The Great British Skinny Dip 2018 - What's Next?
‘A great success, but let’s not forget why we are doing it,’ says Taylor Boxall.
For the last three years, British Naturism’s The Great British Skinny Dip has seen 100s of attendees realise the joy and thrill of being naked and, more specifically, being naked whilst swimming. As remarkable as it might be, the majority of the UK population have never experienced skinny dipping.
But let’s be crystal clear about one thing: the GBSD is not indoctrination into the supposedly freaky, awkward and kinky world of Naturism, but rather the proud and honest promotion of being body confident and comfortable in our own skins and the drive to change common attitudes towards nudity. After all, there’s nothing freaky, awkward or kinky about Naturism and the same goes for swimming naked.
The GBSD is an annual, nationwide event organised by British Naturism; a collective of swims, skinnys and social gatherings providing welcome, inclusive and encouraging opportunities for everyone and anyone to try costume-free swimming. From Aberdeen to Southampton to the Vale of Glamorgan Heritage Coast, the swims are intended only to be fun and to raise awareness of how an engrained social taboo is potentially leading to people having less healthy lives than they could be. The more we see our bodies, the more we embrace our natural state and the more we enjoy it to the fullest, the better we can look after them, understand them and shake free of any residual body confidence issues.
The raison d'être of The Great British Skinny Dip is to change the public’s majority perception of nudity. Besides being incredibly healthy and, let’s not forget, entirely natural, nudity, whether embraced alone, in private, or in public, should not be an issue of contention or embarrassment.
For first-timers, the GBSD is intended to be a playful challenge: an invitation to push one’s boundaries of self-confidence and those prudish views towards being naked. For those who have already experienced Naturism, in whatever fashion, the GBSD is an event for doing more of what we already love and to do it loud and proud.
In a landmark year for British Naturism, this year’s Great British Skinny Dip saw more local events run than ever before. In total, there were 40 recognised events across England, Scotland and Wales drawing in 100s of attendees.
We welcomed the Great East Skinny Dip over in the River Stour in Canterbury where every swimmer was completely new to naturism. Event organiser Stuart Hamilton said “It was my first time skinny dipping and [I] found it a lot more enjoyable than regular outdoor swimming. A much greater sense of the ability to move, unrestricted.”
The Forth Dawn Dip in East Lothian welcomed 15 skinny dippers whilst the Southampton Skinny Dip at Oaklands pool saw 27 skinny dippers enjoy the waters.
Never one to miss the chance to really draw in the crowds, those savvy folks down at Avondale Sun Club took the opportunity to combine the swim with a MacMillan coffee morning on September 1st and broke into triple digits with 100 people visiting the club.
Northampton Sun Group reported 36 attendees, a third of whom were new to the club, though despite the healthy turnout it was generally felt that greater national press coverage, possibly helped by the endorsement of a celebrity, could be beneficial in raising such figures and general participation levels even higher.
Meanwhile the swim organised at Beacon Tarn reported a much better gender and age balance than in previous years and to top that off, the group even enjoyed the freedom of walking back to the carpark, naked! Not bad for a Bank Holiday weekend. Thanks to the recent and ongoing work of BN with the police, the legal boundaries of being naked in public here in the UK has become increasingly better defined and who better to exemplify them than the people behind the that legal work, Peter and Christine Wright, who organised the Beacon Tarn swim. Thanks!
The Aberdeen swim was attended by 8 swimmers whilst down in Bucks Diogenes Sun Club had 14 attendees, 3 of whom were newcomers. The Diogenes swim also raised another £1,200 for Rennie Grove Hospice Care, representatives from which were also in attendance at the swim, raising the total sum collected for the Hospice to £6,600 since the first year of GBSD.
Over in Norfolk, Rosslyn Glamping hosted an entire weekend of Naturist fun, the centrepiece being unlimited skinny dipping in their brand-new swimming pool. What’s particularly noteworthy about this is that the site is not even a fulltime Naturist venue! Thanks to BN members Andrew and Claire for their foresight.
Yet, despite highlights such as these, perhaps the award for Most Spotlight Stealing News should go to Cumbria’s Wigton Baths who, after taking part in The Great British Skinny Dip for the second time, have decided to continue holding regular naked swimming sessions independent of the GBSD moniker. So strong was the success of the event that Wigton Baths have recognised the desire for more swims and have committed to a monthly swim for each of the next three consecutive months. The swims will take place on the second Saturdays of November, December and January from 2pm to 4pm. Elaine Hudson from the Wigton Baths Trust said ‘This is the second year that we have taken part in the Great British Skinny Dip, and we've been really impressed by the turnout, and by the obvious fun that the participants had. We're always looking to broaden the range of events we hold, so when we were approached by the Great British Skinny Dip we were delighted to get involved. Afterwards, it seemed sensible to cater for that growing market and host our own costume-free sessions.’
