It’s nude, not naked!

What it’s really like to live life in the buff

By Kinsee Morlan and Kia Momtazi, originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 8/22/07

DeAnza Springs Resort sits in the middle of a desolate, dusty desert about an hour east of San Diego. Pavement turns to dirt as the road winds, ending abruptly at a protective gate guarding the entrance. It could be just another remote campground, but the possibility shatters as the gate opens, revealing a wooden sign depicting a naked couple and the words “Relax, You’re Home Now.”

This particular weekend, though, is anything but relaxing. DeAnza is playing host to an official American Association of Nude Recreation (AANR) convention, the main event of which, is an American-Idol-esque singing competition.

The grounds manager, a sunburned man in a tank top and mirrored sunglasses, drives a golf cart, manning a walkie talkie and sipping from a can of Budweiser. Leading the way through the rows of permanent housing, RVs and trailers, he says there’s been an accident—an older gentleman has fallen—so he drops us at the clubhouse and heads toward the commotion. The paramedics, whose uniforms seem especially cumbersome in this particular setting, help the naked man back to his feet.

Inside the clubhouse, a giant cardboard box of old shoes sits in the entrance of the reception area. The shoes don’t seem out of place–the DeAnza décor is anything but fancy. There’s a worn and slightly dirty southwestern-printed couch at the end of the foyer that opens into the dining room, gift shop and bar area; a Michael Goddard painting of martini olives driving an Airstream trailer hangs above it. In the dining room, smiling families sit around wooden tables—fully naked—eating tacos, rice and beans. In the bar, happy-go-lucky middle and old-aged men sip beer—naked or in robes—and flirt with the fully clothed busty bartender.

“I have a theory,” says Dave Landman, owner of DeAnza, as he shows us around, “it’s impossible to be an asshole when you’re naked. It just can’t happen, you’re too vulnerable.”

Landman winks and leaves to prepare for the night’s talent competition, his tattoo of an elephant drinking a martini and holding a golf club wiggling on his right calf as he walks away. We chat with a man on a barstool, who kindly but insistently informs us of proper nomenclature.

“It’s nude, not naked,” he explains. He points to a picture hanging above the bar, an autographed black and white photo of Don E. Arnold–better known as Dr. Death back in his pro wrestling days–and tells us that Arnold is one of the full-time residents of DeAnza.

After multiple shots of tequila and a few beers, we muster up enough courage to get nude.

It’s getting dark by now, and a crowd has gathered around the outdoor stage. Though it’s not really necessary, we slip into the bathroom to disrobe, and then scamper out of the clubhouse giggling nervously, clutching white bath towels, wearing nothing but our tequila-induced sense of confidence. In a flash of extreme embarrassment and self-consciousness, the cliché nightmare comes true. Instead of slipping serenely into a sea of pink flesh, we stick out like painfully sore, stark naked thumbs.

Apparently, nudists—just like we clothing-inclined folk—still like to cover up when it gets chilly. Jackets and sweatshirts appear, but counter-intuitively, several assorted body bits are still left to dangle in the cold.

After the shock wears off, we wrap ourselves in towels, put on sweatshirts and borrowed jackets and enjoy the mostly clothed talent show. The rest of the night is a blur of fireworks, more drinking, Dr. Death dressed in a penguin costume, nude line dancing back inside the bar, more drinking, and lots of congratulations for living through our first public nude experience.

Modern American nudism started in the late 1920s with Kurt Barthel, a guy who took out newspaper ads and organized nude outings in the New York countryside. But most knowledgeable nudists like to cite nudism’s routes to Ancient Greece. Their sort of call to arms is the historical point at which 16th-century puritans, deathly afraid of nakedness and sexuality, outlawed bathing. Nudists laugh at the absurdity, pull the ‘we-were-born-naked’ card and describe the feeling of being naked in public as something magical that lots of people would dig if only they gave it a try.

