Photo Essay: The joy of skinnydipping

Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2011 in Features

Photo Essay: The joy of skinnydipping

by Steve Cartwright

Swimming in your birthday suit is the best.

In other words, swim naked. You wouldn’t take a shower with clothes on, so why on earth do we wear suits when we take a dip in river, lake or sea?

There are reasons, of course. It’s tradition. You have to cover up certain parts of your body because…well, because of Victorian repression and the conviction that it’s improper to be bare. In our culture, we turn all nudity into something sexual. Our society seems so hung up on sex that we see any exposure as provocative or perverse. But swimming naked is no more obscene or unseemly than sleeping in the nude.

In all the years I’ve gone skinnydipping with others, nothing unpleasant or uncomfortable has ever taken place. There is a certain basic honesty and trust implicit in taking your clothes off. There you are, baring it all. We’re all made of the same stuff despite our differences, many of which are superficial.

You don’t know how good it feels to swim naked until you try it. It’s liberating and refreshing  ~ like swimming in a suit but definitely more fun. Then you can lie on the warm sand or a smooth rock and sun yourself like a seal. No tan lines.

After years of skinnydipping, I admit that putting on a swimsuit feels silly. But of course there are places where it makes sense. I try to be careful not to offend anyone, so that means I usually skinnydip in secluded places. Islands, quarries, ponds ~ there are endless opportunities for the discreet skinnydipper. And there is the cover of darkness. Ever swum under the full moon? Or under the stars with phosphorescence creating fireworks around your arms and legs?

Maine has many fine places to swim naked, both in salt and fresh water. Of course, with our water temperatures, you may want to get dressed pretty quickly after drying off, unless it’s a really warm day.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are local networks of skinnydippers in numerous Maine towns who know where to go for a delightful dip without the bother of bringing a bathing suit and then carrying it around wet.

In randomly surveying friends, I’ve found many of them agree that naked swimming is wholesome, healthy and just plain sensible. One friend said she loves to skinnydip, but wished it would make her skinny.

Think of the money spent on expensive swimsuits, by women in particular, when it’s really more comfortable to swim without one. Those string bikinis are so close to nothing at all I wonder when people will realize there isn’t much difference. “For the uninhibited,” says one ad. Ha, why not just skinnydip? In other countries, women go to public beaches bare-breasted, and even in the U.S. there are beaches that are officially “nude,” although none are in Maine, as far as I know.

But unofficial ... you bet!

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