Photo by Kirsty Moore
Nudism. Naturism. Whatever name you give it, there is one common message: not wearing clothes is good for the body and mind. From biblical characters, to ancient civilisations, to paintings by the Renaissance masters, the naked figure has been celebrated since time began. It is not known when humans began to wear clothes. What probably started as practical coverings for protection from cold, heat and rain, have evolved over millennia to represent culture, status and fashion. And as clothing became the norm, lack of clothing became taboo.
For many years Barcelona was the only Spanish city where nudity was allowed, making it one of the main tourist destinations for the naturist community. In 2004, a brochure was published by local naturist groups, encouraging people to wander naked through the streets. Photos of ordinary citizens naked on the metro and in the city’s parks affirmed that the law did not contain any article for sanctions against public nudity.
In the years to follow, however, conservative political forces put increasing pressure on the socialist-led council to crack down on nudism, saying that Barcelona was projecting an image of a place where everyone can do whatever they want. They were worried about the demographic of visitors and expats that this permissiveness would attract.
In May 2011, it became official. The Ajuntament de Barcelona passed a law prohibiting nudity in the streets or walking around in bathing suits. Violators may receive a fine of €300 to €500 if they refuse to dress after receiving an initial warning. Last August, a group of naked Italian tourists wandered the streets of Barceloneta, sparking protests from residents across the city, demanding that the Guàrdia Urbana bring some law and order to unruly tourists.
There are, of course, two sides to every debate. The Club Català de Naturisme (CCN) plays a big role in protecting the rights and beliefs of the naturist community. Founded in January 1977, the non-profit organisation works to promote naturism, encouraging a harmonious coexistence of its members alongside the general public and a positive climate of respect for naturists’ choices, through events, mainly outdoor activities. This May, the organisation sponsored the 13th edition of the Cros Naturista de Catalunya, a 4km mad dash made by people wearing solely trainers. Anyone can sign up, registration is free, and ‘just do it...naked’ is their slogan.
On a smaller scale, there is a local guy, known as ‘The Elephant Man’, ‘The Tripod’ or simply ‘the naked old guy’, who has wandered around town nude for years, usually donning only a baseball cap, socks and shoes. His real name is Esteban. He is over 70 years old and has extensive tattoos all over his body, even sporting tatted swimming trunks. With a habit of striking up conversations with strangers and yelling at tourists who stare a bit too long, he has become something of a local celebrity.
George, 45, from northern Portugal, has lived in Barcelona for 10 years now and takes off his clothes “in any place it is acceptable to be naked”. From the time he moved here, he has sought private nude beaches to visit on his days off from working as a receptionist in a local hostel. “I never feel as though people are judging me or looking at me when I am at a beach like this,” he said, referring to the secluded sandy patches amongst black boulders between Platja del Morer, Sant Pol and Platja de la Roca Grossa, Calella. “If I went naked at a beach closer to the city, I wouldn’t feel quite so at ease.” Although the majority of beachgoers in and around Barcelona prefer to just take off their tops, George clarified that being completely naked is still quite popular if you know where to go. In fact, on the weekends, the nude beaches he frequents get rather crowded. “I’ve even made a number of friends while naked at the beach,” he continued. “Everyone has a different background, but we all have similar interests, which makes it easy to hang out at the beach and elsewhere.”
George and other nudists alike have a number of reasons for taking their clothes off in natural settings, “and the best part—we’re not hurting anybody by doing it,” he added. One of the main reasons why people choose to bare it all is purely comfort. Many feel more comfortable in their own skin, without tight, restrictive clothing. Nitzan, 18, from Tel Aviv, explained that from the first time she went semi-nude at the beach in Barcelona, removing only her top, it was a completely different experience. Now she takes it all off, and says she truly feels like this is the way it should be. “I only regret wearing a bathing suit for all those years,” she chuckled.
