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Nudism Naturism & My Teen Age Life


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Nudism Naturism & My Teen Age Life

When I was 9 years old and a fourth grader at Lowrey Elementary School in Dearborn, Michigan, my class began to have regular physical education classes taught by a special P.E. teacher rather than by our regular classroom teacher. And since our school had an indoor swimming pool, we had swimming classes as part of the P.E. program. For these classes--separate classes for boys and girls--boys were required to swim nude. We heard that girls wore regulation "tank suits." Day after day 80-90 naked boys in a single swim class would tussle and push, shove, and kid around by the pool and race, play water polo, and enjoy "free play" in the warm water.


It was the same story throughout the remainder of public schools through the 12th grade, in an intermediate swimming class and senior lifesaving class I took at the University of Michigan, and during free swims in the men's pools at Harvard and Princeton. During an intramural swim meet, attended only by males, in which I participated with my undergraduate college dormitory, some of the men, including me, swam the races nude. In the pool at the Michigan Men's Union, swimming was typically nude. The same was true at YMCA pools of the period. At many pools men were required to swim nude; at others swimsuits were optional.

All of that changed when physical education became coeducational and athletic facilities at YMCAs and YWCAs, on college and university campuses, and in public schools were opened to both men and women. With coeducation nude recreation ended. Today one newspaper reports that boys, who in my generation were required to take group showers after every gym class, now rarely shower together. Even football players apparently wear their uniforms home after a game rather than undress and shower in front of team-mates. Another newspaper reports that boys' participation on swim teams has declined because of their objection to wearing brief Speedo swim suits. Men's swimsuits have become big baggy pants that hang dripping and heavy about the body like some penalty exacted for an unnamed crime. But I carry in me the imprint of 20 years or more of nude swimming. I liked it. I liked the feeling of the water on my body, the feeling of freedom floating unencumbered in the swell. I have always resented swimsuits, uncomfortable, wet, cold, awkward.


When we moved to Oakland 30 years ago, our family enjoyed Stinson Beach in Marin County, a huge, sandy strand. We liked to hike along the surf from the north end to the south. At the south end are piles of huge rocks blocking the pathway, but it was possible to clamber in, around, and over the rocks and onto a rock-strewn smaller beach just to the south. And at low tide one could walk even farther to the south, around a rocky cliff jutting out into the ocean. One day during a particularly low tide I followed that route around the cliff and found myself at the end of a small cove with its own sandy beach nestled against the rocks. It was filled with nude sunbathers. I had discovered "Red Rock," one of California's famed "free" or "clothing optional" beaches. Men and women of all ages, from young adults to graying retirees--singles, couples, families, friends--and a few children, were sunning themselves, playing frisbee, joining in card games, reading, splashing in the surf. They were jammed much closer in this small cove than the sunbathers at Stinson Beach, but they seemed more like a community of people enjoying one another's company than the isolated families or friendship groups set apart on their distant towels at Stinson.

I felt out of place there in my suit, so I thought, "Well, here goes nothing," and I whipped off my suit, stuck it in a hole in the rocky cliff, and enjoyed some time naked in the sun, surf, and sand before re-suiting and rejoining my family up on what I learned later to call the "textile" beach. I initially felt excitement, but neither arousal nor embarrassment or shame, and, as I got used to being in the open nude among dozens of other nude beach folk, I felt happy, pleasant, peaceful. I enjoyed the feel of the sun, air, and surf unimpeded against my body.

With that experience I decided I wanted to learn more about these people and this experience. I began to return to Red Rock Beach and soon after learned--it must have been in the annual nude beach edition of The San Francisco Guardian--where other such clothing-optional beaches were located and visited them too. I joined The Naturist Society and, for a time, belonged to the American Sunbathing Association, now renamed the American Association for Nude Recreation and read their journals. I discovered and subscribed to Naturist Life International, published by a rigorous and somewhat conservative Catholic layperson, who has established a home in rural Vermont, where he and his wife raise (and homeschool) their five children almost wholly without clothes. There are two nudist resorts in the immediate San Francisco bay area, Lupin Naturist Club, off of highway 17 between San Jose and Santa Cruz, and Sequoians Clothes Free Club, at the end of Cull Canyon Road just north of Castro Valley, and I have visited both.

What I have discovered is a congenial, wholesome, hospitable, altogether "normal" group of people who are like all other people except that they have grown to be comfortable, to thrive, and to prefer dispensing with clothing when the setting permits it--in their homes, on clothing optional beaches and remote hiking trails, and at nudist and clothing-optional resorts. At Red Rock Beach, Lupin, and The Sequoians I have happened upon people I knew elsewhere--students from the seminary at which I teach, a psychotherapist colleague, a graphics designer who has provided me designs for continuing education advertising, a Graduate Theological Union administrator. I have met interesting people who in their textile lives are computer engineers, a museum curator, freelance artists, stock brokers, students, military, other clergy, all sorts and conditions.