Words Maureen McCoy, Photos Paul McCambridge
Driving up the beach towards the Bar Mouth where section 10 had been allocated for the Great British Skinny Dip I was surprised and somewhat un-nerved to see that, although the orange flags of the British Naturist Association were clearly marking the zone there was a steady flow of fully clothed joggers, walkers and dog-walkers passing up and down through the area. What went through their minds as naked people nonchalantly walked down the beach and into the shallows. Men and women without a care, their only hesitation as they entered the cold water?
The attendees were a mix of seasoned naturists and newbies but all were happy to chat with a fully clothed person. “Each to their own…” seemed to be the ethos.
David told me he’d been a naturist since his teens, “I don’t like the restriction of clothes, this is perfectly natural.” He went on;
“You won’t see the perfect body here, you’ll see all shapes and sizes, there’s no such thing as perfect. We’re just people. We sometimes don’t wear clothes, if it’s cold we put our clothes on.”
Describing the restriction he feels when clothed; “When I’m driving I hate wearing a jacket, it’s too restrictive so I take it off. At home I’m like that with clothes, I do housework, gardening naked. It’s more comfortable.”
Members from the Irish Naturist Association made the journey up to support their British counterparts, no clothes, no borders!
The confidence of people walking naked was intriguing, standing talking was less intimidating than I imagined and there was no embarrassment. Despite thinking you’d be tempted to peek, everyone was so relaxed it felt like I was chatting to any other swimmer standing on the beach.
The resounding message is one of acceptance, acceptance of one’s own body and of others. If you don’t want to strip, that’s ok, maybe next time you will.
The call out came for everyone to run down to the waters edge to do a ‘bum shot’ group photo. I thought, “This is it, now or never! I have to try it!” So, with kind encouragement from Eva and Noreen, I quickly stripped off and ran with them to the crowd. Now I see why the women walk with their shoulders back looking confident – it’s a lot less jiggley! Facing out to sea we cheered and raised our arms to the sky, there is something very liberating in standing starkers on a public beach with a crowd!
Swimming was bliss, I felt covered in the water and no-one came too close yet all were still happy to chat. Two ladies told me how they’d seen the ad and thought it would be a giggle. They’d skinny dipped before in the dark of night with no-one else around but now they had embraced the day saying, “It’s just natural!”
One of the benefits, which I’ve heard naturists repeat, is that there’s no cold wet swimsuit to struggle out of;
“You can either let the sun and wind dry you or use your towel, none of that hiding beneath the slipping towel as you hurriedly dress trying not to let anyone see you. It’s no big deal.”
Next a small group of women, and one man, arrived. A chair was plonked down near the waters edge and they congregated around it. Clearly first timers, together en mass to support and reassure each other. Giggles echoed across the strand as they prepared. Then, all save one, whipped off their Robies, threw them on the chair and in a line walked in. With squeals and cheers they held hands as the light waves swept into them, a beautiful image before slipping into the water for their swim.
Speaking to the one lady who stayed on shore she said; “I chickened out! I just couldn’t do it!” But that’s ok, she came down to try. I offered to go in with her but was secretly relieved when she said no thanks. once was enough for me I think! She did later brave it to join just before her peers left the water.
After, with Robies back on, their chatter and laughter was infectious. They had had a super time, giggles galore and a new experience ticked off the list!
The Skinny Dip raised around £2000 for the British Heart Foundation N.I. and I guess boosted the confidence and personal acceptance of many who attended. Well done all!