We were on vacation in St. Maarten and we had taken a one-day catamaran excursion to nearby St. Barths with a couple we had met on our flight from Boston. It was the late 1970s, when the now well-developed St. Jean beach in St. Barth’s (long referred to in Jimmy Buffett's Autour du Rocher; see
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xNk38LOVQI&feature=kp) was still undeveloped, natural, and relaxing. (Now, restaurants there charge $10+ for bottled water.)
None of us had any experience with social nudity. On this trip – our first St. Maarten vacation -- for the first time we had noticed toplessness on some beaches but no nudity.
We were two entirely normal, married heterosexual couples. St. Jean beach had a sign which read, “Nudisme Interdit” – French for keep your clothes on. While three of us sunbathed, the other guy strolled the beach. He quietly said to me afterwards, “I’d always regret it if I didn’t tell you that there are two girls about 24 years old sunbathing nude about 30 yards down the beach right after from bushes.” I didn’t know that; we were separated by lots of bushes.
I shortly walked down the beach and thought to myself, “Why don’t we do that?” It looked comfortable and fun.
We never broached the thought to the other couple; it seemed pretty clear that they were more conservative than we were. But my wife agreed that the next morning for the first time we’d try Orient Beach in St. Maarten, shown as “le beach naturiste” on a then-current St Martin road map.
[Point of information: St. Maarten / St. Martin is half Dutch and half French – two countries and two cultures on one island, hence the different spelling. Orient Beach is on French “St. Martin.”]
A Changed Place
Most couples I’ve talked to since our “first time” experience either grew up in families that practiced nudism, or were just curious, like we were.
Orient at that time was far different than today. Visit Orient now, and you find the expansive Club Orient naturist resort at the southern end, perhaps the most flat-out enjoyable naturist resort in the Caribbean. Although nudity is normal throughout Club Orient (including at the popular Papagayo restaurant), it’s no longer practiced on the rest of the beach, thanks to "Nudity Prohibited" signs now posted by the French government. Pity, certainly, since hundreds lof naturists once walked the entire beach with no hassle at all.
In 1979, there was nothing but a small drink cart on the beach – no buildings at all -- and most of the people who visited "Pedro's" walked there via a well-worn path from the Le Galion Beach Hotel, a clothed resort on nearby Embouchure Beach (also known as Coconut Grove or Le Galion Beach) on the island’s Northeast shore. Le Galion was later destroyed by a hurricane, but its concrete shell stands and little concessions are today housed inside.
Method to his Madness
We strolled onto the beach, bought a couple of drinks, and spread out our blanket. The beach was (and is) huge, a mile or so long. That morning, it had perhaps 50 people on it, most of them at the Southern end near Le Galion, and the crowd grew only slightly as the day wore on. (Today crowds on the entire beach during an average day can total a few thousand).
My wife went topless, laid on her stomach and buried her face in a book.
Like most guys, I was a bit uneasy – concerned that, at some point, my happiness at being there might become physically apparent. After all, I was only human. So I decided it would be “mind over matter.” I had a plan. I stripped naked immediately, laid on my back, shut my eyes tightly, and left them shut for what seemed like half an hour. Although I heard other people settle nearby and walk past, my eyes stayed shut.
It wasn’t easy. Among other things, Orient was and is a beautiful beach. Coral reefs block the big waves that would otherwise wash onto this windward side of the beach, and there’s an excellent view of small offshore islands and the backdrop of some of the island’s tallest mountains. A close walk away are estuaries with egrets and other waterfowl. And there are shells to collect. And of course, there were nude sunbathers . . . .
So far, so good. The plan was working. The sun and the constant breezes felt wonderful.
Finally I allowed my eyes to open but only to follow the clouds as they danced across the sky, and watch the few birds.
“Do you want to go in the water?” my wife asked, breaking my concentration. We did, and I loved the experience. I stayed in after she went back to the blanket, and I shortly followed her there.
I’m a long-time beach walker and I shortly decided it was time. My first walk was short, only about 50 years or so, and nothing uneventful happened. I was really enjoying the feel of the sun, the breezes, and the water, and so far so good “otherwise” – if you get my drift.
After a short respite on the blanket, I decided on a long walk.
Is This A Test?
I was perhaps 100 yards from the blanket walking North into the less occupied part of the beach when I noticed four women walking South, toward me. As they became discernible, it was obvious one was wearing only a man’s shirt, totally unbuttoned and tied at the bottom, and the others were wearing nothing. I thought to myself, “is this some kind of test?”
We traded smiles and after we had passed, I took a deep breath. “Mind over matter” had worked – so far.
Soon I came upon some gorgeous driftwood and a pile of conch (pronounced CONK) shells, so I picked up two of the bigger shells and a piece of driftwood and took them along.
On the way back, I noticed a few more young (nude) women sitting near the dunes about 30 yards from the water’s edge. All three of them got up and headed toward me. Having been writing since I was nine years old, I conjured up the image of Woody Allen, and the myriad of psychobabblistic thoughts that would go through his mind in such a situation.
“Hey,” one said (again breaking my concentration), “where did you get the shells?” I thought to myself, “Don’t faint.” I answered them, and they said “Do you mind if we look at them?” And down they looked. . . .
Confessions of a Naturist
Needless to say that day was successful and my worries didn’t . . . materialize.
For some guys, of course, they do. Manifestations of male happiness do occur and some guys who experience them strut around like peacocks (no pun intended) but as you likely know, it’s not generally considered polite to do so. Proper etiquette suggests they simply lay on their stomachs until the excitement subsides.
My wife and I both got mildly sunburned that day so remember to use suntan lotion if/when you take the plunge. Today, wearing a bathing suit at beaches seems as illogical to me as wearing a tuxedo in a shower. “If God intended us to be nude, we’d have been born that way,” reads a t-shirt I bought years ago at Lupin Naturist Resort in California.
Nudism – on a beach or at a resort -- is thoroughly enjoyable. People aren’t as guarded at nude beaches and nudist resorts as they are elsewhere, so it’s likely you’ll wind up in a pleasant conversation with someone.
But the greatest enjoyment comes from the fact that it feels perfect – absolutely the second most sensual kind of experience you can have with your clothes off, in my humble opinion. In an era of immense tension, it’s one of few truly effective ways to totally relax. And that’s something we can all use ….