There are reportedly some 35,000 naturists in Canada. Yet, despite a population numbering in the thousands, the lifestyle is rarely seen and often misunderstood.
Wondering what life is like for nudists? Is your birthday suit your favourite outfit? Here’s what you need to know.
What’s the appeal of becoming a naturist?
According to the Federation of Canadian Naturists, naturism “promotes wholesomeness and stability of the human body, mind, and spirit.”
Essentially, naturists believe that baring it all has physical and mental health benefits, including stress relief and improved self-esteem. Spirituality, harmony with nature and family participation are all key tenants of the practice — which yes, means it’s not just for adults. Naturism is a non-sexual activity and naturist parents encourage their kids to appreciate bodies as part of their natural environment.
What’s the difference between a nudist and a naturist?
Like all labels, the answer really depends on whom you ask — and whether they’re actively involved in the community.
The two terms are somewhat interchangeable in Canada, with “naturist” being the preferred term for people who enjoy being nude in public settings. Meanwhile “nudist” may be used to describe those who hang out in the buff, but are less connected to the spiritual and health aspects of the practice. It may also have negative connotations.
I’m ready to dare to bare it all. Where can I try it out?
To let it all hang out in public, nude beaches are a good place to start. Free to attend, there’s a low level of commitment and you can wear as much or as little as you feel comfortable. With that being said, staying clothed on a nudist beach defeats the purpose and may turn you into a gawker, rather than a participant.
“[Naturism] is about creating situations where there is psychological, emotional equality between people and you can’t do that if one person is dressed and the other is nude,” Stephane Deschenes, a nudity law expert at the University of Toronto told the CBC in 2016.
You’ll also want to keep in mind that most of these areas are simply places where authorities turn a blind eye. If you want to stay on the right side of the law, the only legal clothing-optional beaches in Canada are Vancouver’s Wreck Beach and Toronto’s Hanlan’s Point.
Where can I shed the weight of my clothes on the regular?
It might be time to sign up for a private club. Private nudist colonies have been in operation in Canada for nearly 80 years, including the Van Tan Club, which opened in North Vancouver in 1939.
With locations in nearly every province, there are around 30 naturist vacation resorts across the country. Each boasts amenities, ranging from volleyball courts to swimming pools, along with activities and annual events. Much like other private recreational clubs, you’ll have to apply for a membership first. With an emphasis on discretion and privacy, the process for acceptance is often rigorous and there are membership fees.
For a full list of the clubs available in Canada, visit the Canadian Federation of Naturists’ website.