Sunday, August 14, 2016

#58 - Nude Beach

Typical summer day at Wreck Beach, Vancouver, BC (Photo: WBPS)
Yesterday I unexpectedly got to cross off another item from my bucket list. This one... be nude at a nude beach. I spent several hours in the sun, swimming, suntanning, and walking around in my birthday suit among hundreds of strangers, many of whom were also not wearing a lick of clothing. It was surreal. And pretty awesome. 
The rules of Wreck (photo:
Adriana and I had planned to go up to the Sunshine Coast to visit friends but forgot to make ferry reservations, so we couldn't get on and realized we both have to work Monday, so our plans fell through. Well, no matter – fish 'n chips and a skinny dip in the sea made for a lovely summer afternoon. When A suggested Wreck Beach (being shocked to learn I had never been!), I was like, let's do it! I had always imagined crossing off this bucket list item in Europe, where I imagine all the beaches are nude beaches and all the people look like Christiano Ronaldo, and yet I thought, why wait to go abroad to get naked in public? I can do that right here in my hometown! And besides, Wreck Beach is the No. 1 nude beach in Canada (according to a 2015 article in Metro News). Coming in second place is Hanlan's Point Beach on Toronto Island, followed by Oka Park near Montreal, Crystal Crescent Beach in Nova Scotia, and Beechgrove in Scarborough, Ontario. I was introduced me to the nuanced rules and regulations of this super popular spot and am pretty jazzed about the proximity of a world-class nude beach not far from where I live.

So what's it like to be naked in public?

You know those nightmares people talk about, where they realize they're in the middle of Times Square, and they're not wearing pants? And they freak out? Well, a nude beach is nothing like that. It's the strangest thing, but when half the people around you are also wearing nothing but sunglasses, it becomes normalized, and quite freeing. If you enjoy skinny dipping, then hanging out at a nude beach is taking it to a whole other level. The feeling of taking off my shorts and t-shirt, then underwear and bra, without trying to be modest and actually with the intention of lying fully exposed for anyone to see, was surprisingly okay. Or, maybe I'm just a nudist at heart, and never realized it until now... I was even quite comfortable walking all the way over to the pit toilets, buck naked, by myself, past hundreds of strangers, many of whom were clothed. It's obviously a very body-positive place, and not everyone (though there were definitely some) looks like they've just come from the gym. Maybe it's because I'm in my 30s, or maybe it's because I was just another nude woman on the beach, but I honestly think I was self-conscious only about how incredibly pale I am. (In fact, fishbelly white, is how I might describe my lack of colour.)

And, because we all know it's "photos or it didn't happen," here is a shot of my bare butt on the sand. (We had to take it fast and couldn't include any of the crowd because photography is frowned upon... for obvious reasons.)

If you turn right, there are mostly clothed folks, but if you turn left (as we did), you'll find the majority (or maybe more like 2/3) of people are without coverage. We walked past the vendors selling food, sarongs (for those more inclined towards modesty, I guess), and various other items (including various illegal substances, but the unspoken rules of Wreck Beach include the cops turning a blind eye as long as no one gets stupid). We set up our towels, stripped, and went for a swim. Walking the 20 feet or so to the water, I realized I was not being gawked at, and I was also not compelled to gawk. Other than the first reaction I had of thinking to myself, "Oh, wow, those guys are totally naked," when seeing a very tanned couple of dudes walking towards me with their stuff all out there, I very quickly got used to the number of breasts, penises, and pubic hair (or lack thereof) that was visible... and yet not inappropriate. Context is everything. Once A and I came back in from a wonderfully refreshing swim (avoiding getting hit by an errant frisbee tossed by another group of nude dudes), we made our way back to our towels to suntan, and we didn't even have to worry about tan lines. Bonus!

How to get the most out of Wreck Beach

A lot people come to Vancouver for a "nakation" (naked vacation) every summer – according to what I've learned from Google – and I can see why. Wreck is a huge, gorgeous beach with so many people who have collectively decided that being friendly and having a clothing-optional good time is where it's at. Even the cops are chill. Here are my suggestions for getting the most out of your first time at this beach:
  1. Get naked. And not just, like, topless, or whatever. I mean fully nude. Don't overthink it, and remember, nobody is going to stare because, hey, you're just another body on the beach. Some people even suggest not stripping down to your birthday suit goes against the spirit of the place, and I kind of agree. While it's obviously not required that everyone goes bare, I think if you're going to show up you might as well show off. Go fully monty and fit in. Otherwise, why not just go to English Bay? 
  2. Don't stare, and don't take photos. I think the fact that everyone is very respectful of each other is what makes this place great. 
  3. Bring supplies. There are pit toilets at the bottom of the long stairway, so no need to worry about tp or where to pee, and there are vendors selling food and drinks (of all sorts) until just before sunset, but you'll want to make sure to bring cash if you're not going to bring your own food. Definitely bring water and sunscreen. You don't want to get dehydrated, or burn delicate parts. Also, bring a friend or two, unless you're willing to be a solo weirdo or brave enough to approach a group of strangers and invite yourself to their no-pants party.
  4. Be prepared for the stairs. The way down is easy, but the 430-odd stairs (I counted) back up the hill to the road is a bitch. Make sure you're mentally and physically prepared to end your day with a bit of a workout.
  5. Stay for the drum circle. When we were leaving, just after the sun had set, we walked past a throng of people writhing to a steady drum beat, one guy gyrating atop a log, his dark skin glistening in the dusk light. It was sort of like that scene from the Matrix III, where everyone's in that underground rave cave, sweating in a veritable orgy of heathen ecstasy. I thought of staying, but realized this was my first time at Wreck, and there will be future drum circles to work my way into. No fomo, as the kids say. 
  6. Park at the Museum of Anthropology. If you can't get a free spot along the east side of S.W. Marine Drive, this is probably you're best bet. There were loads of space available when we arrived in the covered lot, and it cost $8 for the day. Machine only takes credit, though, so have that on hand (but also cash for a boozy Freezee when you get to the beach). The walk from the parking lot to the sand took about 10 minutes. 
The long hike down to the beach (photo:
I definitely enjoyed the atmosphere at Wreck and I will definitely be back again soon. The summer days in Vancouver are spectacular, and yesterday was no exception. This is a great place to enjoy it. 
Sunset, 8:40pm

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