I’ve lived in the Central Okanagan for 15 years and despite having some naturist friends, I never knew there was a clothing-optional beach called Three Mile in Penticton until last year when a group of it’s nearby property owners objected, and their debate in front of city council was covered in the media.
The naturists have now formed the Three Mile Naturist Beach Committee to defend their right as taxpayers to continue enjoying the secluded area unclothed.
The north end of this beach has been utilized by naturists since at least 1926, but I was unaware of it since I had no desire to seek it out. If my dad lived here, he probably would have known because he was what we called a nudist back in the day.
My father is one of those people who truly loved being in harmony with nature without the social and psychological restraints of clothing. His respect of the human body as it was created extended to him teaching us to feel comfortable with our bodies, free from the unhealthy pressures of what we should and shouldn’t look like. He would skinny dip in our pool, hang out in the buff, and sometimes he’d take my brother, mother and me to the clothing-optional Wreck Beach in Vancouver.
My little brother and I chose to keep our bathing suits on, but our parents didn’t. Seeing them was no big deal, but looking at the naked bodies of strangers had Jeremie and I giggling at first. That reaction wore off quickly though, and we delighted in the sun and sand like everyone else.
It was the mid ‘70s then, a time that reminds Judy Williams, the prominent long-time chair of the Wreck Beach Preservation Society, of the recent uproar over Three Mile.
“This small cadre of resident complaints are reminiscent of the evangelical minister, Bernice Gerard, and supporters who tried to shame naturists off Wreck in 1976,” she explains. “Instead they catapulted it to international fame.”
Now known as North America’s largest naturist oceanfront attracting visitors from over 150 countries, she said it generated over $135 million in tourist revenue in 2014 alone.
“Those objecting to the naturists at Three Mile have said that public nudity is ‘morally reprehensible’,” Judy said. “Yet they ignore not only Canadian case law (Beaupre and Benolkin), but also Paul M. Bowman’s defence of social public nudity in his book Nakedness and the Bible. Pope John Paul II expressed his belief that the naked human body was beautiful because God created it, and that prurience was only in the eyes of the beholder.”
Judy also pointed out that naturists keep Three Mile clean and safe by self-policing and abiding to a code of etiquette. People are not permitted to mock sunbathers or gawk at them, and if anyone wants to take a picture they must ask first. “But children are off limits, period,” she said.
“Concerns about attracting sexual predators and pedophiles have been raised,” Judy said. “Unfortunately those people can exist anywhere in society. On a clothing-optional beach people tend to really look out for each other and show more respect. Rude, lewd and illegal behaviour of any kind isn’t tolerated.”
A lot of people have the perception that naturists are exhibitionists and nude beaches are sexual, but in my experience the skimpy bikinis and people strutting their stuff seen on many regular beaches elicit more eroticism and ogling than the boring quietness I witnessed at Wreck.
My naturist friends and Judy confirm that it’s still boring and quiet at any typical clothing-optional beach, and they highly recommend it as a wholesome and incredibly safe environment for families to spend time together. Obviously, though, it’s not for everyone.
“At Three Mile one must really go out of their way to be offended,” Judy said. She thinks a sign informing the public that it’s clothing-optional is all that’s required to keep people from seeing anything they don’t want to.
“The people in the vicinity who are objecting think their property values will go down,” Judy said. “Quite the contrary. Naturism is a billion dollar a year industry world-wide, and people like myself will specifically travel to clothing-optional beaches abroad because we don’t go to textile beaches.”
And it has absolutely nothing to do with being an exhibitionist.
“I’m 71, I’m overweight by societal standards and I have cellulite,” she said. “I don’t care. My body is my ‘temple’ on this Earth, and the way it looks doesn’t define who I am as a person.”
If that doesn’t sound like someone with a healthy, evolved attitude about their body, I don’t know what does.
For more information on naturist etiquette please visit WreckBeach.org
Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com