Take it off, take it all off

A new nudist sheds inhibitions at Laguna del Sol

To take off your clothes in public also means stripping yourself of a lot of angst.

To take off your clothes in public also means stripping yourself of a lot of angst.

Illustration by Hayley Doshay

David Allen Brown is the pseudonym for a Carmichael-based writer who wants to bare his skin but not reveal his identity.
Laguna del Sol daily visitor fees are $29 per person; membership rates are also available. Visit it at 8683 Rawhide Lane in Wilton; call (916) 687-6850, or visit www.lagunadelsol.com for more information.

I'm a newbie nudist or a naked newbie. Take your pick.

Shortly before Memorial Day, I was able to cross off a major item on my bucket list—go to a nudist resort and blend in with the crowd.

Once my shorts hit the ground, I felt free. All my cares and concerns, all the cultural bullshit from 40-plus years of body shame and other issues melted away within seconds. I had doffed my shirt first and looked across at my wife, who had already visited the Laguna del Sol clothing-optional resort several times before I met her in 2011.

Ta-da! I was halfway there.

She rolled her eyes. I kicked my shorts off. Except for my flip-flops, I was as naked as the day I came into this world almost 47 years ago.

My wife—we’ll call her Denise—is experienced at this. It was nothing for her to get naked and reveal her body. On the ride down to Wilton and Laguna del Sol, which bills itself as the “Premier Clothing-Optional Resort,” Denise reassured me that every fear I had was unfounded.

To take off your clothes in public also means stripping yourself of a lot of angst. You’re truly naked in every sense of the word. What might have been debilitating is instead liberating. The $29 daily visitor rate here is a mere pittance to experience such freedom.

Standing naked next to my truck in the Laguna del Sol parking lot was indeed freeing. All of my fears fell to the ground at the same time my shorts did. I grabbed our cooler filled with beer, a bag full of reading materials and SPF 50-plus sunblock lotion and headed toward the pool.

The walk from the parking lot to the main pool is about a quarter-mile. Instinctually, I made eye contact with several other naked people, as well as fully clothed folks who were just arriving on this particular sunny Saturday afternoon.

A polite nudist always maintains eye contact when greeting someone. It’s no different than in the clothed world.

A fully clothed person wouldn’t think of extending a hand in greeting another fully clothed person and eyeing that person from forehead to feet and back without ever locking eyes.

Same at Laguna del Sol. Especially at Laguna del Sol.

Sure, walking up to the pool you get a full view of all types of bodies. Some people have nice ones, and some don’t. Imagine a bustling day at the mall with hundreds of people milling about. Now imagine them all naked. That same cross section frequents nudist resorts. Who cares if he’s obese or she’s got great breasts?

One thing I learned right away: There’s no one there with a tape measure. Phew.

“There’s a favorite saying that applies to the nudist lifestyle, especially for men,” said Dan, the first person I met once Denise and I had settled onto our chaise lounges. “’You can’t get be embarrassed about every little thing.’”

He was right. Now, I could really relax.

Meeting people is easier when you're buck naked

There is plenty to do at Laguna del Sol. A typical summer weekend finds just about every camping spot filled. Most everyone I talked to at the pool agreed that Laguna del Sol is the best clothing-optional resort on the West Coast, if not in the entire western United States. There are bungalows for rent, and across the 25-acre man-made body of water known as Lake Archie, there’s a huge building with several hotel rooms, and a private pool and spa.

illustration by Hayley doshay

There are also three other pools, including a “family” one best suited for young children. The main pool includes a small spa and what is known as a conversation spa, a crescent-shaped tub that easily fits 40 people. Nearby is a lakeside restaurant and bar, and on the other side of that is a small rectangular pool that is used mainly for water volleyball.

There’s almost always a game going on, and they’re usually co-ed. There’s a regular volleyball court and a new pickleball court as well. Other recreation amenities include an archery range, a tennis court, a large gazebo with several hammocks and a trail that leads to the Cosumnes River. One side is owned by the resort and the other is public land. This is the only place where those who are free can potentially meet those encumbered by clothing.

Just about every Saturday night during the summer, the resort hosts a dance party in the main clubhouse. Laguna del Sol has hosted huge theme weekend events, and this year, it will host the 16th annual Nudestock Music Festival and the second annual Naked Man—its take on the Burning Man festival—complete with a floating, two-story welded iron sculpture with flames shooting out of its hands and water jets acting as his hair.

“Naked Man sold out last year, and people were booking camping spots the next day for this year’s event,” said Patty, our perpetually smiling and barely clothed guide who took us on a tour of the resort in a golf cart upon our first visit.

“Nudists are really fun people, and you’ll find them to be really kind and welcoming,” she said.

She was right.

Meeting people is easier when everyone is nude. One can’t tell if the person on the chaise lounge next to you is a CEO or a custodian, and, more importantly, no one seems to care. Social strata falls away along with the clothing. Introductions are usually very informal and more often than not include only first names. Topics of discussions that I engaged in over the two weekends were as varied as those I hold in my personal and professional life—a little bit of current events mixed with some politics and sports. But now these discussions include the benefits and shared experiences of nudism.

Body acceptance rises with the number of times the clothes fall. I quickly learned that my body’s imperfections matter to no one but me.

My wife loves me for who I am and not what I looked like at Laguna del Sol. Thankfully. My six-pack is hidden by a few too many 12-packs I’ve enjoyed over the years. I might have felt more insecure had everyone else had washboard abs and I was the only one carrying a few extra pounds. But this wasn’t the case. Where do we get these insecurities? Madison Avenue? High-school locker rooms? Watching too much porn?

“We are bombarded by advertisements, and in our media-driven world, we are exposed to what our culture deems to be worthy and what it deems not,” said Dorothy, a self-professed San Francisco hippie who recently retired after 35 years as a community-college sociology professor. “Attractive models have always sold our goods, and these models almost always have near-perfect bodies. The message becomes ’If you look like me, then you can have this,’ and that’s wrong.”

I couldn’t believe my luck. Here I was in the middle of a pool, stark naked and I and my new friends had struck up a deep conversation about the nudist lifestyle that quickly moved to exploring our cultural norms. Nudists have the advantage in these conversations. In one respect, nudists are the outsiders looking in. They have the benefit of shedding their negative self-images and conquering their fears of getting naked in front of complete strangers.

Believe me, there is power in this.

I don’t know if I could have gone to Laguna del Sol in my 20s. Now, I’m in my 40s and happily married to a wonderful woman who should never have a negative body issue. But she does. It’s inescapable, she said. But wield the power that comes with going nude, and true freedom can be yours. Reverse or eliminate years of societal pressures about our bodies by going nude. Stomp on the puritanical roots that create so much havoc in our psyches and in our society.

Europeans laugh at us. I was told by more than a few nudists that European nude beaches rival the number and quality of the clothed beaches. Americans’ prudish beliefs about nudity and sex have always entertained the rest of the world. Europe laughed at us when Janet Jackson’s right nipple created months of media furor.

Sometimes, it seems the entire continent is calling us out on our own hypocrisy.

If we truly are the land of the free, why do we all wear so much clothing?