It’s no surprise then that after the success of this year’s events plans are already underway for GBSD2019. In fact, many attendees to swims this year have already been enquiring about next year’s swims and gatherings. With the consensus being that British Naturism’s event this year has been ‘delightful’, ‘a joy’ and ‘liberating’ there is plenty of motivation and appetite for more events and more opportunities to strip off and go for a nice little dip.
But all of this is still just the tip of the iceberg. We’re out of the blocks but do not yet have the finishing line in sight. British Naturism set up the first Great British Skinny Dip in 2016 as a way of accelerating the rate of change in perceptions and attitudes towards Naturism in the UK. Our dream is to one day find ourselves in a United Kingdom where rather than nudity automatically denoting debauchery or provoking outrage, it is looked upon with nonchalance and normality. The third annual GBSD has recorded year-on-year growth in both the number of events and those in attendance. If we can continue doing this, if we can keep telling Just One Person and do so exponentially, we stand a real chance of changing more attitudes for the better. It actually doesn’t matter if no-one tries a skinny dip. The message is the important thing.
Perhaps the next milestone is for at least one venue in each county to hold regular Naturism swims. Then every town, and then maybe, just maybe, every pool and every sauna. The more swims there are the greater public awareness and acceptance of them will become and the more frequent press coverage may be. Plymouth Sun Club’s fortnightly swim at Plympton Pool is a great example and, in conjunction with the GBSD, recently welcomed a local reporter from Plymouth Live to shed a little more light on the highly recommended event who recognised it as ‘welcoming’ and ‘liberating’.
There’s no denying that changing attitudes on such a large scale is a big job and that’s why events like GBSD and the participation of our Naturist clubs are so vital in promoting it. But we as individuals can also do our bit. Let’s talk even more openly about our Naturist holidays, let’s be naked in our gardens a little more regularly, let’s display those BN car stickers more clearly. Let’s continue communicating ever more loudly with local authorities so that we might more comfortably be able to sunbathe in parks or ramble through the countryside. And, more than this, let’s not just wait for GBSD2019 to champion Naturism. After all, why do tomorrow that which can be done today?
In the BN spirit of community and inclusivity, all and every suggestion for the shape of things to come is welcomed and encouraged. More than that, it’s needed! Do you have ideas of which new venues would make for a suitable skinny dipping site next year? Are there any wonderful, wild lakes/rivers/streams that are just waiting to be celebrated in their natural glory? Are there leisure centres and pools that are just waiting for the express invitation to open their doors to Naturist swims?
If you do have an idea or two, submit them via firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can help turn it into reality and planning for their inclusion in next year’s GBSD can get underway as soon as possible!
Together we are strongest.
This year has been an excellent forward step for British Naturism and The Great British Skinny Dip. Of course, the wonderful summer weather we enjoyed had a part to play but the success is likely due mostly to the growing, genuine interest in naturism itself. With a figure of almost four million people (6% of the population) in the UK openly describing themselves as Naturist there may still be a long road ahead but as the above proves, a rise in numbers is a step in the right direction. What’s more, such statistics further validate the importance of events such as The Great British Skinny Dip and make it clear that, however fast or slow, social taboos are continuing to erode.
In the UK it is perfectly legal to be naked and thanks to the campaigning led by British Naturism it is easier now to be so than it has ever been. Recent research has also confirmed that taking part in Naturist activities can have very positive benefits for mental and physical health and wellbeing, as well as issues such as body image and self-confidence. British Naturism itself has seen its membership increase this year, with more people realising how nice it is to be naked and the heat wave encouraging many people to try Naturism for the first time.
The Great British Skinny Dip might be over for this year, but there’s no excuse not to try it next year. In fact, with so many naturist clubs and regular, organised swims throughout the UK, there’s really no excuse not to try it today. If you’re reading this article it’s probable that you’re already a practising Naturist but if you’ve not yet had your first Naturist experience, why not challenge yourself to having one within the next seven days? Find a swim, find a club or, if all else fails, find the time to spend the day at home wearing nothing but a big smile of satisfaction and revelation.
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