Nudist Recreation Enjoys Growth Spurt

ByABC News
July 22, 2003, 9:04 AM

July 15, 2003 -- -- Anything you can do, I can do naked thanks to the fast-growing nudist recreation industry, which is allowing folks to play tennis, Jet Ski, and golf in the raw.

Nude recreation and tourism has grown into a $400 million business, more than doubling in size in the last 10 years, according to travel industry estimates. It now includes several nude cruises, nude flights to Mexico, and clothing-optional condos and luxury resorts in nearly every tourist destination.

"I think Americans are waking up to the peace and serenity that comes with taking off your clothing. For one thing, nobody has a pocket for a cell phone or beeper," says Carolyn Hawkins of the American Association for Nude Recreation, which boasts more than 50,000 members and 260 clubs.

"In a room of naked people, you don't know who's a judge, and who's a secretary. It's really leaving all those distractions that divide people behind."

Sun Bathers Now Nudists

Until 1995, Hawkins' organization was once known as the American Sunbathing Association, but in the last few years nudists have shed the stigma attached to folks who make their privates public.

The AANR even has a government affairs team that lobbies lawmakers for the right to enjoy an allover tan.

If nudism seems a little out of step with these conservative times, it should be noted that the AANR isn't exactly a youth group. About 92 percent of its members are 35 years old or older. Perhaps they're graying baby boomers trying to recapture their free-freaking days at Woodstock.

Not in all cases. "Nudism cuts across party lines," Hawkins says. "We've got plenty of Republicans in our ranks."

Hawkins believes young people tend to be hung up on appearance. Older people are more likely to accept the sagging, flabby imperfections in themselves and others.

But if nudists tend to be older, it doesn't make them less desirable consumers. Even when they don't have pockets for their wallets, nudists tend to have income to dispose of and they're not about to spend their free time in rusty trailer parks.

That's why Paradise Lakes, a top clothing-optional hotel near Tampa, Fla., entertains more than 80,000 guests a year. The 72-acre resort includes 340 luxury condominiums, a hotel, five tennis courts, three heated swimming pools, a health spa, two restaurants, and several boutiques.