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An overhead view of the clubhouse and pool area at the Ponderosa Nature Resort
The flag of the Ponderosa Nature Resort proudly flies at the entrance of the rural nudist resort near Freelton, outside of Hamilton, Ont
In August, the Ponderosa Nature Resort will stage another skinny dip contest to try to beat the 2014 record of 310 nudists in the club’s swimming pool
At the the Ponderosa Nature Resort, members are at ease with the idea of being naked and have lost their inhibitions. But sexual behaviour is not tolerated
Club members watch musicians perform at a Nudestock rock festival held at the Ponderosa Nature resort
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Peter BaileyDo you have dreams of being naked in a crowd of clothed strangers? Are you okay with that? If so, you may have the makings of a nudist. Especially if you’re over 35.

Nudist resorts all over the world are noticing a drop in younger members. Even in Germany, which has embraced nudism for more than a century, fewer young people are becoming part of organized nudism. It’s the same in North America.

As early as 2007, columnist Bonnie Henry wrote in the Arizona Daily Star that nudism’s allure was lost on the young. Of the 50,000 registered nudists in the United States at that time, most were older than 35. Fewer young people are interested in paying several hundred dollars to join a club and sunbathe, swim and play volleyball with members their parents’ age.

As Henry put it, “Who wants to bounce the ball around with folks who look like they’re three years away from the handbag factory?”

It seems that a generation that’s used to downloading movies and music for free, and doesn’t believe in paying for news online, also doesn’t want to pay to go somewhere to be naked. If a young couple or group wants to do so, they’ll just go to an obliging beach or park and bare all.

According to spokesperson Dory Ainsworth of the Ponderosa Nature Resort near Freelton, north of Hamilton, Ont., paying to be naked seems to be the stumbling block for young people.

“We’ve put out the word on Twitter and Facebook, we’ve reached out to Young Naturists America and we’ve done extensive advertising. Cost seems to be the issue. They just don’t want to pay.”

In general, men seem to be much more at ease with the idea of being naked. But Ainsworth agrees that women tend to lose their inhibitions as they age. “They’re past trying to impress anybody,” she says. So membership in nudism groups continues to be older. At the Ponderosa, most members fit that category.

Contrary to common belief, the emphasis is on getting along and being at peace with being naked. It’s not sexual and licentious behaviour isn’t tolerated. It’s also true that, after a while of relaxing naked with other members, it’s easy to move beyond the idea that everyone around you is nude. Members like the fact that financial status and body image mean very little here. And yes, most people shave or closely trim their pubic hair.

Despite the older demographic, the emphasis on activities continues to be sports, Ainsworth says. August will feature the Nude Olympics, with a five-kilometre race, volleyball, tennis, horseshoes, Frisbee golf, petanque (a French version of bocci played on a sand court) and ladder ball, played by tossing two balls connected by a string towards the rungs of a ladder.

In winter, the clubhouse has darts and indoor swimming events.

Ainsworth is also organizing another skinny dip contest in August. The record was set at 310 people crowded into the pool in 2014. This year, she hopes to beat that number.

Singles, couples and families are welcome to join the club. If you’re interested in becoming a nudist, there are rules you should know:

  • Bring a towel, suntan lotion, sunglasses and a hat.
  • Hats and wraps should be worn when food is being served.
  • Sit on your towel, always, when nude.
  • Be respectful of others’ privacy.
  • Don’t stare or leer at other nudists.
  • Don’t comment about other people’s bodies.
  • Always shower with soap before entering the pool.
  • You must be nude on the pool deck and in the water.
  • No cellphones, cameras or other electronic devices are allowed in the nude areas.
  • Men who fear they may become aroused should keep their towels handy.

“Think about your grandma,” Ainsworth advises. “Do you want her to see your erection?”

“I’ve never seen one in the 11 years I’ve lived here,” she says. “If there’s any sort of sexual activity, the offender is told to stop. If there’s a second time, they’re banned.”

Every week or two, the resort organizes a dance with a live band or DJ. People are welcome to be nude or clothed.

Especially popular are costume and Halloween parties, Ainsworth says. One year, she came as a devil and her husband Shawn Rutledge came dressed as an angel.

She laughs heartily at the memory.

“Yeah, you may not think it, but we nudists love to dress up!”

Peter Bailey is an award-winning newspaper editor and writer with more than 40 years of experience. He specializes in automotive and travel writing, and lives in Hamilton, Ont.


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