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 it turns out, the wily, warring Greek city-state gave us nude running, a practice that persists to this day. At the Streak Sunsport Gardens' 5K run at 7 a.m. Saturday, August 27 — said to be South Florida's first clothing-optional race — it was apparent that the simple easygoingness that Spartans saw in exercising au naturel is probably just as simple and easygoing today. Other nude sporting activities include swimming (in 2010, the AANR organized 14,110 swimmers to set a Guinness world record in skinny-dipping), volleyball (the nude national championships are a big deal), and surfing (you can get lessons at Black's Beach in California or a beachfront nudist colony in France).

Of the 50 or so participants who showed up, some appeared health-minded, others entertainment-minded. Hard-core runners with shoes the price of a car payment stretched their muscles, while Hashers (a group of distance runners who describe themselves as "a drinking club with a running problem") swigged beer at dawn.

The runners were a true mix of young and old, tan and pale, taut and doughy, sculpted and schleppy, sagging and pert. Some were longtime naturists who wanted to streak. Others were hard-core running enthusiasts who wanted to try their favorite sport without clothes. Since the event doubled as a clothing drive for area charities, some runners disrobed and donated whatever duds they'd arrived in. One young man reported that he'd injured his ankle in a bar fight in January and that the run was his triumphant return to physical fitness. The young man needed to shape up, he said, so he could work for the FBI.

Almost all stripped down to the barest sartorial essentials of athletic competition — shoes, socks, wristwatches, baseball caps. None of the nude male runners appeared to wear any form of support. A few of the more buxom women opted for sports bras. Feeling awkward as one of the last clothed people standing, I stripped down too.

The run was not an FYN event but was organized by Daniel Phillips, Anna's 25-year-old cousin. The run was open to the public of all ages. Any lone males, however, were checked against a sexual predator database before being allowed on the campus. And, as always, gawking was strictly prohibited.

Before the race started, a bald man in his late 20s (not a regular at FYN events) struck up a conversation.

He seemed to make a lot of jokes about penises.

We then took our places in line, and I politely bid him adieu.

The race alarm sounded. Turns out, running a 5K naked was a lot like running with clothes on: a sweaty, dirty enterprise that is probably most fun when you're done with a run or taking a break from a run or talking about a run — but not actually on a run itself.

Right into the first lap, a young woman bemoaned that "my breasts are never, ever going to recover." The woman, a seasoned runner, regretted not having used plastic wrap for support, which race organizers had suggested to women above a B-cup.

Other than bodily flotsam and jetsam and a measured amount of flopping, the vibe was similar to any other athletic competition that lends itself to being easily dramatized in a movie. On the boggier and woodsier portions of the trail, tree roots sneaked up and wide leaves smacked runners in the face, but water-station staffers and race organizers hooted and hollered until everyone made it across the finish line. Every time I chugged around the track, Phillips cheered — just like a textilist friend would have.

The race took contenders 20- to 40-some minutes. Afterward, the flush-faced participants chatted about stride and posture and strategy while eagerly awaiting the award ceremony and raffle. Parched and nutrient-starved, they crowded around water coolers and lined up for a table's worth of grapes, apples, pineapple, and orange slices. The crowd favorite was bananas, on account of the potassium.

As things wound down, the bald man asked for my phone number so he could "find out about the story." I gave him my email address. "Oh," he said.

As I got into my car, another runner called out to me. This man, who had a half-shaved head with a long, black ponytail, came to the race clothed but had become naked within the past hour. He was not part of FYN, it appeared, nor a member of Sunsport.

"Wait up!" he said, holding out his cell phone.

"What's up?"

"Can I get a picture of you?"

"For what?"

"For me," he said.

"I don't think so."

"Yeah, I mean, don't worry about it," he said, uncomfortably. "You seem hesitant. No big deal."

Nudists seem to enjoy simply hanging out naked more than any organized activity. However, they also seem particularly fond of playing music and dancing.

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Victoria Bekiempis