A Women’s Guide to Skinny Dipping
February 12, 2019
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5 Tips: Cross Skinny Dipping off Your Bucket List
by Annette Benedetti
It’s not that I waited until I was in my 40s to go skinny dipping. I’ve most certainly swum or soaked naked in the past. It’s just that it took me until now not to recoil from the opportunity—and even seek it out and delight in the experience.
When I was younger, I avoided any scenario that might require disrobing in front of more than one person (my partner preferably) at a time. While others sought out group experiences at remote hot springs or excitedly told stories about spur-of-the-moment nude swims in mountain lakes, I quietly hoped not to be put in such positions.
As long as I can remember, I’ve always been self-conscious of my body. I’ve spent my entire life trying to change it to be thinner or more fit—and never being satisfied. It’s not that I didn’t yearn for those wild, free-spirited experiences. I was just afraid of what people would think when they saw me naked.
The truth is, I grew up in a weight-conscious home with one parent or the other always on a diet. It didn’t help that my youth took place in the Jane Fonda workout era when everything seemed to be about women dieting and working out to be skinny—perhaps it still is.
I went on my first diet sometime in early grade school when the kids and my waif-like sister took to calling me a cow. It would be the first of hundreds of diets that were to come. It was the beginning of a lifetime of yo-yo dieting and weight gain and loss.
So what changed? Why do I now find myself returning to one lake in particular, every chance I get, to strip down and swim in remote Oregon waters? Here are my thoughts, and my advice for women who want to experience the exhilaration, liberation, and body acceptance and love only found through skinny dipping.
A Woman’s Guide To Skinny Dipping
If you are like me and struggle with body issues or anxiety that keeps you from skinny dipping, the following are my tips for gaining courage, and even enthusiasm, for the experience.
Start with women only
The first time I found myself relaxing into an all-nude, water-related experience was shortly after the birth of my first child almost 16 years ago. I was invited to go to the Women’s Olympus Spa in Tacoma, Washington. I was warned up front that the whirlpool area of the spa had a “no clothes” policy. This opportunity was not well timed. I was dealing with the physical changes that occur after having your first child. I had never felt more at odds with my body. But, for some miraculous reason, I didn’t want to miss out. Emboldened by the fact that men weren’t allowed, I agreed to go. This was likely one of the best decisions of my life.
I’m not going to lie, attempting to build up the courage to drop my robe in the pool room was painful. But a beautiful thing happened once I was safely hidden beneath the water: women of all shapes, colors and sizes joined me. I mean every body type was in that room that day, and I suddenly felt normal. What I mean by that is that there was nothing that made me stand out because everybody was perfectly different and unique! My shame and fear of drawing negative attention melted away and it was fucking liberating.
Once you’ve had a good experience, do it again and do it often. Having a great—even transformative—skinny-dipping experience once is not enough. Changing thoughts and beliefs about yourself and how others see you takes time. If you’ve had an experience that feels fantastic…do it again and again and again. This builds confidence and creates a new “knowing”. You start to really know that you are perfectly imperfect the way you are. You start to know that there is no reason to be ashamed of your body. I go back to that spa every chance I get.
Trust in new (but similar) situations
I was invited to the Sacred Mother’s Retreat as media in June of 2017. Located at Suttle Lake Camp, I knew there were lakes nearby, but assumed they would be freezing. The first night I was there was packed with experiences designed to create trust and bonds between women. It was an evening that taught us that we were all more alike than different. I was shocked by the number of shared stories we all had.
The next morning several of the women were going for a run to the nearby Scout Lake. I joined them. Right before reaching the lake my leg muscles began to cramp and seize. I didn’t know how I would make it back to camp. Then it occurred to me, the best way to cure sore, cramping muscles was with an ice bath. I was sure that Scout Lake would be plenty icy.
I told the woman who was leading the run that I was going to go down and soak at the lake. I knew I would have to take my clothes off as I had to run all of the way back to camp and didn’t want to risk the repercussions of doing so in wet clothes. I was slightly alarmed when the other women came down to the lake with me, but I was so desperate for relief from my pain that I went ahead and pretended like I wasn’t self-conscious at all.
To my surprise, the water was warm. I quickly jumped in (in an effort to hide) and was struck by a wave of exhilaration. Birds swooped just above my head catching bugs for breakfast. There were moments when the spray off their wings as they brushed the water hit me. I swam out to the middle of the lake, listened to the animals and trees sing all around me, and stared up at the clouds. It was so beautiful I wanted to cry.
