Getting naked at Bonny Doon beach on a sunny day in Santa Cruz
THE SANTA CLARA
April 7, 2016
Over Spring Break, I took off all my clothes in public. See, I date a woman who is a bit more adventurous than I am. And she wanted to go to Bonny Doon, a nude beach in Santa Cruz. I skinny-dip in pools, possess moderate comfort with my body and wanted to prove my secure manhood to her—and myself. So I agreed.
After scaling a shifty mound of sand, we descended into a tall-cliffed cove that cradled a rollicking coastline. People threw frisbees to dogs, tanned and dipped their toes in the foamy water, but all of them wore clothes.
Then we turned to our right. There, a leathery old man reclined, feet crossed, fingers interlaced behind his head, naked as the Terminator. I nose-laughed as I realized I was…glad (I guess?) to see him. We joined his side of the beach, laid down our towels and, after a resolute nod, took off our clothes.
Nude, I dug my toes into the sand and savored the disarming liberation of feeling sun and wind in usually sheathed places. For whatever reason, I expected some sort of grand reaction to my nudity. But the biggest response came from the occasional Bonny Doon novice that wandered too far, bugged their eyes a bit, then scurried back to safety.
Honestly, after the five minute adjustment period of, “Oh hey, I’m nude, this is neat,” the differences are minimal. As an indoorsy type of guy, I paid extra attention to sunscreen. But other than that, I spent most of my time doing normal beach activities—tanning, reading, squinting at the ocean, etc. And as I tapped through the chapters on my Kindle, the beach’s ratio began tipping towards the unclothed.
The nudists have a (somewhat deserved) reputation of cultishness—extolling the benefits of disrobing like a Scientologist might speak about auditing. But there’s little that’s uncomfortable about Bonny Doon. There weren’t any leery looks exchanged nor indecent proposals extended. The appeal lies mostly in the nifty freedom, not visual titillation. And yes, the rumors are true—most attendees are not chiseled models.
Eventually, we clambered up a rock shelf that overlooked an inlet with long boulders eroded by the ocean. And in that moment, standing nude on the striated ridge and looking out on the open ocean—both devoid of human traces, I just felt so…primordial. I imagined a prehistoric man. And other than my paleness, haircut and glasses, I liked the thought that we probably looked about the same.
Most days, I spend a ton of time sitting in dim light, looking at a blue screen and clacking tiny black keys. And standing naked on the edge of the Pacific, my concerns felt trivial and artificial. I thought about my uncertainty in the waning ticks of college; and fantasized about the ancient days when humans just worried about eating, not getting eaten and finding a mate.
I felt insignificant in front of the ocean. I noticed my delicacy as I stood exposed above rocks that could do some serious damage. And in the buff, it was easy to recognize that I’m nothing more than an upright ape who puts on clothes and grunts. So maybe I shouldn’t take myself so seriously.
In the midst of my nude epiphany, a grey-chested man ambled towards us. I silently hoped he wouldn’t want to spark a conversation, then realized the absolute absurdity of that thought. We had already taken a pretty significant social step for strangers—a bit of small talk wouldn’t hurt.
And it didn’t. He recounted one day in the past when somebody rigged up a rope swing. And I imagined people who, naked, leapt from the cliff, swung out over the ocean, then let go of their tight grip and plunged.
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