Warning: adult language below!
If you would have brought up the idea of hitting up a nude beach to me, say—er—four months ago, you would have most likely been bombarded by some combination of the following words:
“Gross… inappropriate… weird… uncomfortable… would never… saggy balls… creepy… [insert additional limiting perspective here].
Like, at all.
I was, however, curious about nude beaches. What’s the deal with these beaches? Do people really get totally naked? What if they’re only filled with creepy old dudes and French tourists?
My mind was riddled with assumptions; hung up on baseless cliches and preconceived notions.
But I was curious.
I found myself mystified not only by the taboo nature of letting it all hang out in public, but by the fact that such a place (or few) actually existed in my own backyard. For me, Tahoe’s nude beaches were as much an urban legend as Tahoe Tessie or a great sale price at Raley’s.
Sure, I’d hear about them, but did they really exist?
So being the empirical researcher that I am, I did what any person would do. I Googled that shit.
Unfortunately, the article results only left me wanting. It was time to move onto the next option: go find these beaches myself and see what they were all about.
So I grabbed three of my closest friends and embarked on a journey into the unknown.
What I’d hoped to gain was some insight on what the nude beach experience is all about. What I left with were the following five realizations.
Lesson #1. Live like no one is watching, since they usually aren’t.
Secret Cove does not want to be found. The first beach on our list took us almost an hour to locate, and that’s with the assistance of a map, multiple phone calls, and asking for directions.
“Excuse me, could you direct us to the nearest nudie beach?”
As it turns out, Secret Cove is about a 15-20 minute trot south of Chimney Beach. We finally stumbled upon a sprawling stairway that led down into the sandy oasis. It was as beautiful as it was elusive. The cove flaunted a carpet of white sand, turquoise water, and, best of all, a plethora of balls, boobs, and hineys.
There were no ifs, ands, or buts about it (pun intended). We had arrived.
We descended the stairs and strolled in, trying our hardest to appear nonchalant. The beach was decently populated. As we passed two naked men standing in the water chatting, I imagined what one would say to the other.
“So, how’s it hanging?”
We laid out our towels and set down our beach bags. The time had come. There we stood, laughing nervously as our eyes scanned the scene. We were most certainly the only clothed people on the beach. It was impossible to decide if we felt more awkward for having bathing suits on, or to just give these strangers free tickets to a nudie show—a nudie show starring us.
Before we could give ourselves a chance to overthink it, we decided “screw it!” We ripped off our tops, dropped trou, and brought out the pasty white buns. Gone were the overpriced bathing suits designed by Calvin Klein and Michael Kors, replaced by the less pricey birthday suits designed by the more universally-known God almighty.
It was official: We were butt-naked at midday on a public beach.
We glanced around. Who was watching? Who was pointing? Who was getting ready to throw rotten tomatoes at us? Not only was nobody oogling, nobody was even looking our way. It appeared beach dwellers were much too busy enjoying themselves to pay any attention to us.
And that’s when I learned my first lesson: People generally don’t give a crap about what you are doing.
We tend to harbor a natural anxiety that “THEY’RE WATCHING US.” It’s why we avoid the weight room in the gym or attempting new things in front of others. We assume someone is waiting to pick us apart. The fact of the matter is, people are usually so caught up in their own business they simply don’t have the time or energy to expend worrying about you.
So go do that thing that you’ve been wanting to do/learn, and don’t worry about whether anyone is watching. They usually aren’t.
Now isn’t that liberating?
Lesson #2. Our vulnerabilities connect us.
As soon as the bikini was off and the birthday suit was on, I was overcome by a newfound sense of freedom. Words can’t even begin to describe the cathartic nature of being fully exposed. It’s not just a bathing suit you’re shedding. It’s a pile of fears, insecurities, and weird-head-spaces that you’ve clung onto for years.
The physical action only represents a more grandiose, metaphorical one.
Plus I had my own body-image issues to face. If I had four words to describe my body type, it would be: Sponge-Bob Square-Pants. Basically, I look like an apple perched on two toothpicks. Skinny arms, skinny legs, and a prominent center. But as soon as the bathing suit was removed and the apple was set free, my internal freak-out dissipated into thin air. It was as though I had joined a club—a club of people with the courage to be completely real with not only themselves, but everyone around them.
