Chasing the Sun:
An Introduction to Naturism

A production of the Naturist Education Foundation


Americans are vacationing closer to home these days. Many are looking for something different, something relaxing and hassle-free, yet fun for the entire family. Interest in naturist vacations has increased steadily over the past two decades. New facilities catering to its demand are being developed all over the world. But what is naturism?

[Title sequence]

Naturism—or nudism as it's sometimes called in the United States—is consistent with trends seen throughout history. Even though skinny-dipping in remote areas has been a tradition in the U.S., at the beginning of the 20th century men and women were forced to wear uncomfortable bathing suits that covered the entire body. Until the 1930s, men were subject to arrest if found in public without a top.

Times changed, and bathing suits for women grew smaller and smaller. The bikini seemed the final stage in swimsuit freedom. Then, in Europe, women did what the men had done decades before; they took their tops off. At first shocking, it is now a very common sight at all family beaches on the continent. Although beachwear has evolved throughout the decades, skinny-dipping has always been around, ever since the first kids took off their clothes for a dip at the old swimming hole. Now skinny-dippers are asking for access to public beaches. Naturist—or clothing-optional—beaches are gaining popularity throughout the world.

The growth of clothing-optional recreation in the U.S. is on the rise. In 1983 a national Gallup Poll showed 73% of American adults believed nude bathing should be allowed at beaches accepted for that purpose. A 2000 national Roper Poll found that the number had risen to 80%.

The same polls found that the percentage of American adults who had skinny-dipped or who had sunbathed nude had risen from 15% to 25%. Fully one quarter of the American adult population has practiced nude recreation.

Who are these naturists? Naturists make up a broad cross-section of American society. They are the well-to-do, the middle-class, and those who seek the value of budget nudist camps and public beaches. They are professionals, teachers, college students, truck drivers, nurses, and computer technicians. They are Americans who have discovered how fun it is to jump in a cool pool on a hot day, pleased to be wearing nothing more than what nature has given them.

There are private naturist resorts in nearly every state in the Union. So, why should communities make some of their public lands open to clothing-optional recreation? Naturists  are just as much a part of the public as anyone else. If public lands can be set aside for golf, snowmobiles, and off-road vehicles, then portions should be also available to the many who wish to go skinny-dipping.

National polls have shown that millions of Americas are looking for naturist opportunities. There seem to be as many reasons as there are naturists.


Naturists in the past 20 years have acknowledged their responsibility in helping to maintain the cleanliness and family-atmosphere of the clothing-optional areas across America. They often develop support groups that work with local officials in hosting beach clean-ups and in informing visitors of appropriate beach etiquette. These clothing-optional areas are some of the cleanest and safest public recreation sites anywhere.

[Little Beach interviews]

Civic leaders have many options in providing for requests for clothing-optional recreational sites. More often than not, there is no state, county, or city law limiting their freedom from doing so. Still, officials will have reasonable questions and concerns, and can depend on naturists to help sort out the answers.

To assure that no one need be unduly offended, proper signage should be set up at the boundaries of the clothing-optional site. Proven to be effective in many public beaches and lakesides in the United States, these signs let everyone know that beyond this sign people have a choice regarding their dress.

Sometimes posting such signs is more than community leaders are willing to do. Sometimes adopting a policy of ignoring simple nudity and enforcing sensible rules against lewd behavior is all that it takes to keep most everyone happy.

When nude use is established by tradition at a public site, it is a waste of civic resources and police time to round up quiet sunbathers. Naturists have shown that if a public site is recognized in some official manner as clothing-optional, the core group of users take care of the environment and are happy to work with local authorities in maintaining the site's family-friendly atmosphere.

Haulover Beach in Miami, Florida is an excellent example of this cooperation. According to non-naturist community leaders, after the one third mile stretch of beach was made clothing-optional, the crime rate at the site dropped to zero. The users also kept the site cleaner than it had been in years. The local support group—South Florida Free Beaches—is a model of a naturist group working successfully with site authorities.

[Presentation by Joseph Pinon, Assistant City Manager, City of Miami Beach, Florida (1996):]

    "A lot of people are concerned about sunbathing and what effect it has had on the City of Miami Beach and its tourism. It has not effected tourism in the negative way. In fact, a lot of the Europeans and South Americans who have come to Miami Beach have come basically because they have received word that we are a very tolerant city, of course with certain restraints. And we have not had any crimes associated with sunbathing, or topfree nudity, or any of that sort, so we are very proud of what we have in our city."

[Presentation by Bill Lone, Sunny Isles Beach Resort Association (1996):]

    "The positive benefits of the clothing-optional beach in Haulover Park have been, primarily, one, a dramatic reduction in crime. Since 1992, it's a plus factor as reported by Metro-Dade County that we have not had one reported incident, which is credited to the protocols that our guests follow, as well as to their self-policing. Number two, the economic impact. Although we do not have formal economic benchmarks or barometers, we have been informed by Metro-Dade County that the parking revenues for the facilities that have been availed, in 1992 represented $272,000, and in 1995 grew to $670,000. And thirdly, we find that the guests that we experience who emanate from Europe, primarily Germany, Russia, England, and our visitors from Canada, do not in any way tax our community, but bring it an economic plus benefit."

A key to the success of any clothing-optional site is the naturist commitment to maintaining a family-friendly environment. Children are an integral part of any healthy social community, and no more so than in naturist groups.

[Mother with family interview]

Dr. Paul Okami, Professor of Psychology at UCLA, recently surveyed all academic studies on the effects of nudity on children. He concluded that there is no reliable evidence that mere nudity has a negative effect on children. Moreover, he concluded that the studies indicate casual nudity in the home might actually be of benefit to younger boys.

The Naturist Society has worked in advisory roles with the National Parks Department and numerous state and community agencies in developing policies and law that allow for continued nude use of traditional clothing-optional sites.

Lee Baxandall formed the Naturist Society in 1980 as a membership organization devoted to promoting and preserving naturist freedoms on appropriate public lands.

[Baxandall interview]

The Naturist Society publishes the leading quarterly journal on naturist living: Nude & Natural magazine. Distributed at major book stores and newsstands across the country, Nude & Natural offers informed discussions on all aspects of naturist life.

[Lloyd Olson interview]

The Naturist Society also publishes the world's most respected naturist guide book: Lee Baxandall's World Guide to Nude Beaches and Resorts. The World Guide keeps readers up to date on where they may freely enjoy clothing-optional recreation throughout the world

The Naturist Society developed the Naturist Action Committee in 1990 to lobby and communicate on behalf of naturists. In 1993 The Naturist Society also developed the Naturist Education Foundation to provide information about naturism to community leaders, legislators, college campuses, and the general public.

Naturism is becoming as established in the Untied States as it is in Europe. The 2000 Roper Poll shows this in unbiased terms. Local naturists wish to be seen for who they are: part of the local community and deserving of the same considerations accorded everyone else. Naturists have a choice as to where they will relax and spend their money. Naturist parks and beaches with appropriate signage can be an economic boon for local communities and a valuable public resource for those citizens yearning for a more natural experience.

Naturism: it offers a place for everyone under the sun.


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