The best-known skinny dippers are presidents: Theodore Roosevelt and John Quincy Adams. Roosevelt (who used it to establish rapport with diplomats) and Adams (who did it as a morning ritual) weren’t being racy or provocative; they were merely practicing what was the norm in their time — when swimsuits weren’t yet made. Instead of jumping in rivers and lakes with heavy clothes, people in those days habitually took off their clothes to take a refreshing dip.
Why is it Called Skinny Dipping?
If you’re still asking “what is skinny dipping,” it’s simply swimming in the nude. “Skinny” refers to your naked body and “dipping” refers to plunging in water. People then didn’t think it was erotic or lewd, but because swimming with all of your clothes on didn’t seem safe or comfortable, nude swimming made sense. Even with the introduction of the swimsuit, people still swam in the buff because early suits were made from wool.
People swam in secluded spots, from lakes and rivers to ponds and swimming holes. Although the practice was considered natural, swimmers still went to locations not usually crowded. You would not have seen people run to the water on a public beach in their birthday suit.
Skinny dipping was reserved for places tucked away from prying eyes. Except for one public place, where swimming naked was the policy.
How Common Was Skinny Dipping?
Before the ’60s, the YMCA didn’t allow boys and men to wear swimsuits; mandatory nudity was the norm for classes. In 1885, swimsuits were prohibited because the fibers from the fabric would clog up the filtration system. Later on, when swimsuits began to improve, the YMCA still made nude swimming mandatory for hygienic reasons.
Swimmers had nothing to hide, literally, if they took swimming classes at the Y; open wounds or any indication of a disease would immediately be spotted, keeping everyone safe. When women were finally allowed access to the YMCA, they had to wear full bathing suits; the men still had to swim naked.
It wasn’t until the early ’60s that parents became concerned about their boys having to swim in the nude with other boys. A small town in Wisconsin even petitioned the school board to allow boys to wear trunks to spare them the psychological impact of swimming naked. The board denied the petition, but in the ’70s, when pool filtration systems improved and swimsuits were designed better, nude swimming became less and less the norm.
Today, the practice is celebrated and no longer mandatory in swim clubs and military baths.
What is Skinny Dipping Day?
The International Skinny Dip Day falls on the second week of July. On this day, anyone who enjoys the beach without the “constraint” of a bathing suit can strip to their birthday suit and freely swim naked. The day is the final event for the National Nude Recreation Week.
Sponsored by the American Association for Nude Recreation, the International Skinny Dip Day started in 2018. The idea was to remove the stigma behind nude swimming. It’s also meant to encourage people to try nudity as a recreation, so it may not just be skinny dipping; the practice may also involve boating in the buff or nude diving.
But skinny or nude swimming is not limited to the US. Other countries also celebrate the age-old practice. A capital in Santorini, Greece features a boutique hotel that allows skinny dipping. Formentera in Ibiza lets holidaymakers shed their clothes and enjoy being naturists on their white pristine beaches. And Proizd Beach in Croatia is the site of Europe’s first commercial naturist resorts.
In the US, you’ll also find some secluded and welcoming spots for swimming in your birthday suit.
Where Do You Skinny Dip in the US?
1. Prairie Haven, Kansas
Kansas may not come to mind when you think of “clothing optional” beaches, likely not in Wichita, KS. But Scranton has a place for naturists. At resort Prairie Haven, camping may be clothing optional. Since the state is also home to plenty of great skinny dipping spots, some groups schedule meetups for likeminded people.
2. Red Rocks Beach, Vermont
The state has no law against nude swimming, so enjoying its beaches without a suit shouldn’t be a problem. But stick to places that are OK for nudists, like Red Rocks Beach, which has a secluded spot for skinny dippers.
3. The Adirondacks, New York
Although the swimming spots in The Adirondacks aren’t designated for nude dipping, some campers have made it a tradition. Most try the Jones Pond in Saranac Lake.
4. Black’s Beach, California
Located in La Jolla, Black’s Beach is bounded by steep cliffs and has a long stretch of sand that has attracted naturists for years. The AANR even declares it as the best spot for practitioners of the nudist lifestyle.
5. Little Beach, Hawaii
Maui is home to a nude beach considered to be a mecca for skinny dippers. Located at the end of a long stretch of must-have-swimsuit beach, Little Beach is a popular spot for locals and tourists.
6. Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite is massive enough to have the perfect hideaways for for skinny dipped activities. You’ll find multiple spots for quick dips in the buff, one of which is the Devil’s Bathtub located behind Ahwahnee Hotel.
7. Haulover Beach, Florida
When you’re a naturist and visiting Florida, head to Haulover Beach. But walk to the northern part of the beach because the southern part is where people in suits hang out; the northern area is designated for people who want swim naked.
8. Bake Beach, San Francisco
The rough waters on this beach may not be ideal for dipping, but the northern section is designated for people who prefer the beach without their clothes on. You can sunbathe or just relax in the buff while enjoying a lovely view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
9. Frenchman’s Hole, Maine
Sunday River in Bethel, Maine features a nice little spot for skinny dipping. The water basin offers a spectacular view of mountain surroundings.
10. Lake Travis, Texas
At Macgregor Park in Lake Travis, a trail called the Hippie Hollow welcomes skinny dippers with a sign saying: Yours to enjoy naturally.