Hundreds of Calgarians are discovering the joys of hiking, swimming, yoga and even reading fine literature – while wearing nothing more than a smile.
“Being naked is very liberating, and in the company of great non-judgemental people is quite exhilarating,” says Marcel Bailly, 66.
Bailly has been taking naked yoga classes for several years, and more recently joined Calgary Nude Recreation (CNR), a group that has begun hosting monthly nude swims at a local wave pool and recreation centre.
“I enjoy being naked, especially with others, and there are very few places to do that,” he says. “It’s a wonderful social and physically beneficial experience.”
Katherine Medina is the owner of Naked Yoga YYC and she says that when she first came up with the idea, her plan was to empower women.
“I found that so many women didn’t know how beautiful they were,” she explains of some of her students who had experienced trauma, body image issues or eating disorders. “Naked yoga was a safe place to go to feel strong and empowered.”
As her business has evolved, people from all walks of life now attend her classes.
“I would say that the hardest part for people is walking through the door,” she chuckles. “After the first few minutes you don’t even remember you’re naked. I even have to remind people sometimes.”
Keely Kamikaze who has a background in burlesque and is a long-time feminist, brought to Calgary Naked Girls Reading a franchise that originated in Chicago in 2009. The goal of the group is to challenge the idea that sexy and intellectual can’t go hand in hand.
Women register to read au naturel at a local night club or restaurant. Each month there’s a unifying theme, but within those guidelines the ladies may choose to read from whatever books they choose.
“Calgary has never been short of readers,” says Kamikaze, adding newcomers always get priority. “There’s nothing quite like seeing a brand new reader.”
Kamikaze explains that though the events are fun and sometimes playful, the underlying theme is serious.
“For generations, women have been so shamed and mocked for their nudity,” she says. “This event allows us not only to take back power over our bodies, but our minds as well. We’re loving ourselves as we are.”
Lucille Johnsrude agrees. She says she discovered how much she enjoyed nudist activities in her 50s.
“After years of being prim and proper, when you get to a certain age you can just say ‘who cares?’ and become yourself, free of the inhibition of society,” she says. “It’s so empowering to be comfortable in one’s skin.”
Not everyone feels this way. When Calgary Nude Recreation first tried to host naked swims at city-owned pools, protesters were swift to try to shut it down. But with the city on board and with more than 100 people attending every month, the event has prevailed.
Naked Jeff (as he likes to be known) is one of the organizers and he says it’s an event whose time has come.
“Naked Girls Reading is a spectator event and yoga is yoga – lots of people don’t like it, so it’s time we had this in Calgary,” he says of the swim, adding that though he’s been a nudist for 20 years, he hates the term ‘long-time’. “It implies a lifestyle that’s not me.”
Nudism isn’t new to the area.
Sunny Chinooks Camping Association is a thriving nudist resort near Sundre that’s been a haven for naturist families for more than 50 years.
Reg Easton, 77, and his wife Sheila are former assistant managers of the club, having lived on the site and even raised their boys as full-time nudists. He points out that throughout the winter months the club has hosted naked swims in Calgary since the 1960s.
“It’s something we’ve done every month in the winter since I think 1968,” he says. “We just did it quietly because there was always a squeaky wheel who was anti-nudism that would try to spoil things.”
With naked hikes and bike rides planned and even an unofficially designated nude beach nestled by the Bow River, it looks like nudism in Calgary is here to stay. Briggitte Gingras, 50, hopes so. Having attended several nude events in the city, she says she’s hooked.
“Everyone is so genuine,” she says. “And it makes these events worth attending time and time again. “I really wish that there were more events year-round that catered to a nudist lifestyle."
For more information on any of these groups, search out their Facebook pages.