Running isn’t just about pounding your feet on the pavement. It’s also about pushing your body and mind outside it’s comfort zone. Going places and doing things you never thought you could.
Which brings us to last Sunday.
I’ve always been fairly comfortable with my body, not because it’s any great body or anything, but because I’m that kind of easy going kind of guy. In my mind, I’ve often thought I could do public nudity, but the question has always been there, “Buff or bluff?” So I finally had the opportunity to combine nudity with a scheduled marathon training rest/cross-train day ocean swim, AND support a worthwhile charity at the same time.
The Naked Fig Café sponsored a Guinness Book of World Records attempt for the most skinny dippers at one time last Sunday, March 30th 2014. There was a $35 entry fee, all profits going to The Butterfly Foundation to support positive body imaging. The current record was set by the Kiwis with 744 skinny dippers. Perth HAD to be able to better that!
The morning started out a little chaotic. People not taking public transport were asked to park at Challenge Stadium where a bus would ferry us to the event. Parking was supposed to be $5 but the guy at the gate a) didn’t arrive until 8:15, when we were all supposed to be there by, so people were parking in the wrong place and had to move their vehicles and b) was charging $5 per person in the vehicle. That all eventually got sorted out though and we boarded our bus and headed off. I had struck up a conversation with a gentleman by the name of Hedley, who is the secretary for the Perth chapter of The Phoenix Nudist Club and we talked about the oil & gas industry that he had recently retired from and how he’d grown up in South Africa running around naked as a child with all the locals.
On arriving at the event and standing in line chatting with people, it was obvious that this was a very happy, very friendly crowd of people. Which makes sense! How many grumpy people are going to go out and take off their kit in front of hundreds of strangers? I immediately felt comfortable around these folks. We were given a sarong and assigned a “group” of 50. I was part of the “Juicy Juicy Mangoes”, and there were groups of “Prickly Pineapples” and “Marvelous Melons” and other fruity somewhat risque names. I headed over to the changing tents and changed into my sarong, leaving my bag of clothes in a secure storage area. I had a towel with me, which was good, because there was quite a cool breeze coming off the ocean so I had it wrapped around my shoulders.
It was still quite early, a good hour and a half before the event start time, so I wandered around listening to the band they had playing and checking out what kind of people would attend such an event. I was quite surprised! I expected mostly older and a larger percentage of male than female, and while the mean age probably ran somewhere around the mid 40’s there were older and younger there as well with an almost even split of male and female and all sorts of body shapes and types. The Facebook Event page has some photos of people here. Most people came in groups or couples, not a lot of single people like myself, which I suppose put me in the possible ‘perv’ category, but I behaved myself.
Which brings me to a good point. What is good skinny dipping etiquette? WikiHow.com actually has an article on it. They state:
“Know the difference between admiring and leering. Looking appreciatively at the physiques of other skinny dippers is harmless, but try to stop yourself from staring. A prolonged look will come off as creepy and rude.”
This was good information to have as I’m a people watcher by nature normally and was a little concerned at what was acceptable when the clothing hit the deck. Eventually we reached the “call-to-arms” and formed up in our groups, having to walk single file through a maze like area so we could be counted and filmed for the world record proof (we still had our sarongs on!!)
We lined up in our groups facing the water, the exhibitionists immediately dropping their sarongs, the nervous ones waiting until the last possible moment, and I was somewhere in the middle. I will make a few observations at this point. 1) Maybe it was just this crowd, but I didn’t realise that shaving/waxing of the pubes was quite as prolific as this among both men and women, 2) Some people crave attention a little too much (yes, I’m talking to you, man with the bright silver ring in your dingle) and 3) It really wasn’t all that terrifying! I suppose the fact that I’m convinced I was invisible helped *lol*
They blew the whistle and everyone dashed for the water!
The first batch of people were immediately picked up by a 5-6 foot wave and thrown back into the crowd behind them. Arms and legs, t and a flying everywhere. It was quite funny to watch. We eventually got the hang of the wave pattern (a big one every 6 or so waves) and people swam out beyond the swell. Now in order to get the record, we needed more than 744 people in the water, at least waist deep, at the same time for 5 minutes.
After braving the waves you had forgotten all about being naked and we were now all just heads bobbing in the water. We looked back and there were probably about 100 people still standing on the sand, not comfortable with the idea of braving the surf. And considering that the “waist deep” area was just about perfectly where the waves came crashing down, this is understandable. Not everyone was going to be a great swimmer. All in all I’ve probably been in the water about 10 minutes at this point and we notice the organisers waving everyone back in without the 5 minute sirens going off as planned. It was just too rough to safely get everyone in the water, and fair enough. I did my best to find a wave to body-surf in to the beach, but got sucked into a big washing-machine wave. I immediately just curled into a ball, bounced off the bottom a couple times, did a couple somersaults, and was found on the sand in a fetal position as the water retreated around me. It was fun!
I dried off and got back to the secure storage area as quickly as I could, rightly guessing it was going to be a zoo. The 40 people in front of me turned into a line behind me that I couldn’t see the end of. I decided using the changing tents was unnecessary at this point (I mean, seriously!) and got back into my clothes standing next to the line of people waiting to retrieve theirs.
I felt really really good! I had truly enjoyed the experience and the people and the atmosphere. I would do this again in a heartbeat.
A quick bus ride back to my car, talking to a New Zealand born lady who had flown out from Melbourne to take part in this event, and then I was off to Clancy’s Fish Bar to have lunch with my running partner Mike and his lovely girlfriend Emma. A wonderful end to a wonderful morning.
And no, we didn’t get the record, apparently we were 76 people short in the water, but they’re holding the event again next year and possibly a little earlier/warmer/calmer.