“It’s just a stunning spectacular experience,” says Jay Goldby, one of three co-owners of Sun Island Resort, the other clothing-optional resort in San Diego County, “for some it’s not, but for many, many people it is.” Goldby points out that while the two resorts host the bulk of local nudists, there are also some “non-landed” nudist clubs that have house parties and travel around state parks, where being naked isn’t encouraged but is technically legal.

Goldby discovered nudism like many people in San Diego—he skinny-dipped at Blacks Beach, and has tried to stay as naked as possible ever since. He and his partners have owned Sun Island for only a few years, but the resort has been around for decades, barely surviving the Cedar Fire of 2003.

Sun Island’s nestled in a canyon, surrounded by sun-baked hills, but the small grounds are covered by sprawling oaks and lush green lawns. The palm trees are still a bit charred from the fire, but most of the buildings and the grounds have been completely rebuilt. Entering the bamboo gates of the resort is like entering a tranquil, tropical island—birds chirp, butterflies fly and a warm breeze gently tickles our skin.

Goldby, an older man with a long scar that runs from his right groin to his ankle and cute freckles peppering his ass, leads us through the grounds and attempts to explain the psychology of a nudist. He says it provides a physical way to shed the cumbersome burdens of daily life and creates a certain level of body acceptance that’s particularly enjoyable for women, who are more known for body-consciousness than men.

In front of the clubhouse, a masseuse wearing nothing but socks and shoes digs her elbows into the back of a man resting facedown on her table. Three skinny, tan, golden-haired little girls scurry through the pool gate wearing nothing but towels wrapped around their necks. For a day that’s 80 degrees in the shade, the nude Sun Island clientele appear to be comfortable and cool.

Jan Hansen is perhaps the most comfortable of the crew. When she’s not naked at Sun Island in the summer, during the school year she’s naked in San Francisco, nude modeling for art students. Hansen relaxes in the shade, playing a semi-serious game of cribbage with a friend, a big, furry man wearing a Monty Python Spamalot hat.

Hansen explains that, for her, being nude is being natural. She says she associates herself more with the naturists of the 1960s and 70s–with her long, flowing grey hair and free-spirited demeanor, she looks the part. Her friend, however, who asked to remain anonymous due to what he describes as a highly conservative job, describes his experience with nudism as personality-changing.

“Before, I hated dancing, I wouldn’t do it,” he explains, “now I love getting out and dancing, you can’t drag me off the dance floor. You just get so much more comfortable with yourself and the people around you. You relax and enjoy your life a lot more.”

If you spend about four or five days or more out here,” he continues, “the idea of putting on clothes and going back outside is horrendous.”

“Outside” is a term used by several nudists at Sun Island including Christine, the stand-in bartender who grew up at the resort. Living at Sun Island wasn’t a problem for Christine—a short, cute Latina–until she hit high school. She became “the nudist,” had trouble getting a date, and tried to hide her way of life by having friends drop her off up the street. At 15, she gave up and moved away, only to eventually return to what she now lovingly calls “the nude farm.”

Now common-law married with three kids, Christine owns a house at Sun Island and doesn’t plan on leaving. She feels safe there, knowing she can see her daughters from almost every place on the grounds. She admits that one or two pervy characters find their way on the grounds per year, but says that people are quickly escorted off the ground as soon as they start exhibiting inappropriate behavior. As for well-intentioned men who inadvertently become aroused, “it absolutely happens,” says Christine, but she jokes that they either roll over on their stomachs or “hang a towel on it.” If they have absolutely no control over their erectile response, however, she says the resort’s not the place for them.

Like many nudist resorts, Sun Island’s a private club that keeps out 90 percent of the creeps by using Megan’s Law, the California state law that requires sex offenders to be entered into a public registry. Goldby scans everyone who passes through the front gate.

“We clearly reserve the right to refuse service to anyone,” Goldby says, “and I don’t even have to give them a reason,” Goldby pauses, then retreats to his sense of humor, “but the one thing we don’t say here is ‘no shirts, no shoes, no service.’”

http://www.deanzasprings.com or http://www.sunislandresort.net

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