to street clothes. It is so much simpler to be nude!
In 1999, at my age 57, we connected to this new (to me) 'internet' thing, and I discovered a whole world wide web of information I didn't even know existed. My wife and I were set to go on an extended vacation to Europe which would include London, Edinburgh, Southern Spain, Portugal and Finland. One of the timeshare places mentioned there was a sauna on site. I especially wanted to find out more about the Finnish sauna; The internet search led me to a page called 'Nakedness and the Finnish Sauna', http://www.naturistplace.com/nudity17.htm which is part of a much larger site called Being and Nakedness http://www.naturistplace.com/ , which led me in turn to a whole wider world; I had discovered the world of naturism.
Nudism or Naturism?
There have been many discussions over the similarities, differences and meanings of these two words. I prefer ‘naturism'. Of the two, nudism and nudist have been co-opted by a lifestyle with which I do not agree, and also have been used by those who promote a highly sexually charged lifestyle and other activities which are not part of my life.
Naturism speaks more to the way I want to live, in harmony with nature and living a sustainable lifestyle, nude when appropriate but not adamantly or ‘at any cost'. I drink in moderation, eat meat less than I used to, try to ensure we live off organic foods grown or made locally, drink purified water, don't smoke any more (since 1980), drive an economical car which works to get us around but which doesn't attempt to impress by size or badge on the front, support local independent businesses over the big chains when possible, wear clothes that didn't come from a sweatshop – and I don't wear any clothes when appropriate. For a long time, my ‘slogan' has been ‘Surely, we can do better than this?' and surely, naked is more comfortable than clothed.
Naked Exploring: The World of Naturism
First, I explored the Being and Nakedness site (which is still online in 2018 but not maintained; many links are defunct) and then ventured into the unknown, following various links. These, in turn, led to various other sites such as http://www.naturistplace.com/nudity16.htm on the same site that described multiple peoples first time experiences and a first list of places to go to or think and read about and the websites of several other writers and places. This was a pot of gold I had no idea existed and so my secret (‘in the closet') searching began. I also learned about and started lurking on the early generations of various fora, and then registered on some and tentatively made a few contributions, including the early versions of SunnyDay's site, just after her ‘streaking' posts (which I never saw) and from the time when she went for runs in the neighbourhood and found a sylvan meadow for relaxation.
Places to be Naked
During these early virtual wanderings around the internet, I had ‘catalogued' a list of places that I would like to visit one day. During these wanderings, I had grown to realise that nakedness in the great outdoors was not very uncommon but could only happen in set-aside places, or very remote areas in North America. It seemed that there were more easily visited and accepting places in Europe and places like New Zealand and parts of Australia, somewhat out of easy reach from my home in Canada.
From Being and Nakedness and other websites and fora, I learned about a couple of places that eventually became my first unclothed adventure.
First Adventure - Arizona
I had attended a church conference in Spring, 2003 in Phoenix, Arizona and after it was over, I had set aside a couple of days before returning home. So, one afternoon I ventured out into the comfortably warm desert to ...
Eldorado Hot Springs, at Tonopah, West of Phoenix. I had phoned ahead and was assured of a welcome at this strange place - dusty and a gentle breeze that day, with continuous noise from the nearby highway and trucks coming and going at the nearby truck stop. It seemed like a tidied-up junkyard with various fenced areas behind which were tubs fed by the hot springs and little cabins for private hot-tubbing and resting; not exactly a resort! I selected the Lily Pond, which (then) was a galvanized steel cattle-watering tub fed with hot spring water from a garden hose; it overflowed into the lily pond. It would have been cozy for two people. There were a couple of lawn chairs for parking clothes on and out-of-the tub cooling or sunbathing. A fence on two sides separated the user from the outdoor office and utility area, but it was wide open to the west and north. I undressed, feeling very – er – exposed and vulnerable, but it was an enjoyable and relaxing couple of hours in the sun and relatively clean desert air. For the first time, I experienced the titillating pleasure of sunshine, the breeze and water flowing over those body parts usually covered by a swimsuit. Water temperature was managed by adjusting the inflow of hot water from a garden hose, and the outflow went over the side of the tub, onto the ground and trickled ‘naturally' to the lily pond. I followed that with dinner in the café at the truck stop. This was a very memorable first-time event, if not social, 15 years ago (from when I am updating this).
