Ever wondered how much sunscreen you’d need to cover every inch of your naked body? Answer: a lot. What’s harder to answer, as I stare at the mirror with butterflies in my stomach, is how deep you need to apply it into crevices that haven’t seen the sun.
I’m headed to the Pilwarren Maslin Beach Nude Games, formerly known as the “Nude Olympics” before the Australian Olympic Committee intervened, 40 minutes south of Adelaide.
It’s one of Australia’s oldest nude events (est. 1983) and marketed as a “relaxed day of fun competitions”, including a Sack Race, Best Bum contest and Tug O’ War, at the country’s first official “unclad” beach (declared in 1975).
Waving goodbye to my naked and carefree six-month-old son ahead of my first nude outing, I’m far from relaxed.
Halfway down the steps along the beach’s imposing limestone cliffs, I spot a kaleidoscope of beach shades and a fleshy crowd surrounding the Frisbee Distance Throwing Competition.
I pass a great wall of arses and toss my towel in a quiet spot before taking a moment to compose myself.
Then, like a Band-Aid, I rip off my boardshorts and singlet before I succumb to the voice in my head telling me to return, demoralised, to the car.
And then? Nothing. The music doesn’t screech to a halt. No one’s staring at my Mr Burns-esque physique, or laughing at what’s between my legs.
Nonetheless, I’m not completely at ease. I awkwardly greet organiser, David Pillar — who’s wearing a black Akubra and… well, nothing else — unsure how to hold my phone and notebook considering I’m sans pockets.
David and wife Debbie own a nudist resort alongside the Murray, about 160 kilometres north-east from here. They’ve run the Games for six years after a five-year hiatus when the event struggled to attract sponsorship.
I tell David about my nerves and ask why more folks don’t give nudism a go.
“The media doesn’t help, the way nudity’s portrayed,” he says.
“People are still very conservative, more so than 15 years ago.
“But this is just a great day for everyone in the community to get together and have a fun time, and to attract new people to the lifestyle.
“We regularly get people coming over from interstate, and we’ve even had people come here from overseas, just for the Games.”
The event was threatened with cancellation again in 2016 when the local council tried to impose strict permit conditions requiring attendees to sign lengthy forms, and children to be clothed, citing “concerns” about child safety.
The council relented, but occasional media beat-ups still surface about Maslin Beach, ranked Australia’s sixth best beach in 2016, hinting at society’s uncomfortable attitude to nudity. Later that year South Australia’s major daily newspaper, The Advertiser, ran a front-page story detailing how augmented reality game Pokemon Go was “sending children” to what it called a “notorious gay beat” to catch the virtual creatures.
The Games seem to be thriving, numbers-wise. Hundreds of people, of all shapes, colours and sizes, dot the beach. Some are clothed, but the vast majority are nude. Young families frolic naked in the water and build sandcastles.
David points out some out-of-towners I’m keen to chat to, but I’m halfway to them when the MC calls for Balloon Break Competition entrants.
I put up my hand before I can chicken out, and I’m soon zipping around the sand with 20 giggling others, our bits dangling while we attempt to stomp balloons tied around one another’s ankles. Last person with balloon intact wins.
I’m eliminated by a strapping goateed fella with about 10 competitors remaining. By the time I reach bronzed retirees Mike, wife Carol and another relaxed couple, who are road-tripping from Brisbane, I realise my nakedness hasn’t crossed my mind for 15 minutes.
“We’ve been to the Alexandria Beach [Noosa] games, and the one in Samurai Beach, near Newcastle, but it’s our first time here,” says Mike, who became a nudist in the 1970s.
“It’s just so much nicer nude, you know?
“Particularly on the beach. You don’t have to put anything on and… you just enjoy it.”
It’s not the most eloquent explanation, but perhaps that’s all there is to nudism. I’m barely 30 minutes into my maiden voyage and I’m already feeling fantastic. The dreamy 25 degree air envelops every nook, and the light easterly wind invigorates my skin.
I meet Callum, the balloon champ, next to the competitors area. He’s 24, tall and long-haired like a stadium rockstar. Confident yet kind. He won two events last year, but went home with “head-to-toe” sunburn.
Callum’s joined by his 21-year-old girlfriend Nakita. She’s David and Debbie’s daughter and has been coming to the Games “since birth”.
I ask whether nudism is at risk of fading away. The majority here are boomers.
“It’s definitely still predominantly older people at organised events and clubs, but that’s not to say young people aren’t interested,” Nakita says.
“They’d rather just do it on the fly.”
“She wants to grill her parents about their social media skills,” laughs Callum.
“If there was more advertisement aimed at younger people then you’d get more involved.”
“It’s mostly [marketed on] radio and in the newspaper,” Nakita admits.
“And how many young people read the newspaper?”
What’s stopping young people taking up nudism, I ask?
“Negative body image is a big one,” she says.
“There’s so much body-shaming. That’s why this community’s so important.”
Aside from one man’s genitals, featuring a smorgasbord of piercings, I’m struck by just how… “normal” today has been. After my initial nerves, I’ve largely felt no different than I would attending your run-of-the-mill surf lifesaving carnival or church fete.
My shoulders beginning to pink, I bid them adieu and trudge through the sand towards the carpark, bumping into Miss V, a nurse, on the way. The smell of sausage sizzle fills the air.
“The Greeks invented this, man, and I’m Greek so I’m just following tradition,” she tells me.
Indeed, the original Olympians often competed nude.
“Plus it’s a pretty good perv.”
And with that, she and friend Michelle, a former Miss Maslin Beach, are off to the arena. Chasing gold in the Three-Legged Race.