- Like other organisations and social communities, naturists have shifted to a virtual platform during lockdowns.
- From nude gym classes to World Naked Gardening Day photo contests, nudists around the world have connected on a new platform.
- The associations have witnessed a spark of interest during lockdowns and continued membership growth over the past few months.
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While clothing might be optional, masks are not.
As the world begins to reemerge from lockdown, people are flocking to restaurants, beaches, nature trails, and resorts.
Among those crowds are naturists and nudists, reuniting and shedding clothes for the first time in months.
People partake in the naturist way of life for a variety of reasons. Some people join to discover a newfound sense of freedom, a way to promote body acceptance, and some go nude to eliminate materialistic barriers.
“You can actually feel the weight of the clothes,” Laurent Luft, the Association des Naturistes de Paris president, told Insider. “You know how liberating it is to be without clothes, and when you actually put them on again, you feel their weight. It’s not just the weight of the clothes themself, but everything associated.”
Whatever the reason is, naturists, too, faced cancelled events and postponed trips due to lockdowns and stay-at-home orders.
For the American Association of Nude Recreation, all of its 180 clubs and resorts closed at some point this year, said Jeff Baldasarre, the director of marketing and communications.
ANP also had to close down its facilities. The association was created in 1953, and today it offers access to a complex with a pool and gym, and the group hosts external events. All of those events, from singing classes to yoga sessions, were cancelled and the facility shut down in March.
“For us to be put out of action, it’s a huge punch,” Luft said. “We’re so used to having that direct social contact with people.”
Many naturists turned to Zoom during the lockdown
“For the first weeks of confinement I really felt that thing missing in my life,” Luft said.
With the help of Luft and other ANP members, the association pivoted to an online structure.
They created a YouTube channel where gym and yoga instructors recorded workouts. When members responded that they needed extra support to make sure they were properly doing the right exercises, they hosted live Zoom classes.
“Also there’s that element of social contact,” Luft said. “Even though it’s from a distance, they can have a little chat and they feel as though they’re actually with other people.”
The Irish Naturist Association also employed social media to connect members.
“At the inception of lockdown, social media played an important role in keeping naturists in spirits,” Leticia Medina, the event coordinator for Irish Naturist Association, told Insider in an email.
From celebrating World Naked Gardening Day with a photo contest to virtual coffee-shop hangouts, Irish naturists had a full social calendar.
By pivoting to online platforms, the naturist organisations described how it allowed for international conversations.
INA hosted international chats, where naturists from Mexico, France, Spain, the UK, Brazil, Slovenija, Hungary, Serbia, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark could connect.
“It has been extremely educational, just a fascinating insight into other countries’ way of experiencing naturism and dealing with their own circumstances,” Medina said. “I feel we are all so different, you cannot apply the same considerations for all climates, legal situations, and social awareness stages.”
While those naturist associations saw great success in virtual events, Baldasarre said the American Association of Nude Recreation faced some challenges.
Baldasarre said that a majority of AANR’s members are between 40 and 70 years old, and some weren’t interested or decided against switching to the online platform. The association’s initial virtual events didn’t get the response it predicted.
The naturists Insider spoke to discussed how removing clothes removes any preconceived notions
“You go to these nudist resorts and you can’t judge anybody by the watch they have, the dress they have, the Hermès bag they have,” Baldasarre said. “You can’t judge them by that because they have nothing on.”
People are listening rather than focusing on materialistic things, Baldasarre said.
“For me, the social side of it is the best thing. The fact that we’re all on the same level,” Luft said. “A 25-year-old guy can be good friends with a 75-year-old woman.”
Luft described how naturism is often misconceived as sexual, but he emphasised that it’s the opposite. Many of the groups provide a family-friendly atmosphere for naturists to interact with.
Membership continued to grow during the lockdowns
Medina said she believed that the lockdown presented an opportunity for people who had considered naturism to try it out.
British Naturism launched an initiative called “work naked Wednesday,” and Medina said members of INA joined in weekly.
Baldasarre said his team was initially worried about seeing a dip in membership, but that hasn’t been the case.
AANR has been around for 90 years, and Baldasarre says it has “been consistently growing every year.”
During the lockdown, AANR has experienced continued growth, according to Baldasarre. Since the majority of the association’s members are retired, people are still leaving work behind and connecting with one another from home.
In 2014, ANP closed for major maintenance for about five months. The association lost many of its members because nothing had been put in motion to “stay afloat.”
“We rebuilt, and what we rebuilt was even bigger than before,” Luft said.
This time around ANP quickly adapted. The videos have provided a way for ANP to stay in contact with its 400 members.
“The main goal was to help people stay in contact and stay fit, but also we could still maintain an image,” he said. “This time around we kind of feel that people haven’t forgotten us.”
Luft said his group was also surprised that the videos attracted new people who live far from Paris, where the organisation is based.
“There have also been some people that have converted to naturism because of those videos,” Luft said. “That’s something I really didn’t expect.”
Luft said he typically imagined people discovering naturism in person, like someone on vacation stumbling upon a nude beach.
“We never imagined people confined to their apartments would discover naturism,” he said.
As lockdown restrictions lift, naturism looks slightly different
“Interesting tan lines,” Baldasarre joked.
As small gatherings take place, people can shed their clothes but not their face masks.
The associations Insider spoke with are also following the distancing guidelines of 6 feet, and some resorts have put in additional cleaning and sanitizing policies.
AANR’s resorts are located both in the US and internationally, and some have slowly been able to reopen following local government guidance. Others will remain closed for the rest of the year.
ANP’s pool and gym facility will reopen in September, but in the meantime, the association will host other socially distanced gatherings, like park days.
The other week, ANP’s 23,000-square-foot park reopened to its members. Before the quarantine, the park could welcome 700 people, and it plans to welcome as many people to the park this year that it safely can.
INA has hosted small hike and park days while it continues virtual events.
“Whether in an online event or in real-life, we are always in high spirits,” Medina said. “It’s magical to connect so genuinely with other people. I feel privileged to share that enthusiasm.”
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