Friday, August 12, 2011

Nude Beaches

Nude Beaches are strange and wonderful places.  Mythical to people who have never been to one, but mentioned often enough in the media and in hush tones by people who have heard something about them (but would never go there themselves, mind you!).

I'm here to tell you that yes Virginia, they do exist.  In many countries, a large percentage of public beaches have clothing optional sections, or are simply just mixed.  In some places, nude use is allowed except where it's posted that it isn't.  Otherwise, relax, get comfortable, and enjoy.

Here in the US, it's a mixed bag.  "Officially" the culture is wary to even hostile to them.  But in many places, the locals take a live and let live attitude, sometimes even defending the beaches.  In some states, counties, and communities, it's technically illegal to be naked in public.  But even in many of those places, the authorities often just look the other way as it's just too much trouble to police them.  In other areas, they're technically legal and they're often accepted by the majority of people in the area.

Most are in out of the way primitive areas.  Lousy parking, long walks, no facilities, no water.  If you don't know where to go, you're not going to find them.  Out of sight, out of mind as far as the locals and the authorities are concerned.  Others are well known and not at all difficult to get to.  For others, just follow the signs (by name, not by reference to them being nude beaches).  One, Haulover Beach north of Miami Beach, is right off the main drag, has food vendors, police patrol, lifeguards, and hotels within walking distance.  All the amenities you'd expect for a county run park, without a large and official clothing optional section (where most the people go, of course).

Some of the smaller ones aren't that friendly (I'll leave you alone and you leave me alone).  But most of the larger ones have a core of regulars who are usually friendly and are easy to approach.  As with any beach, the vibe varies depending on the mix of people there and how accepted the beach is.  Wreck Beach on the outskirts of the University of British Columbia (Canada) has a festive college crowd, wild scenery, and in short, is wonderful.  Mazo Beach (Wisconsin) is my favorite.  Many college kids, but also long tradition of use by people and families from all over the state.  Along a nice river and the people I've met there are very friendly and fun loving.

I live near the Canaveral National Seashore in central Florida.  The southern half is in a county with an anti-nudity ordinance (not enforced much), and the northern half is in a county that doesn't have an ordinance.  In either county, if you stay in the unofficial clothing optional section, they'll leave you alone.  Some years ago in the southern county (Brevard) the supervisor of the park had it out for the nudies and tried to make us feel very unwelcome.  I tried to strike up a conversation with a ranger there one time and he wouldn't even face me, saying only that he'd answer my question after I got dressed.

But on the north side I was there one time when a young ranger intern approached me.  She must have drawn the short straw and was not at all comfortable being there.  She had the unpopular task to clear the beach due to an approaching hurricane (several days out) of hundreds of naked people who weren't going to be happy to be told that they had to leave.

I had a nice chat with her trying to put her mind at ease, then I told her that I would help.  I went up and down the beach explaining to everyone the unpopular order, pointing to her at a distance without dragging her into it.  Everyone left, and I got the feeling that the ranger left leave her internship there with fond memories and a better understanding that yes, we are people too.

If you spend much time some of the better beaches, you'll see a lot of magic.  Church groups canoeing by, then turning around to play several games of volleyball with the naked people (Mazo).  Long naked hikes on endless miles of undeveloped beach, smiling and waving at clothed people passing by on horseback (Canaveral).  Listening to an elderly couple trying it for the first time, overhearing them say that they hadn't felt that young in years and how wonderful it was there (Haulover).  Kids playing.  People surfing.  People fishing.  Gays, straights, young, old, regulars, and first timers.  Everyone having a great time.

It is what you make of it.  Smile, be friendly, help others.  Make some magic.

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