Save the Nudists! The Florida Young Naturists Keep the Clothes-Free Lifestyle Alive | Feature | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida


Save the Nudists! The Florida Young Naturists Keep the Clothes-Free Lifestyle Alive

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As the FYN's website states, "Naturism is a beautiful way of life that can be enjoyed at locations across America and the world. Lucky for us, Florida is a particularly great climate to practice this natural lifestyle."

One Friday in August, I met White and Phillips at Sunsport Gardens, "South Florida's most scenic family naturist resort."

A former tomato farm that was converted into the resort in 1965, Sunsport is located in Loxahatchee Groves, in northern Palm Beach County. It includes a host of amenities on its 40 acres: sprawling orchards and meandering trails, RV hookups and pool tables, tennis courts, a heated swimming pool, a library, a café, and a fitness center. It's both technologically forward (Wi-Fi!) and ecologically sensitive (solar panels!). Activities include tarot circles, game nights, and a youth camp. During peak season, in January and February, some 150 families call Sunsport home.

As the sun set and mosquito clouds emerged from muddy puddles, White and Phillips, already disrobed, seemed as free from shame as Adam and Eve before the Fall. I extended my hand. They responded with enthusiastic, full-body hugs.

White said that when he was growing up, his parents taught him to be afraid of the body — that it was sinful, something to hide. He never understood that, he said. As a teen, he went on a mission trip to Jamaica. His Christian group went to a beach. A local family, who was also at the beach, went into the water naked.

"They just seemed so free, and I thought: Why can't I do that?" he said.

"When I finally ventured my way into the naturist world and didn't keep my love for being naked a secret anymore, I realized that something was missing: young people. They were few and far between. When I did come across a young person in the naturist environment, almost always the conversation would be about the fact that there aren't more of us around. What I realized is that young adults are actually very interested in social nudity but feel more comfortable when there are other people their age around. There just needed to be some organized planning to get these people to one place at the same time. So I started FYN on Valentine's Day in 2009."

Club dues for FYN are $15 yearly. There are several hundred card-carrying members, hailing from many states and Canada. Their next event is a winter gathering December 9 to 11.

"It originally was just going to be a small group of friends," White continued, "but those friends invited friends, and they invited more friends. I was shocked that the first event had 60 young people come out. Since that time, FYN has attracted close to 500 young adults when you combine the events. At the End of Summer Bash this year, we tallied the guy/girl ratio, and it was almost exactly 50/50."

Phillips said that her interest in naturism stems from a cousin. He kept encouraging her to come to naturist gatherings in Florida, and one year, she decided to take him up on the offer. Immediately, she was hooked by the sense of liberty.

Phillips and White met at FYN's Spring Break Bash in 2009 and now live together in a modest apartment in North Palm Beach, where they have a picket-fenced yard that's overgrown with sunflowers. Phillips works at a chiropractor's office and White at an organic grocery store. For extra cash, they both model nude for art classes.

"You should see the looks they give me at the Gardens Mall," White says. "It's like, everyone judges everybody on their clothing."

As we chatted, a sinewy, white-haired club manager, whom I later learned was Sunsport owner Morley Schloss, pointed at my sarong.

"If you're at the pool, you can't wear anything," he said. "Not until it's dark or if it's under 70 degrees; then you can wear whatever you want. Until then, if you're on the deck, you're expected to be naked."

Off came the sarong.

Since at least 1385 B.C., people in the West have been using their birthday suits as their gym clothes. Back then, Akhenaten, an Egyptian pharaoh, and his rather attractive wife, Nefertiti, were said to have swum naked in the royal pools, according to Aileen Goodson, author of Therapy, Nudity & Joy. But the old guard of Egyptian priests wasn't down for the poet king's alleged cult of the body. After Akhenaten died and his son, King Tut, took over, nude sport fizzled out in the West for hundreds of years — and wouldn't take hold again until the rise of the Spartans.

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Victoria Bekiempis