When I first begin researching the question of how to hit a nude beach, one of the first answers came from the general manager of a hotel in New Hampshire, Jerry Jacobson, who responded “very carefully.”
My immediate reaction was that I usually don’t need any help in the weak joke department, as regular readers of this column will verify. But as I gathered more sources I realized that Jerry’s right. Most of us can’t wake up one morning and decide that taking off our clothes is just another day at the beach.
Or can we?
According to the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) [site NSFW] “most first-timers adjust to social nudity in a matter of minutes and discover it’s not nearly as big a deal as they thought it would be.”
Case in point is a source who said I could identify her by her “fake nude beach name of Krystal,” who wanted to experience a nude beach for the first time and went with a friend to Sandy Hook, NJ. “We chose not to go nude and wore our bikinis instead,” Krystal recalls. “Everybody else at the beach was nude though.” At first the pair kept to themselves, rejecting “invitations from nude beach goers to play games with them. Finally we opened up and played Frisbee with a bunch of nude guys,” Krystal says. “It was lot more fun than we thought it would be. We were very shocked at how friendly nude beach goers are. However, we were still distracted by their packages.”
While still a bit apprehensive – hence telling her Frisbee pals her name was Krystal -- she offers that “the key to feeling comfortable at a nude beach is to just let loose, be yourself, and don't focus so much on the nudity. Because we had so much fun we made plans to go again this year and go topless.”
What else can you expect when you hit a nude beach -- or, to use the term trademarked by the AANR --when you take a “nakation”? Read on.
Nude beaches are not about sex…usually.
Relationship coach John Wilder went to a nude beach in Germany a couple times while he was a serviceman, noting that “that after five minutes on the beach, I was struck with how normal and unaffected everyone was, adding that the nude beach was “kind of the opposite of sex. I saw beautiful young women on the beach and even spent the day with a beautiful girl on a blanket and there was no hanky panky. Finally I was so bored that I had to go back to the family beach and see a girl in a bikini to get interested again.”
Concurs Improper Bostonian magazine columnist Jonathan Soroff, who has been to nude beaches in Brazil, Portugal , Martha's Vineyard, and Sandy Hook, “in order for everyone to feel comfortable on a nude beach, you have to take sex out of the equation, and therefore hitting on someone is a big no-no. In fact, the biggest.” Adds a source from Boston who I’ll call “Norm,” who has hit nude beaches in Florida, Hawaii, and Holland, some nude beaches are akin to neighborhood bars. “There are all sorts of people there, from 20-somethings to 70-somethings. Some beaches even have or encourage whole families, and this may take some getting used to for a neophyte.”
There are exceptions, however. Some nude beaches, says Norm, are more like singles bars. “Singles nude beaches are generally about hooking up. Ibiza in Spain is infamous for people in a hurry, going off into the dunes rather than getting a hotel room. These beaches are populated by the crowd you'd expect in a singles bar: 18-30, (probably) single, very interested in their own appearance... and yours. If you're the least bit awkward or unsure of your body, going to such a beach will make you more so. Generally, anything goes on these beaches, but explicit sex acts may run afoul of local lewdness ordinances.”
Nudists are not all nubile.
Just as not all nude beaches are Hedonistic, not all nude beach goers are nubile. “Americans have this idea that a European topless beach is populated entirely by nubile 16-year-old C-cups,” Norm says. “If you go to one, however, you find those 16-year-olds... and their mothers... and sometimes their grandmothers, all topless. On a nude beach, you realize quickly, or should, that people come in all shapes and sizes, and so does their equipment.” Adds Soroff, “like anything that sounds provocative, the nudity on beaches turns out to be quite mundane. You're just as likely to see an octogenarian or someone approaching the morbidly obese as you are an Adonis or supermodel.”
Know when to cover up.
While enjoying a nude beach experience means lowering your inhibitions, there are times when you’re expected to raise your towel. (See what I mean by weak jokes, Jerry?) Among its rules of etiquette for nude beaches, the AANR says ”for those visiting the nude section of a local beach, dress before leaving designated clothing-optional use areas” so that you don’t upset vacationers in areas where clothing is required. Along those lines, says the association, “always carry a towel with you when you leave your spot on the beach, whether to sit on or wrap around yourself when you walk to public areas such as picnic benches, food stands, [or restrooms], you will be more comfortable, as will those around you.”
In her primer on how to visit a nude beach in Greece, About.com guide deTraci Regula says that it’s probably a good idea to “test sunscreen on sensitive soon-to-be-nude areas which may not normally be exposed to sunscreen or sunshine. Areas that readily sweat are most likely to react to ingredients in sunscreen. Soroff puts a finer point on it, noting that you might want to avoid rubbing alcohol-laden sunscreen on your nether regions. Norm goes so far as to suggest that if you're a newbie, “consider applying sunscreen to those parts ahead of time, in private, so that you don't rush due to excitement or embarrassment when you are on the beach.”
No snapping or leering, please.
“Leave your camera in your hotel room,” Regula suggests, “or point it only at yourself or non-human scenery. Intrusive photography on a nude beach is so uncool.” Howcast’s video tutorial on nude beach etiquette [NSFW] makes the salient point that you shouldn’t “stare at people’s private parts,” adding that “if it would be unseemly to gape at that body part when it’s fully clothed, it’s downright rude to gawk at it undressed.” Since you went through the effort of hitting a nude beach, Norm adds that you might want to “go have a conversation instead of staring. It may be the first time in a long time you've had an honest conversation.”