East Meets West: Newfoundland vs "Nude Land"...

…Memories of the Atlantic; Flirting with the Pacific

There’s a little cove not far from Flat Rock. This cove is about a fifteen, maybe twenty minute drive north-west from St. John’s. I don’t know the name of it, I’m sure that born and bred Townies certainly do. You park your car, walk up a little grassy knoll, and then there’s a little drop off that leads to a few meters stretch of sand and then a mélange of gray and purple and blue rocks, stones, pebbles, and then; the ocean. I think some people don’t realize just how vivid, how strikingly blue something so chilly can be. Turquoise seas aren’t just for the tropics you know.

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Truth be told, the tail end of summer is one of my favourite seasons. The days are still long, the sun is still some warm. On that particular day that I went down to that little cove, the sun was warm enough to entice me, though full of trepidations, to strip down to my skivvies. Why not? My bra and drawers matched (for once, which basically equates to being a super hero), I had to capitalize on the moment. I sneaked out of my shorts and tiptoed just as gingerly into the ocean. Those aforementioned petite pebbles did not make for a stable foundation, nor do the ferocious waves of the Atlantic. Even up to my ankles I was being pushed, swayed, and dared to hold my own. I was dared to find equilibrium amidst the swirl and froth of the sea. I was taunted to be humbled by nature’s magnitude while resolute in the conviction that I could stand on my own two legs, stepping, skipping even, submerging and plunging my feet in and out of that salty marina, while not being overwhelmed.

I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Every once and awhile I would be struck with the deep awareness of where I was. I was frolicking in the ocean. I was at the edge of Canada, having new adventures with new people, learning more about the country I love, and more about myself, a person I was starting to love deeply.  Could this day get any better? I was dancing among the stars; star fish that is. Swirling around my ankles like an ocean-bound Milky Way were dozens of purple starfish. Some the size of toonies, others the dimes, others still the size of a large maple leaf’s.  I got to be a celestial body; for moment, I was the sun that the stars orbited. While being blown in the waves, I scooped down and cupped my palms; I held dozens of starfish, an entire universe in my hands. My heart swelled as much as the waves did. That swim in the Atlantic only happened once, the preceding days too cold, my time in that beautiful province, too brief. However, as they say, the memories were that of a lifetime…

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My penchant for the water, however, has been there since I’ve been knee-high to a grasshopper. Those bodies of water were the lakes and rivers of Ontario, still bewitching, mind you, just not as immense. Now it amazes me that I live in a city where you don’t have to go on a journey to get to the beach. The beaches of my youth were reserved for early morning rises, packed cars and then sleepy sunset drives back home.  (Oh haaay Sauble Beach, I’m looking at you. You know I love you, you enticing minx!). There are a bumper crop of beaches in Van which border the ocean to choose where you want to go to get sand between your toes, and other places…There’s one beach, in particular, that holds a special place in the infamy of the Canadian beaches. One sandy shore beautifully highlights that the West coast is different from the rest of the nation. That is Wreck Beach. THE nude beach.

Wreck is located at the most western end of the city, at the edge of the University of British Columbia Campus (Can you imagine being a wee little Froshie, barely 18 and in your residence’s back yard is a veritable playground of nudity? It makes me chuckle before I put it out of mind and fling off my shirt). You have to work a bit for joyful hedonism, rather, when you’re done frolicking in the sun and surf your penance is nearly 500 stairs. That’s me jumping to the end though before I’ve not even gotten to the meaty stuff.  

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The stairs to Wreck are wooded ones that remind you of a deck at a cottage. Just a lot of them. You twist and wind amongst hundreds of tall trees, with regular revelers clomping past with coolers and blankets or the beautiful nut bags (no pun intended) that are trailer runners using the second best Stairmaster in town (the top honour goes to the Grouse Grind. I haven’t done it yet. Google that bad boy from a comfortable chair, then read the warning about how you shouldn’t participate if you have a heart condition). Lower and lower, the trees begin to thin and the white sand make themselves known. Even better than the sand is the ocean with the sun twinkling away dressed up in hundreds of rhinestones. The ocean is the only thing dressed up; nudity as far as the eye can see!

It's one thing to conceptualize that you’re going to a place where there’s more buns than a bakery, but in reality the first time I went, “hundy p” I was grateful that I had giant sunglasses on to hide my darting eyes and internal giggles. My giggles certainly weren’t from a place of judgment; I’m not posing on the cover of Vanity Fair (yet…) Nudity! I had a choice before me, would my modesty prevail, coquettishly play peek-a-boo with the sun, first my flip flops, my shorts, allowing anxiety to build, my ego and mind to race. Or, or...without allowing myself to even have my blanket down, I gave’r. Free them nipples girl! And I’m proud to say that the first time I went to Wreck I wore my Neapolitan tan like a badge of honour across my chest and cheeks (I kept my muff covered though, thanks for asking). What is a Neapolitan tan? White, brown, pink; where the sun screen covered, places that were used to being bared in the sun and where it really really wasn’t use to hitting.

Again, with that face-splitting grin; I was trying something so wildly out of my comfort zone. Here I was naked and having a day-date with myself, tanning my titties, feeling like a hell of  a mermaid splashing in the Pacific with the mountains keeping watch over myself and the rest of the joyful sun worshipers.

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It’s beautiful to see the gamut of people who frequent that beach. The 20 something dudes peacocking around. Bitty babies with their parents, equal parts enthralled and horrified by the waves. Perhaps my favourite type of beach bums (I’m trying so hard to not litter this with nude puns, give me that one): the little old couples, leathered skin, reclining in there metal and fabric sun chairs, probably older than me, just delighting in the sunshine. Delighting in the company of each other and a place they’ve been going to for decades. Ain’t old love grand?

The fully clothed tourist, however, with their cameras gawking can fuck right off. Seriously? Drop your gitch and let me zoom in your attributes or lack of.  Being down at Wreck means entering into a community which you have a responsibly to uphold. Respect. First and foremost, you have to have what the Queen of Soul was singing about. By going naked you’ve entertained into an agreement that you are demystifying the stigma of nudity and embracing the beauty of the human form free of objectification, sexualization.

This isn’t to say that everyone adheres to this ideal. There have been times when specifically older men feel like they have the right to face toward my friends and myself and plunk themselves and their sack spread-eagle. Another buddy was put in his place for getting shutter happy with his iPhone. Women and men of various ages were quick to tell him how utterly inappropriate his actions were. Remember: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

That’s the thing about Wreck, you just want to enjoy yourself. It’s about getting lost in the carefree nature, of that laid back easy feeling. Not having the restriction of the clock, or your clothes. Freedom.

Eventually, though, begrudgingly, Father Time does find a way to catch up with you. You find your clothes (maybe you’ll leave your underwear out of the equation, enjoy the breeze a bit longer) assemble your things and make your way up those hundreds of stairs. And, while you’re still glowing and charged from the sun, you know that another day at the beach will come, and tan lines will be a thing of the past...