“Nude recreation is fun”

nude warningErich Schuttauf is the executive director of the American Association for Nude Recreation, a group that represents clothing-optional resorts. There’s been a lot of talk about nudism in the travel world lately, from two highly-publicized incidents this summer in which disruptive airline passengers disrobed, to the group’s efforts to coin a new term: the “nakation.” That’s right, folks. AANR has trademarked the word. Do nudists have an image problem? I asked Schuttauf.

Let me start by asking you about Keith Wright and Darius Chappille, two airline passengers who caused disruptions on separate flights this summer, during which they removed all of their clothes. How do incidents like this affect the nudist community?

It detracts from one of the core values in our mission statement, which is that we advocate for nudity only within appropriate settings. Nude when possible but clothed when practical.

While we’re on the subject of image, I wanted to ask you about Paradise Lakes Resort in Florida, which withdrew from your association after being temporarily suspended for violating what have been termed “family-friendly” principles. Do nudists have an image to uphold, and if so, what is it?

Behavior within the nudist community should require no apology. We have earned a reputation as the credible voice of reason for family social nude recreation since 1931 and take that reputation very seriously.

Section 1.4 of the AANR procedure manual says “it is important that we maintain the highest standards of courtesy, dignity, and personal integrity.” Call me a prude, but I think there are a lot of Americans who think the words “nudism” and “dignity” — let alone “personal integrity” don’t belong in the same sentence. Am I missing something?

Those who have not given nude recreation a try are definitely missing out on something: the level of body acceptance and personal comfort that comes with allowing yourself and others to be who you are. We often say it but a visitor to a nudist club doesn’t know a bank president from a bus driver. Likewise, those with scars or a few pounds to lose find self-confidence. Its about body acceptance rather than bodies.

AANR’s principles and standards state that you “recognize the essential wholesomeness of the human body and that life is enhanced by the naturalness of social nudity.” In a way, those are principles to which Keith Wright and Darius Chappille subscribed, too. Help me understand what make you different, please.

AANR’s mission clearly states we advocate for nudity within appropriate settings. We understand that nude recreation is not for everyone and are committed to being good neighbors.

The latest Y Partnership 2009 National Leisure Travel Monitor finds that interest in nude recreation slipped from 11 percent in 2008 to 10 percent this year. In the interests of full disclosure, I should also mention the Y Partnership is your public relations firm. Are you concerned that your popularity has peaked?

Reviewing the entire study the traveling public’s interest in virtually all activities has dropped a little bit. I attribute this to the fact there are even more and more choices of things to do. And, relative to many widely popular activities, nude recreation is doing very well.

Speaking of your PR firm, I understand it coined the term “nakation.” That’s very clever. What do you think of that term?

A nakation is a vacation you will want to brag to friends about. I love the term chiefly because it’s so much fun. Anyone who has ever gone skinny-dipping or as a kid romped through the back yard sprinkler in their birthday suit knows. Nude recreation is fun.

I can’t help but notice surveys like TripAdvisor’s “5 naked events and top 5 nude beaches,” which, if you don’t mind me saying so, seem a little exploitative. Come to think of it, there are some who will think this interview is just a shameless attempt to attract visitors. Where do you cross the line between legitimate journalism and a titillating ratings grab?

We’re more than willing to have a little bit of fun in the media if it means having an opportunity to let others know about where they can experience the joys of going clothes-free. For example, in July we convinced members and first-time visitors alike to give swimming in the buff a try as we set a Guinness World Record for the most number of people simultaneously skinny dipping. We’re talking about 13,648 people in more than 100 locations throughout North America shedding clothes.

On the other hand the importance of maintaining credibility means that we’re committed to striking a balance. Nude recreation is a lot of fun to experience and to talk about, but only if we can be a good neighbor as we do so.

About a year ago, German entrepreneur Enrico Hess tried to start a clothing-optional airline. That hasn’t taken off yet, as far as I can tell. Given the slide in interest and the recent publicity issues that mainstream nudists have been faced with, would it be fair to conclude that the nudist movement has fallen on hard times?

Within our association, 2009 membership revenue has increased about 10 percent over 2008 figures. I know that a lot of my colleagues who lead other associations would be very happy to have numbers like those. Most clubs and resorts have remained resilient despite the drop in the economy. It is fair to say that members are traveling less and visiting clubs closer to home. There is a lot for which we are thankful.

(Photo: STML/Flickr Creative Commons)

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