And that’s when I realized my second lesson: Vulnerability is hard. It takes courage to reveal our imperfections, but it’s what connects us to each other.
Nobody can relate to perfection. Everybody can relate to the struggle. When we see others own up to their own messy, imperfect realities, it’s refreshing. It makes us feel comfortable and connected, and inspires us to do the same for ourselves.
It’s honesty in action.
Lesson #3. We often make things a bigger deal than they need to be.
The time came for a skinny dip. It was a scene straight out of Baywatch as we frolicked in slow motion into the water. Our now golden bosoms glistened in the setting sun—undeniable in their embodiment of youth and reckless abandon.
It was smooth and romantic and effortless.
It was more like watching a couple of extras from the cast of Walking Dead. It was awkward, and the water was cold. We eventually sought sanctuary on a smooth, granite boulder, where we camped out for a while. I tried my hardest not to ponder how many asses had come into contact with this rock in the past, but I’m going to guess about 23,000.
The novelty of being nude on a nude beach quickly wore off. We were still naked, but it was no longer a big deal. In our new-found comfort with ourselves and our surroundings, it was hard to believe we were so freaked out about doing this a mere few hours ago. We had exaggerated the nudie experience so much in our heads, but now that we were in it, it felt so…whatever.
Which led me to realize this lesson: Most things in this world are not a big deal—it’s our fears that blow them up into one. We fear judgement. We fear failure. We fear the unknown. And the longer we sit on these fears the more time we give them to inflate and fester, thus limiting ourselves in how rich of a life we lead. Now’s the time to do the crazy stuff and make mistakes.
Not only do those experiences make the best memories, but you’ll save yourself from a really shitty mid-life crisis down the line.
Lesson #4. Acceptance kicks ass.
“I’ll accept your saggy balls if you accept my lopsided ta-tas.”
There seems to be this unwritten contract that nude beaches abide by. It reads, “I’ll accept and respect your exposed nether-regions if you accept and respect mine.”
At Secret Cove, I saw it all.
There were old folks and young folks. Guys and gals. Pancake chests and pendulous boobs. Wrinkly scrotums and tight little ball sacks. Dark tans and people who probably glowed in the dark. Stretch marks and six pack abs. Voluptuous curves and lanky edges. Furry kitties and waxed va-jay-jays. There were scars, stretch marks, and hair in places I didn’t even know could grow hair.
And, among them all, my fabulous apple on toothpicks. It was all awesome, and it was all beautiful.
And that’s when I realized my fourth lesson: Acceptance in ourselves, and each other, is empowering.
There’s something wildly refreshing in the authenticity of diversity. Too often we’re bombarded by the fake sameness that’s portrayed all over the media. There’s no truth or honesty in it. And it gets boring—fast.
“Oh, hey, I really hope Safeway has an entire aisle of the same brand of black beans!” said no one, ever.
Variety is the spice of life. So the next time someone tells me, “Ew! A nude beach? Do you really want to see a bunch of saggy boobs and old man balls?” you know what I’m going to say?
“Hell yeah, I do! Because it’s authentic and awesome!”
Lesson #5. Being naked is fun!
The time to depart finally came. I found myself a bit despondent to see my first nudie experience come to an end. Within the course of a few hours, I went from dubious to “check out my boob-ious!” I felt more comfortable at this nude beach than I’ve ever felt a regular beach. I was now a believer.
Come to find (lesson #5): being naked is a blast! It wasn’t just prancing around in the buff that I found liberating, but coming to a new understanding of myself and this world.
I used to think people who were comfortable walking around naked were just… weird. The thought of a naked, dangling dong used to freak me out. Women who could let it all hang out, in my opinion, either belonged on the cover of National Geographic or in some hippy commune.
But I was neither of those things, and yet, now on the other side of the coin. I feel as though I’ve peered into a new, and very beautiful, aspect of our world. One that embraces courage, imperfection, and best of all—the goddamn honest truth.
Funny how life always has a way of proving us wrong.
So does this mean I’ll be moving to a nudist colony anytime soon? Probably not. Am I planning to streak through my neighborhood this afternoon? Doubtful.
But you better believe I’ll be performing a naked robot for my roommates.
Author: Laura Van Antwerp
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Lyndi & Jason at Flickr