For me, summertime is synonymous with skinny dipping. Balmy nighttime air, dark foamy wave crests, the thrill of momentarily exposing your pale butt-cheeks, and the salty, perfect chill of skin to water contact. There are few things better than swimming naked.
In high school my group of friends and I observed Naked Thursdays and stripped down together once a week in the summer months to frolic in the waves. My best friend Serena and I enjoy cheeky daytime dips where we swim far beyond the breakwater, slip off our bikinis and hold them as we paddle around and pretend to be mermaids. No camping trip in Baja, Mexico was complete without sneaking to an isolated cove to splash naked with my beachy beautiful friends. My family supports my bliss, occasionally reminding me to take advantage of a new skinny dipping spot (like they did last summer in Tahoe while we paddle boarded). One of my life goals is to skinny dip in as many major bodies of water around the world as possible—so you could say I take it seriously. Some of the most serene, hilarious, awe-inspired, and content moments of my life have been spent nude in the ocean. I highly recommend it.
That being said, skinny dipping also comes with risks—risks that I feel compelled to educate novices about. In Dubrovnik, Croatia this past May, my friend Charlotte and I went on a morning run around the beach path in Lapad, a suburb outside the city center where we stayed. It was hot and bright at 9am. After we’d been moving for a while, we stopped to catch our breath and walk along the fat white pebbles that made up the shoreline. Within about ten minutes we found a cove that was almost completely hidden on three sides by rocks jutting out.
The water was heart-stopping and impeccable—blue hombre, still, and sparkling. We could see the clutter of brown and khaki-colored stones, their tiny flecks and algae-covered ridges, and the rippled sand further out as if we were only inches away from it all. The sunlight illuminated the water and colored the area by the shore a crisp, translucent yellow. The rest of the sea faded between turquoise and navy.
Charlotte and I glanced around and immediately peeled off our sports bras and dusty socks and dipped slowly into the cold water. The temperature made my heart beat quickly and I swam underwater frog-style for as long as I could manage until my limbs were pumping with blood. We floated on our backs and laughed and dove and tried to touch the floor with our hands.
After a long while, we were past the point of numbness and were shivering uncontrollably. Just as we were about to get out, a woman descended from the path above. “Hello!” she said. “Hi-i!” we sang back in nervous unison.
“Shit,” I said to Charlotte. We couldn’t discern from her expression whether or not the woman knew we were naked, but as she proceeded to inspect the rocks, stare at the ocean, smile, inspect the rocks again, bend down, touch the rocks, throw one or two, stand up again, walk a little to the left, and walk a little to the right we concluded she probably had no clue we were in the buff. After what felt like five hours but was actually only thirty minutes, she left.
Charlotte and I made a mad dash for our clothes and were completely out of the water when a middle-aged man with a fanny pack bumbled obliviously down the dirt path. I’ve never moved so fast. We scrambled back into the water and ducked under for as long as our lungs could stand, until we surfaced and laughed so hard (while simultaneously trying to be discreet) that I thought I would choke.
We guessed that he might leave, but once he began unclasping his belt and unbuttoning his shirt, we became concerned. Before we had time to wonder if we inadvertently led ourselves to a nude beach, we watched as the man deliberately took off each article of his clothing—all but his hat—and placed it folded on the flat boulder beside him. Then he perched himself on the rock (facing away from the ocean and from us, thank goodness), propped his hands up behind his back, smiled, and sighed. From his deep brown skin and lack of tan lines, it was clear he sunbathed nude regularly. Charlotte and I were partly stunned, confused, and relieved. After all, we reasoned, he was naked--so surely he wouldn’t be offended or surprised if others were too. We were freezing and hungry now and had no choice anyway.
So, with newfound confidence and resolve, Charlotte and I stood tall, walked out of the water, and began putting on our clothes as if dressing in public was a regular and casual occurrence for us. It was liberating to be, if only briefly, so open and self-assured.
Of course this calm confidence lasted about forty-five seconds until we had our clothes back on—haphazard and sticking to our wet skin—and were able to sprint away without ever making eye contact or initiating a hello.
It was an adrenaline-filled day and one of my favorite memories. I’m visiting Maui with my family this week and am relishing a naked nighttime dip here and there. But unlike two years ago when I was last on the island, I’m not tucking my ID card in my bikini top only to lose it once I fling said bikini top off in the dark Pacific waters. I’m always learning.
If you’ve got the guts and a safe, comfortable environment, I encourage you to get naked in the water this summer. If nothing else, it’s always a great story.