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From the back, and a distance, Sarah, a tawny-skinned 25-year-old with green eyes and long, straight brown hair, looks like she's wearing a light-beige thong bikini. Get a little closer and you notice her tattoo of a small purple octopus inked to the left side of her rib cage; budding love handles; and chipped black toenail polish — and that her flesh-toned bikini is actually tan lines.
"This is my first time coming to a nude beach," she says, sprawled out on a Dora the Explorer beach towel, her silver nipple ring sparkling in the sun. "But it's not the first time I've been completely butt-ass-naked in front of a group of strangers."
She lights up a Camel Blue, takes a long pull, ashes on Boots the Monkey's smiling pink face, and continues:
10800 Collins Ave.
Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160
Category: Parks and Outdoors
Region: North Dade
"An ex of mine used to teach figure-drawing, and one day a model called in sick, like, ten minutes before class started. I just happened to tag along with him that day, and out of desperation, he asked me if I minded posing nude for his students. I didn't mind, so I just did it, and kind of loved it. So, ever since, I'll find any excuse to get naked."
Which is precisely why Sarah and roughly 725 other birthday suit enthusiasts have frolicked to the northern stretch of Haulover Beach Park (10800 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour; 305-940-6719) to partake in the World Record Skinny-Dip Challenge. Sponsored by the American Association for Nude Recreation, this national event — which also simultaneously took place at 3 p.m. Eastern Nudist Time in cities such as Albuquerque, Chicago, and Palm Springs — was set forth by Guinness World Records in order to break the AANR's record of having 13,648 bearers of bronzed nipples and naturally highlighted pubic hairs jump into a body of water at the same time.
Sounds sexy, right? Well, Sarah's 28-year-old "nonsexual life partner," Chad, a ginger-haired nude novice, seems to think it is — sorta. As he watches a circle of men in the buff bounce a fútbol off their foreheads, knees, and chests, Chad lets out a wistful sigh.
"Personally, I'm really enjoying all the bouncing balls... and I'm not talking about soccer," he says with a sly smile. "But there's also a whole lot of ugly going on around here."
He nudges his chin toward a woman in her 60s. Her stomach is paunchy, and her breasts are beginning to succumb to gravity's cruel will. But she holds her head high, and her entire vibe radiates comfort.
"Hey, Firecrotch," Sarah says to Chad as she gets up for a quick swim in the Atlantic. "Speaking of ugly, I had no idea until today that you weren't circumcised." She walks off toward the aqua water.
And at that, Chad softens, literally and figuratively.
I go talk to the unknowing subject of Chad's scorn.
Norma, it turns out, is vice president of South Florida Free Beaches, a political action committee devoted to education and legislative action on the behalf of nudies all over the southernmost tip of our region's geographic wang. She's also been indulging in the naturist lifestyle since 1986, shortly after her husband read an article in Playboy about a nudist colony in southern Wisconsin.
"Actually, it's a nudist club, not a colony," she explains. "Colony is an antiquated term."
Norma, or better yet, Nietzsche continues:
"For a woman to be nude with someone besides her husband was a concept I couldn't wrap my head around. So I was very curious." She took her husband and her 8- and 9-year-old daughters to the nudist club and instantly dug it.
"I loved that I was standing naked with a complete stranger, who wasn't my husband, just talking."
Norma also notes the need to have to stare into someone's eyes in order to not appear like you're gawking at their no-no areas.
"It makes conversations so much more intimate. I mean, the whole experience for me was pure freedom — freedom from fear, freedom from judgment. You know, as a woman, you feel like your worth is based on your body. Girls grow up thinking that unless their body looks like the ones that the media convinces us are beautiful, that you're not worthy, that you're not attractive. And being able to see all these naked women, with all kinds of different body types, was a really liberating experience for me."
I notice a tattoo of the sun on the outside of her right thigh. I ask her if it's recent.
"Yes, I got it a year ago. To me, it represents the sensual side of nudity — the feeling of having the sun on your body. You know, you should really experience it for yourself."
As a buck-naked Chewbacca waltzes by, I politely refuse.
"That's OK, dear," she says kindly. "You do it whenever you're ready."
Moving on, and trying incredibly hard to make eye contact with people, I slip when running into Harold, a gregarious, potbellied man in his early 50s.
Thankfully, he's wearing tropical swimming trunks, a rarity for Harold, who pulled them on only because he was getting ready to leave. And although he can't give me the exact amount of time he's been copper-toning his nether region ("a couple of years now"), he vividly remembers the first time he bared all.