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Swimming slowly against the tide

Naturists – that is people who enjoy being naked – are commonly invisible in society. Whereas children used to be seen and not heard, naturists are neither seen nor heard.

2020 has been an especially difficult year for the East Sussex Naturists as our events have been almost completely disrupted. Leisure centres were finally able to reopen last October after many months, but the Rule of Six has precluded any other events, including the Naked Heart Walk that we had planned in aid of the British Heart Foundation (now rescheduled for July 3rd 2021).

The club’s home for the last 30 years, Motcombe Pool, has not reopened. However, I was very pleased to be able to get our swim and yoga events going again quickly at Hailsham, where we now have room to expand. Like a lot of clubs, membership had been on a downward curve, but in the last few years we have been growing significantly. Most people have renewed their membership for 2021 and we already have four new members.

The most remarkable thing about this year has been the growth of online naturism powered by the ubiquitous Zoom, which we had never heard of last year. Our national organisation, British Naturism, runs over 20 online events each week and has been attracting a considerable number of new members as a result. Naked yoga, for instance, has attracted around 80 people several times a week. Our own weekly online Qi Gong attracts around a fifth of our own members. It is hardly the same experience as physically exercising together, but there is a great feeling of camaraderie and moreover we see that our small group is not unusual at all.

Indeed what may be attracting new people is that there is no barrier to enjoying being naked in company when there is no initial fear of embarrassment. In a real studio you cannot just disappear using an invisibility cloak, but online you can disappear in a mouse click. Of course, no one actually does, because you soon realise that you are just the same as everyone else – merely human no matter what other characteristics you think you may have.

You may have heard of ‘the level playing field’ again recently. Coined 40 years ago, it refers to a state of fairness in which individuals are treated similarly, unhampered by artificial barriers, prejudices or preferences. Naturists have been familiar with this idea for 100 years. By removing one’s clothes you not only free yourself psychologically, but also dispense with the material signs of class, wealth, authority and so forth, so everyone treats each other as equals. Being naked socially allows you to develop your authentic self and you will find it easy to be friendly, respectful, accepting and above all, self-accepting.

We are lucky to live so close to fabulous countryside and coast. Naturism imbues health and vitality and these are best nurtured outdoors, so our members enjoy a variety of events just as many other people do – walking, picnics, garden visits, outdoor swimming where you can feel the sun and air on your skin and lose the stress of everyday living.

Published in the Eastbourne Voice April 2021


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