Eldorado has since been sold, and the new owners have made changes. The website exists at http://el-dorado.com/. The former owners used to live nearby and for a while welcomed guests to their home looking for a soak at Casa Blanca. They too have moved on again. More information at http://www.casablancahotspring.wordpress.com Check them both out online or at TripAdvisor before visiting. (Updated 2018 06 11)
The next day I more nervously ventured out to the Shangri La Ranch at New River, north of Phoenix http://www.shangrilaranch.com/ .
I was concerned that a lone 61-year-old male might not be well received. I had phoned ahead and was assured that as a lone male I would be admitted as a day visitor, so I crossed that first hurdle.
I arrived at the gate and was buzzed in by the person who answered the intercom, parked and went into the office. The formalities of checking in were easy, and I was taken on a golf cart tour of the premises. The overall impression was dry, dusty with little vegetation – well, we are in the desert! The many RVs were packed close together. Then I was dropped off in the car park by the pool and café and advised I should undress right there and leave my clothes in the car. It seemed so strange to be doing that, out in front of the people in the RVs but doing anything new for the first time feels strange. So, feeling very vulnerable and exposed, I took my towel and bag of book, snacks and water and headed for a shaded place near the pool. (Shangri La has grown since then, there are now two pools and more sunbathing space). It was a pleasant afternoon spent clothes-free by the pool where vigorous volleyball was in progress; later I enjoyed a conversation in the hot tub with another visitor to the resort from the cold north. The sky did not fall, I survived, and all seemed well but somewhat constrained with a gated entry and apparently a private group which was not all that welcoming to a nervous, solo, male, white-tailed stranger. However, I look forward to returning when I am next in the area.
Several years later, about 2009, I was back in Spain; I had further researched what was where and discovered firstly, that beach nudity was generally accepted and legal in Spain (with specific, mostly urban, exceptions) and secondly there were a couple of beaches near where I was staying where clothes-free usage was definitely an option. So, braver and more confident now and with more internet knowledge, it was time to go exploring again. My constant companion, ‘Katy' with the frightfully English voice who lives in the Tom-Tom GPS/satnav knew where to go. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that ‘Katy’ had the information built into her database. Even more pleasing was to find that having bought her at the airport in Edinburgh (is that trafficking?), I was able to put her to good use in the rental car only three hours later.
Cabopinho, also known as Playa Artola, lies between Fuengirola and Marbella on the Costa del Sol. Cabopinho is a busy area with chiringuitos, hamacas and palapas near the car park and apartment developments at the Cabopinho Marina which is very clothed, very urban, very busy and very noisy. However, to the west is a sandy strip about a kilometre long between sand dunes and the sea which is – or was then – officially designated clothing-optional; at that time there was a chiringuito on the beach with hamacas and palapas to rent, but otherwise you brought your towel and umbrella and sat or lay on the sand. The clothes-optional section was much less developed, less populated and more relaxed than the urban zone near the car park.
This would be my first foray into clothes-free beach use in a foreign country, a foreign legal system and of course unknown customs and etiquette. I was nervous! Having walked (clothed) most of the length of the beach in the hot sun, noticing that there were people of all ages, shapes and sizes, clothed and nude, I decided that a shaded palapa and hamaca were very desirable. That was when I discovered that all the people there were totally naked and very comfortable in one another's company, or reading, or listening to music. It was just like any other beach but more sociable and free of clothes. No-one seemed in any way limited or embarrassed, and very few had any white areas on their body, they were entirely at ease. In Canada-speak: wow, eh? I realised that this was what I had been looking for, for several years. ‘The Eagle has landed!'
It did not take long to take off the shorts and shirt, put down my towel, settle on the hamaca, pay the daily rental and take stock. The chiringuito required clothing, so people put on the minimum to go to the outside counter, or a little more to eat inside. People young and old were walking along the water's edge, as they do everywhere – some naked, some fully dressed including elderly Spanish ladies clothed in black from head to toe. There were all sorts of half-way situations. No-one paid any attention to anyone else. It was all just so ordinary.
I was able to swim naked in the sea, for the first time in 45 years, and walk the length of the beach several times wearing just a hat, sandals, my glasses and nothing else. What a wonderful feeling, to sense the water and breeze and sun in places that had not felt them for many years, if ever (except briefly in Arizona six years before). During those walks, I concluded that if I could walk down the beach with no clothes on and the sky didn't fall and I didn't get arrested, I could conquer the world! My self-esteem went up several notches, and I wondered why I hadn't done this years earlier. One delightful and surprising sight was to see two young parents playing with their young child, making sand-castles and taking family ‘happy snaps' with not a stitch of clothing in sight.
