The Real Naturist Experience
Nudist resorts differ themselves from nudity-based adult entertainment
Village News Correspondent
3/17/2006 7:17:56 PM
The recent attempt to place “Jessica’s Law” on the November ballot as an initiative is among the latest steps being taken against pornography. Crackdowns against adult entertainment create the threat that nude recreation will be lumped in with nudity-based adult entertainment, and the American Association of Nude Recreation and its affiliates seek to differentiate nudity and sexuality.
“You have to separate that issue,” said Carolyn Hawkins, the public relations coordinator of AANR. “Every now and then something will happen and we have to defend ourselves.”
Nude recreation stresses a natural environment and serenity. “It’s definitely not what a lot of people think it is,” said Helen Landman, who owns the De Anza Springs Resort in Jacumba along with her husband.
“Nudity is not a problem, but the acts you can do while you’re nude could be a problem,” Landman said. “You always hear the bad things; you never hear the good things.”
De Anza Springs, which will host the 2006 AANR annual convention in August, is one of several AANR affiliates which check potential members against the Megan’s Law data base to ensure that sex offenders are not welcome to join the resort.
Children at nude recreation facilities are part of family-oriented activities, and many resorts have non-denominational religious services on Sundays while some members even note a strengthened spiritual connection in their natural state.
“We are a family-oriented nudist park or resort,” said Ole Nilson, the manager of Mystic Oaks in Lake Elsinore. “We’re not about the pornography.”
Nude recreation facilities make it clear that the focus is on the natural environment rather than on sexual stimulation, and the greatest risk to members is sunburn rather than those who frequent pornographic outlets. “They wouldn’t last long in our place,” Landman said. “If you wouldn’t do it in front of your family, you wouldn’t do it here.”
The 2006 convention at De Anza Springs will also celebrate the 75th anniversary of the AANR, which was initially called the American Sunbathing Association when it was founded in 1931. “We are the credible voice of reason,” Hawkins said.
“Our lifestyle is a nudist lifestyle. We live like that,” said Buck Bandy, the office manager of the Sequoians club in Castro Valley. “It’s not to be confused with the pornography you see in magazines.”
Weather can pose difficulties for a Northern California resort such as the Sequoians which aren’t as significant for a California facility such as Mystic Oaks or De Anza Springs or a Florida club such as Cypress Cove, where Hawkins lives.
Activities are more frequent in summer months than during the winter. However, nine families including Bandy’s live in the Sequoians park full-time. Every Saturday night, 52 or 53 times each year, the Sequoians has a potluck dinner in the clubhouse. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the Sequoians’ only two “textile” events where the members are always clothed; friends and relatives are invited to visit on those two days.
“It’s a lifestyle more than anything,” Bandy said.
Bandy is familiar to local law enforcement, but only because of his attempts to avoid problems at the Sequoians. His screening procedure includes a visit to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. “They know me on a first-name basis,” he said.
Anybody who has ever been banned from a nudist resort in the United States is on a list to be banned from the Sequoians. “I have a three-ring binder, about a five-inch three-ring binder, that has a listing from A to Z,” he said. “I run everybody through Megan’s List, and I require a positive ID.”
Some law enforcement officers are even members of the Sequoians, as are firefighters, teachers and businessmen. “It’s every facet of life,” Bandy said. “We’re your neighbors. We go to the same churches you do.”
The Sequoians is not only a member of the Castro Valley Chamber of Commerce but an active member. Some Chamber of Commerce mixers are held at the Sequoians, and chamber members have learned to accept the lifestyle of the resort. “When we have a chamber mixer here we actually have more people that come here than go to a bank or a restaurant,” Bandy said.
The Sequoians shares a property line with a regional park, and hikers are required to wear clothes. Other clothing-optional hiking trails exist within the boundaries of the 86-acre resort and a stream runs through the Sequoians.
The emphasis many nude resorts have on a relaxed atmosphere is also a deterrent to debauchery. “We’re a quiet, peaceful place here. This isn’t a party animal atmosphere,” Nilson said.
Perhaps the biggest nakedness joke at Mystic Oaks is the “naked eye astronomy” telescope, which is one of the amenities of the 129-acre facility. “We don’t allow any rude comments, staring, or that type of behavior,” Nilson said.
Mystic Oaks was founded in 1933 and is the third-oldest nude recreation facility in the United States. Although Mystic Oaks is on private land, it is surrounded by the Cleveland National Forest and the forest is adjacent to the resort. That topography allows for the view of the mountain range at Mystic Oaks while more active recreation facilities include swimming and wading pools, volleyball and tennis courts, shuffleboard, horseshoes, and badminton. Mystic Oaks also has a dining hall, and the facility includes an RV and tent campground. Mystic Oaks sits at an elevation of approximately 2,500 feet.
The reputation for serenity at Mystic Oaks reaches as far as AANR headquarters in Florida. “If you want peace and quiet you can hear a pin drop,” Hawkins said of Mystic Oaks. “If someone wanted to go for a weekend of peace and quiet, that is a perfect place to go.”