I called to the women on shore, but none wanted to jump in. I whooped. I never do that, but I whooped and shouted for joy.
When I returned to the group and told my story, I could tell there were many who were like me and yearned for the same experience. When the retreat was over, two women joined me for a skinny dip at Scout Lake. We all disrobed without a second thought and sang and shouted and laughed into the empty sky above us as we swam. We were free in that moment.
Now, every time I return to Scout Lake, I get naked and jump in.
Let go of shame
During my last visit to Scout Lake, only a week ago, my worst fear was realized. I was alone and as I began to get out of the lake a man walked down to the shore. I had never been there in October and the water was actually freezing. Like muscle spasm-inducing freezing. I had to get out.
Without my glasses on, I couldn’t see the man in detail. I took advantage of the comfort my blindness offered. Hidden by the water, I shouted a hello to him hoping he would “get it” and leave. He did not. I was so cold that I couldn’t wait. I closed my eyes and began to walk out of the water, clearly revealing myself to the man on shore. My towel was nearby, but I forced myself not to rush to hide in shame. I was shocked by how confident I felt!
I don’t know what he saw or thought, he turned and walked to the other side of the lake where his wife was coming down from the trees to shoot photos. I think he urged her to wait to take shots. For that I am very thankful. But mostly, It felt good not to care.
When I imagine myself rising out of that beautiful natural pool without a stitch of clothing, I
Give yourself permission to have boundaries
I still avoid skinny dipping or soaking in co-ed situations. As a survivor of sexual assault, I still feel incredibly uncomfortable in situations with men present. In fact, last year a part of my yoga teacher training was held at a coed hot spring where pretty much everyone goes in the water nude.
I cried for a couple of weeks straight before we were to head to the hot spring. I felt foolish for not taking note of the experience before paying. I went from feeling lame to feeling angry as I wondered how any yoga teacher training could lack consideration for the effect an experience like this might have on survivors.
In the end, after talking to other women in the training who were facing the same emotional struggles, I decided to bring a swimsuit. I had a swimsuit buddy and while everyone got naked around me, I soaked in my bikini. And you know what? I have zero regrets. I felt 100% comfortable. And being brave enough to honor my body and my intuition was fucking empowering!
Making this decision wasn’t a setback, it was a leap forward. I have gone skinny dipping since then, and it is so incredibly powerful knowing that I decide when to do it and when not to do it, and more importantly, I trust myself completely to make the correct decision.
Ideas For Places to Start Skinny Dipping
If you aren’t sure where to start with your skinny dipping adventure, consider these options first:
- Hot Tubs: Whether you have one at home, you have a friend with one or you rent a cabin or beach house with one for a weekend, hot tubs offer a safe and fun way to “get your feet wet”. Invite trusted friends, or keep it between you and an intimate partner. It’s up to you. You are in control of this adventure.
- Spas & Bath Houses: I think
all-women’sspas are the way to go for first timers. As I mentioned above, heading to the Women’s Olympus Spa was a fantastic experience for me. For me, it was easier to feel safe and comfortable with my body in a situation with all women. In these settings, you don’t have to worry about unwanted looks from men. Call your local spas with soaking pools and ask if they have women-only days and times. Then, go for it.
- Hot Springs: There’s nothing quite like getting naked under the stars & staying warm at the same time. Look for area hot springs that allow nudity. The more remote they are, the less likely they are to be crowded when you go. Make sure to check online ahead of time, so area hot springs do not allow nudity, or only allow it at certain times.
- Remote Lakes: During the sweltering summer months, seek out remote lakes and swim holes where you can find some privacy to cool off without a swimsuit. If you don’t want to be caught by the clothed folks, consider going early in the morning or on days when there will be less foot traffic.
- Nude Beaches: You don’t have to go to the Ocean to find a nude beach. There are lakes all over the U.S. that have areas designated for those who like to bare all. I have yet to go to one…but someday I will. I think these spaces are likely for the advanced skinny dipper.
Skinny-dipping is liberating. But for many of us, for a variety of reasons, it is incredibly challenging. If swimming naked in a remote lake or hiking to a wilderness hot spring and throwing off all of your clothes to soak is on your bucket list, then hopefully my experience will help you reach your goal. I’m the first to admit that my skinny dipping experience has been transformative. While I encourage you to give it a try, I firmly believe that before anything else, you must honor yourself. If you aren’t ready to disrobe, there are plenty of other ways that you can explore your life.