(Originally Published May 2003 by the OSU Barometer) As the days get hot, people get naked outdoors! One day last year I was paddling solo down a beautiful creek in the Midwest. I was scouting a route for a trip I’d be bringing the following week. We started out in the early chill of the day, but by noon the sun was out, and the air was hot. I was concentrating on soaking up the heat, the sound of my paddle in the water, the aesthetics of the trees hanging over the banks.
As I rounded a bend in the river, another canoe approached from behind about six feet off the port side. The person at the bow of the canoe, dressed in an old T-shirt and shorts, was happily paddling forward, completely oblivious to the person at the stern, who was dressed in… well, nothing but a smile.
“Great day to get naked outdoors!” He shouted.
The other person laughed to himself, apparently thinking the guy behind him was joking.
“It sure is!” I called back.
The person at the bow sensed there was something amiss. The poor guy looked over his shoulder to see that he was the only clothed person in his canoe. Apparently, a fifteen-foot vessel was not large enough for him to be sitting in front of a naked redneck in the middle of nowhere. He started paddling as though he could make the front end of the canoe outrun the back end.
Every now and then I spy an article in an outdoors magazine that mentions, in brief, the interest people have in nude recreation. People have hiked the Appalachian Trail with nothing but their boots and socks on, rappelled wearing nothing but their harnesses, and I’ve even heard of naked skydiving! It may surprise you the things people do naked. But who hasn’t gone skinny dipping?
I hear people say, “Sorry, but there are some people that I don’t want to see naked.” Come on now. How many of us really look like Dwayne Johnson on Baywatch or Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush? Why should the fun be relegated to the beautiful? Goddess or gremlin, we all need some sun. Some more than others.
Let me point out that in many areas, outdoors or not, nudity is illegal. This is where the American Association for Nude Recreation comes in. I met some representatives of this organization two years ago at a parks and recreation convention in Denver, Colorado. They were very cordial, professional, open, and dedicated to making nude recreation socially acceptable. They candidly explained that the AANR works to ensure both freedom and access to nature in clothing optional locations. To this end, they work through educational, professional, and political means to promote the validity of nudity as a means of recreation.
In light of fines and reactions of those unexpectedly encountered, why do some prefer their recreation sans apparel?
I’ve heard it referred to as a “baptism into nature.” Our entire body is one big sensory organ. We never experience anything as much as when we throw our whole selves into it. The person who watches a DVD about Mt. Hood won’t know the emotions of the person who climbs it. The person who walks beside Opal Creek won’t know the exhilaration of the person who jumps in it. The person standing on the rim won’t feel the same intimacy as the one who hikes into the Grand Canyon. And the hiker won’t feel it as much as the naked backpacker.
I think it’s like being on a road trip and turning a corner to see the most spectacular view spread out in front of me. The first thing I do is roll down the window. Then I start looking for a place to pull over, leave the car, and stare outdoors, uninhibited at the beauty before me. Maybe it’s also like looking into the face of someone I find truly beautiful, someone I want to know. I naturally want to reach out and touch them, remove the silent inhibitions that separate us.
It’s about removing inhibitions. The window glass between me and the view inhibits what I want to see clearly. The distance between me and that person inhibits what I want to hold. So my reaction is to stop and reach out. At this point, I think how many beautiful opportunities we have every day, in the faces of the people we pass.
We allow too many inhibitions to keep us from reaching out and seeing each other and the world clearly. It seems we are so tightly clothed and constricted by so many things that we maintain a glass of indifference between us and the lives of others. I am not suggesting that we show up to the coffee shop in our birthday suit, but if we could simply stop and reach past our inhibitions once or twice, we’d find that the next person is just as human as we are. In truth, clothing doesn’t make the man, because the human is underneath.
Skinny dippers unite!