(Photo: Cheryl Evans/The Republic)
Ken Runo sat beside the pool in a deck chair, his skin tanned, his leg precariously crossed, concealing his more intimate parts.
“Every day is National Nudist Day to me,” he said.
Runo said he always knew he was a nudist. As a kid, he ran through the forests near his home in Cleveland naked as a jaybird. At 65, he still prefers the feel of the breeze on his skin to the constriction of clothes. On some days, he hikes through the dry washes surrounding the 50 acres of Shangri La Ranch, a “clothing optional” resort in New River. And, no, he’s not concerned about cactuses.
Monday is National Nude Day, a celebration of the birthday suit.
For most nudists, it’s just another day without clothes.
National Nude Day comes on the heels of Nude Recreation Week, a similar celebration that begins the week after the Fourth of July. Across the U.S., more than 32,000 members of the American Association for Nude Recreation, organized into more than 250 recreational clubs, are celebrating in pretty much the same way they always do. They don’t need to get dressed up for the event.
“This is something we take pride in,” said Ashley Beahan, public-relations manager for the association. “It brings awareness to nude recreation. This is a lifestyle; people grow and learn from this lifestyle.”
Friday afternoon at Shangri La Ranch was a relatively calm start to the weekend compared with the Fourth of July weekend, when all 160 of the available RVs and homes were full. Permanent residents mingled, played billiards in the recreation room and idly swam in the pool.
One visitor recalled the first time he visited a nude resort. It was Mira Vista, a “premier clothing-optional resort” outside of Tucson, according to its website.
He said he sat perched on the edge of his bed, nervously sipping beer with his wife. The couple peered out the windows until they had the courage to join the others. Eventually, liberated from their clothes, they joined, and within minutes, they forgot they were naked.
“Once the clothes are off, you’re just people,” he said.
Shangri La Ranch and Mira Vista are Arizona’s most popular nudist resorts, but daring nudists also visit the public “clothes optional” hot springs in Camp Verde and Tonopah.
According to Arizona law, a person commits indecent exposure if he or she recklessly exposes his or her genitals or nipples in the presence of another person who would be offended or alarmed (breastfeeding is exempt). Arizona “naturists” interpret the law to mean that it’s OK to be naked on public land if no one sees you and is offended.
Those interested in joining a nudist community or visiting a resort need only remember a few tips. It’s important to be respectful and not stare, said Shangri La Ranch manager Patty Faber. Use common courtesy, wear lots of sunscreen and, if you’re sitting down, always make sure there’s something between you and what you are sitting on, for hygiene purposes, she said.