Nude Awakening 

With the dawn of summer, Utah’s naturists embrace the “naked truth.”

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The year was 1971, and Stranc was 17 years old. Most everyone else at the party was getting drunk. She, on the other hand, just wanted to go swimming. Problem was, she didn’t have a swimming suit. But as the party progressed a few brave souls took off their clothes, and then ran past her to jump in the reservoir’s summer-temperature water.

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It was then, a little gradually perhaps, that Stranc realized the problem of having no swimming suit was really no problem at all. She took off all her clothes and took the plunge herself.

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“When I hit the water I felt reborn. To feel that water running past your whole body was so incredible'Yeeaah!” Stranc said.

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Talking about the practice of nudism, or “naturism” as it’s also known, Stranc ends a lot of her sentences with an exclamatory “Yeeaah!” And judging by Utah’s naturist movement, she’s hardly alone in her enthusiasm. The Utah All Natural Recreation Club, of which Stranc is a member, carries a membership roster of more than 300 people.

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One Utah naturist web page lauds that the Salt Lake City area is home to some of the most lively nudist organizations in the nation.

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That’s because, with more than 80 percent of the state’s population condensed into slightly less than 9 percent of the state’s area, nudists here have lots of outlying territory to explore.

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That’s more than enough roaming space to let it all hang out.

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There’s even a brief Web page for Mormons interested in the nudist way titled the “LDS Skinny-Dipper Connection: Families Forever, Naked and Not Ashamed.”

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Just don’t expect any offensive images. In fact, anyone venturing into the naturist scene out of prurient interests or voyeuristic tendencies is almost sure to be disappointed.

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If that’s what you’re after, you might as well stay home with your clothes on.

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What, then, could possibly be the appeal of being naked with other people if you’re not going to have sex with them? If you don’t know by now, you might want to crash a naturists’ function and find out for yourself. Ask yourself, “What do I have to hide?”

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“You’re not just taking off your clothes, you’re taking off your social standing,” said Stranc, a South Jordan resident who works as an assistant manager for her husband’s real-estate business.

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“Actually, it’s far sexier for someone to have clothes on than to be totally naked, because people come in all shapes and sizes, you know.”

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The very word “naturist” implies a love for the outdoors, and Utah practitioners love a good outing or even hike, with boots of course. “We are naturists, but not idiots,” Stranc notes.

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But they also like an occasional indoor event without the risk of falling butt-first onto a dirt trail. The first time Stranc went to a nudists’ indoor party she grew so scared she grabbed a towel and went into a spare bedroom.

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Gradually, she forgot her nakedness and, like Adam and Eve in reverse, went out to the living room for conversation with others.

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“It’s hard to explain it, but when you take off your clothes you take off everything else,” Stranc says. “You’re open. Nobody’s looking at you saying, ‘Hmmph! Those are last year’s jeans.’”

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That’s not to say nudists ever totally escape the confines of mainstream society. Beating a path back to nature means organizing a lot of private events away from the public eye, and the best way of doing that is forming a club capable of securing the right permit before an event at a location usually inhabited by the clothed.

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That, in turn, makes it a lot easier to organize events away from an often-scornful public. It also keeps nudist activities within the law, and therefore hassle free.

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Free-form, unscheduled nudism closer to public proximity and without proper clearance beforehand has often been subject to police clamp-downs and charges of lewdness. Popular nudist and naturist hangouts in the past included the Great Salt Lake’s “Bare Bum Beach” and Diamond Fork Hot Springs.

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“Bare Bum Beach, also known as “Exit 111” has since been closed off after numerous police raids, and the Hot Springs experienced its share of the same during the late ’90s. Where the general public is concerned, however, courtesy is the rule of thumb.

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If “textiles,” that is clothed people, come within sight, most nudists are polite enough to cover up.

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Making a home in South Jordan, Stranc said she and her husband took more than enough precautions. Knowing that their child-rearing neighbors might be offended, they placed hedges on the east of their property, fences to the south and bushes to the east.

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Stranc said she and her husband told them by letter that they enjoyed skinny-dipping in their backyard pool, but didn’t want to shock their younglings.

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That kind warning apparently resulted in an allegedly hostile visit by a city ordinance officer, who told the Strancs they would have to make numerous alterations to the yard if they were to swim in the nude.

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Undeterred, the Strancs conducted their own investigation of city code and discovered that the onus of remaining unseen wasn’t a nudists’ responsibility alone, but a shared one defined by “line of sight.”

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That is, if neighbors can see you casually and in plain sight, it’s the nudists responsibility to cover up.

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But if your neighbors go to any means to steal a peek'including by trampoline or a trip to the rooftop'it’s really none of their business, or yours if you’re enjoying the warmth of sun on your bare bum.

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“If they jump on the trampoline and see us, it’s their fault,” says Stranc, to which she might add “Yeeaah!”

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