Nilson notes that one of the most suitable warnings to Mystic Oaks visitors is the need to rely on self-contained RVs for those who use that type of lodging during their stay. “We’re not set up for trailer hookups and all that,” he said.
Nilson would not disclose specific measures to protect Mystic Oaks members against sexual predators, but he noted that several steps are taken to ensure that the joys of nudity are not spoiled by those who associate it with eroticism. “We do whatever we can,” he said. “We’re a private club, so we can deny access.”
The American Sunbathing Association changed its name to the American Association for Nude Recreation in 1994. “We wanted to change the name to reflect what we are,” Hawkins said. “It’s about recreation.”
Hawkins has been at Cypress Cove since 1982. While Kissimmee, FL, may not have the cold temperatures of Castro Valley, CA, members of Cypress Cove also have to balance their desire for a natural state against the natural elements. The bar at Cypress Cove during winter months can illustrate that. “People were coming in with jackets and boots and that’s it because they want to enjoy the freedom of not having clothes,” Hawkins said.
Ironically, those who answer a home office phone which rings just after completion of a shower may work in the nude more frequently than AANR’s administrative staff or the administrative staff of individual nude recreation facilities. “We work in an office and we have to sort of dress to impress,” Hawkins said.
The staff of the Cypress Cove boutique is also clothed. Yes, that nudist resort does sell clothing, albeit “nudist clothing,” such as a shirt with the message “Caution: clothes may come off without warning” and an accompanying stick figure who expresses happiness after removal of a clothing item.
“Your membership card is your passport to fun,” Hawkins said.
Since “fun” is a subjective term, different nude recreation facilities offer different amenities. “They’re not all resorts,” Hawkins said. “There’s something for everyone.”
That includes “mom and pop” clubs, destination resorts, and what are known as “high-tech” resorts, which would equate to a five-star resort. One West Virginia facility sells condominiums. Other nude recreation facilities are more of the “back to nature” type without even water or electricity.
“You’ve got some that like to pitch a tent and go back to nature,” Hawkins said. “They just like to rough it.”
Since the original Olympic athletes competed in the nude, it is no surprise that various sporting facilities are offered at many AANR affiliates. De Anza Springs has approximately 500 members and offers tennis, volleyball, indoor and outdoor pools, bocce ball, horseshoes, a spa, and a clubhouse. “All of the sports activities, we have a venue for all of it,” David Landman said.
De Anza Springs opened in 1997. It sits on just over 500 acres, making it the largest nude recreation facility in the United States in terms of geographical size. Landman said that De Anza Springs trusts the judgment of its members in accepting guests, but all potential members are checked against the Megan’s Law data base. “There are very strict policies and procedures that we use,” he said.
The Sequoians was originally called Sequoians Family Nudist Park, although it is now known as the Sequoians Clothes-Free Club. “We’ve always considered ourselves as a family organization,” Bandy said. “My grandson absolutely loves it here.”
Since its inception the Sequoians has had an annual luau in August, and the July 4 celebration is also a major festivity. Bandy notes that protection against sexual predators not only distinguishes nude recreation from nudity-based pornography but also protects the health and safety of the club’s own members. “We screen everybody who comes in here because we do not want to have a problem,” Bandy said. “We scrutinize everybody who comes here because we want to protect our lifestyle.”
The Sequoians has between 120 and 150 members, and applicants must do more than just clear a sex offender list. “You have to jump through the hoops of going through the board,” Bandy said.
The check against the Megan’s Law data base covers visitors as well as potential members. “Everybody who comes through our gate, I check. Anybody who comes through our park, I check them out,” Bandy said.
Bandy may not have access to foreign lists, but the Sequoians hasn’t had a problem with international guests. “We get a lot of European visitors,” he said. “In Europe it’s not frowned on at all. It’s an accepted lifestyle.”
Membership for minors in the Sequoians is allowed contingent upon parental consent. One minor who recently visited the Sequoians working on a story for his school newspaper received consent from both parents after being informed of the conditions of entry.
Bandy noted that news stories, which once tended to be biased against nudist resorts, are now more balanced. He noted that semantics were part of the educational effort. “’Nudist colony’ was actually a slang term that was given to the lifestyle by the textile community,” he said.
“Nudists themselves have never referred to themselves as colonists,” Bandy said. “We have always called ourselves a nudist club or a nudist park.”
The 2006 AANR convention at De Anza Springs will include business meetings during the weeklong gathering, although three days of activities will comprise the later part of the convention. An AANR convention on the West Coast typically draws approximately 1,000 visitors, although the AANR and De Anza Springs are planning on increased attendance for the 75th anniversary celebration.
The timing of the convention could coincide with political campaigns against pornography, and David Landman notes the need for education to differentiate nudity from eroticism. “We are not even close,” he said.
“They lump us in,” he said. “That’s what we need to educate the public about.”
Hawkins hopes that the educational effort will not only differentiate nudity from sexuality but will also inform the clothed about why nudists prefer their lifestyle. “It’s something that you’re going to find very enjoyable, very stress-free. Take a towel and a lot of sunscreen,” she said.