Later that day, the strolling fully clothed Asian masseuses made their way along the beach, and a relaxing full-body ‘massage' on the hamaca under the sun and in the breeze was a wonderful new experience. The masseuse preserved her sense of propriety with a facecloth over my very public ‘private' parts.
At the end of the day, I was wondering about and enjoying my new-found freedom as I walked back to the car. I delayed putting on even minimal clothing until the last moment. It was already too delightful to have to put clothes on before necessary. I suppose that would be my ‘day of conversion'. Since I was there for a week, it was not long before it was clothing off as I entered the clothes-free zone, to put it back on only when it was time to leave the dunes or beach and return to the car park.
Late one afternoon, standing on one foot on the scorching sand wearing nothing but a hat, my glasses and flip-flop sandals, and struggling with my shorts, I was approached from behind by one of the Asian masseuses who offered me her services. How do you retain your dignity while standing mostly naked on one leg while trying to put on shorts and the other sandal and while courteously declining a massage from a masseuse on a Spanish beach when the only language you have (and she doesn't) is English? I quickly realised that being unclothed is far less critical than it was a day ago!
Benalnatura is the other beach near the place where I was staying. There is a newly updated Spanish language website - search for Benalnatura or go to http://www.benalnatura.com/. Benalnatura is very different from Cabopinho. It is in an urban area; there is even a bus stop right at the top of the path and large signs advertising the presence of the playa nudista at the top of the steps down to the waterfront. No hiding or being discreet here! You descend the steps and arriving at the beach, depending on the time of day, surprise number one: what you see first are the tanned, bare backsides of customers at the bar. Next, you realise that the beach is overlooked from the cliffs above by apartment buildings, but no-one cares. The beach is small and usually popular, rocky in places but mostly shingle with some sand, difficult to walk on in bare feet, especially on a hot day. The water's edge is stony, and water shoes are helpful. It becomes evident very quickly that this is not a clothing-optional beach, (surprise number two): total nudity is insisted upon by the regulars who arrive wearing minimal, barely street-acceptable, clothing. If you wear more than sandals and a hat at the chiringuito, you will be refused service. This is jumping in at the deep end! It has the benefit of keeping away the gawkers away. However, it also tends to discourage the timid who want to ease slowly into nudity. The beach is bustling at the weekends (see the pictures on the website); space is at a premium, and one gets to share the conversations (in all sorts of languages) and second-hand tobacco smoke of all those who are near you.
After a while you pick up your towel, wander over to the chiringuito, order a beer or wine and a sandwich, sit down on your towel on a bench or log to enjoy them and again realise how delightful and ordinary it is to be clothes-free at a beach.
Benalnatura has outdoor fresh-water showers and a masseur under the trees behind the chiringuito. If you join the society that operates the beach and cafe, you could leave your umbrella and sun-bed in storage if you intend to come back.
I returned to both of those beaches in 2013, and the feelings and experiences were the same, except that now I arrived with anticipation and excitement rather than trepidation at what I might find. In 2013, the chiringuito and palapas at Cabopinho had gone, leaving the area unserviced except at the noisy textile zone to the east. I later read on TripAdvisor that there may have been a fire or a government policy which required relocation away from the environmentally sensitive dunes and that the chiringuito was relocated east of the marina.
On one day I went there with friends from home who came to visit my time-share. The beach near the resort was over-run by unruly and un-managed children kicking sand in our faces, and there was a strong wind blowing, so we left and went down the road to Cabopinho. In deference to my friends, I wore a swimsuit ... the waves were good for body surfing which I had learned as a child. However, having driven home in the swimsuit, I discovered about a pound of cold, wet sand in the crotch of the swimsuit. Next time my comfort may over-ride the ‘comfort' of my friends!
First Person Singular
You may have wondered why this has all been written in the first person singular. Both of my previous wives never expressed any interest in naturism, as I didn't, other than as I have written so far. Things changed with the advent of the internet and my discovery of the ‘Being and Nakedness' website in 1999, five years after my present marriage to K. She has been extensively treated for colon cancer and survived many years longer than many patients, thanks to skilled surgeons and oncologists, prayer and determination. In 2010, K decided that travel was no longer an option for her, so we reached an agreement. We adopted a (disabled, black, rescue) cat as her companion and I can go travelling, which allows me a wider variety of opportunities to explore - albeit on my own. However, I faced the situation of being the much-feared solo older male traveller and the attendant potential prejudices. I joined the Federation of Canadian Naturists which provided me with the Card of Respectability and Acceptance.
END - Part 1
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