Nudism demystifies the human body. When people are regularly around naked bodies, they become familiar with them and are no longer so curious about seeing others naked. Accordingly, nudism should not be associated with sex. Nitzan acknowledged that one thing she always feared about being naked was that people would fantasise about her. “I was ashamed of my body, but mostly afraid of how people would react to my body,” she said. Many people, when they try nudism, find themselves surprised at the lack of sexual arousal they experience. In fact, at naturist resorts and events, nudists often times forget they, and the other people, are nude—it is not about flaunting their nakedness, it’s more about a lack of self-consciousness. Nitzan agreed that in Barcelona she could be naked or semi-naked and it wasn’t even special, much less sexual. “There’s no weirdness or sexual tension,” she said, “just humans being one with nature.”
She elaborated further, saying that on nude beaches here, it’s not even about being a man or a woman. “In my country, gender equality is a constant discussion,” she said. “It’s incredible that all I had to do was take off my clothes to feel like an equal. Here, naked on the beach, sitting next to my boyfriend, it feels like we are two equal mortals.”
If you’re not convinced that nudism is for you, you might also consider that the fewer clothes you wear, the less laundry you have to do. Just keep in mind the right place to strip down to your birthday suit. We wouldn’t want you getting fined just when the fun’s beginning.
BEST BEACHES TO BARE ALL
Mar Bella. Barcelona. Just a stone’s throw from the city centre, this may well be the most urban nude beach in the world. Nudists are generally in the minority among the hordes of locals and tourists here although it is perfectly acceptable.
La Vinyeta. Calella. This thin slice of sand, where the Montnegre massif slopes down into the sea, is one of the nicest stretches of coastline along the Maresme. La Vinyeta features coarse, yellowish sand, and just beyond the Rocapins beach bar, the free spirits of the nudist sector take over.
La Musclera. Arenys de Mar. Backed by rocks and sand dunes, this 750-metre nudist beach offers privacy for anyone fancying a spot of skinny dipping. It is easily accessed by car and sought after by many, so go early to snag a spot. With clean, fine-grained sand and a simple chiringuito, La Musclera is a peaceful paradise where you can work on that all over tan.
Cala Sa Boadella. Lloret de Mar. Surrounded by cliffs and pine trees, this beach is recommended to the naturist community by the CCN (el Club Català de Naturisme). Cala Sa Boadella combines the crystal-clear waters of the typical Costa Brava cala (cove) with the space of larger beaches. Here visitors, clothed or unclothed, can enjoy the charm of this practically unspoiled strand.
Cala Morisca. Garraf. This cove at the foot of the Garraf massif has all the amenities of urban beaches, plus the laid-back ethos of the nudist community. But don’t feel like you have to get naked-—here textiles and nudists mingle harmoniously.
Cala Balmins. Sitges. The town of Sitges offers a number of clothing-optional stretches of sand. Cala Balmins is popular with gay men, and although this beach has a more masculine vibe than other naturist beaches, the atmosphere is not intimidating.
Els Muntanyans. Torredembarra. In this spectacular chain of golden dunes, an area of 200 metres is reserved for those who want nothing to come between them and the natural beauty around them. This designated nudist area has a relaxed atmosphere and is located about a 10-minute walk from the car park near the Cal Bofill Environmental Activity Center.
Club Català de Naturisme
Founded in 1977, the Club Català de Naturisme promotes the normalisation of nudism and organises regular outings and events. Initial registration fee is €12. Annual fee is €47 for individuals, €23 for under 30s and €82 for couples. www.naturisme.cat.
Nucat (Nudisme a Catalunya) has a website and active Facebook page with news and events. www.nucat.cat.
The Piscines Picornell on Montjuïc have offered a ‘nudist hour’ for over 16 years. Between May and October swimmers can go naked on Saturdays between 9pm and 11pm and on Sundays between 4pm and 6pm. The pool is exclusively for nudists at that time. www.picornell.cat.