My First Time: How I Ended Up Skinny Dipping at a Nude Beach
A while back, I wrote A Women’s Guide to Skinny Dipping. In the article, I share how fear and shame kept me from enjoying—and often joining—my peers on their skinny dipping adventures. Though I longed to be like my more free-spirited sisters, a slew issues around body acceptance and shame held me back. It was only after I entered my forties that I finally began enjoying and seeking out opportunities to get naked in public. However, those opportunities remained restricted to all-women skinny dipping events…until just a couple of weeks ago when I found myself naked at Collins Beach, a popular nude beach on Sauvie Island in Portland.
I’ve known about Collins Beach for years, and my intention has always been to never, ever, ever go there. While the Collins is referred to as a “clothing optional” beach, from what I had heard, people who go there, go to get naked. Most of my friends who have gone love it and go often. To be fair, I have had a girlfriend or two who have shared some uncomfortable encounters with creepy men while there, but it hasn’t stopped them from returning. For me, the idea of hanging out naked on a co-ed public beach with a bunch of naked strangers was overwhelming and mildly terrifying. Collins was a “hard no”.
Until it wasn’t.
Skinny Dipping at Collins Beach
Only a week before I went to Collins, a girlfriend of mine invited me to join her and her girlfriend. She was already at the nude beach with a large group of queer women (Collins Beach has an unofficial LGBTQ designated area) and insisted it was clothing optional and that there were plenty of people with bathing suits on. She was having a blast. I was missing out. My “hard no” began to crack as my FOMO kicked in. After all, maybe it wouldn’t be so awful if I was in a group of my female peers. I didn’t end up joining her but promised I would the next time. At least, I thought I would.
Fast forward a week. An out-of-town friend came to visit and their one activity request was “let’s go to the beach”. I’m ashamed to admit that after living in Portland for a good handful of years, I still don’t have a go-to beach that isn’t a bit of a drive out of town. My mind immediately went to Sauvie Island. While it is home to the nude beach, there is a stretch of beach running up to Collins that is only for the clothed. And along with being home to a nude beach, Sauvie Island is stunning with beautiful views and gorgeous U-Pick Farms scattered about. A favored summer spot for Portlanders.
Wanting to make sure my friend had a good time, I thought spending the day at Sauvie on the beach was sure to highlight my ability to put together a good time. (Note: I’m a notoriously bad planner who depends on others to pull a real good time together successfully). I told my friend about Collins and that it was clothing optional, but that there were spots before it that required a suit. Both my friend and I agreed that our suits were staying on, but that Sauvie sounded like a great idea.
I’m not sure exactly when we settled on propping up on the nude beach for the day, but I believe three things factored into our decision: limited parking, swarms of children, & repressed interest. With temps soaring towards the 90s everyone was heading to Sauvie Island for the day. After waiting in a winding line to pick up our parking pass at the island’s tiny market, we found ourselves waiting in another line to find parking as we approached the beaches. The clothing-mandatory beach parking areas were packed and filled with families and small children. Not at all the crowd we were looking for. As we neared the nude beach area, parking loosened up and the babies thinned out. Collins was clearly our best option.
On Collins, we found a stretch of beach that offered shade from trees and a sweet sandy spot to prop up on. To my surprise, there were more clothed or partially clothed people than I had expected. So, donning our bathing suits we kicked back, relaxed, and settled into the experience.
There is currently a no alcohol/no weed rule on Sauvie’s beaches. I won’t say if we followed that rule or not, but I will say, we shared some beverages, played some games, laughed a lot…and yes…we eventually ended up both laying on the beach naked and skinny dipping in chilly Oregon waters in front of god and everyone before our day was done.
So how did I get from a “Hard No” to a “Hell Yeah!” when it comes to getting skinny dipping at a nude beach? The following are a few things that helped me knock one more thing off my bucket list.
5 Tips to Help You Say F*ck It & Get Naked in Public
- Go with someone you trust. My friend happened to be a man. Interestingly enough, I would say he’s more of a prude than I am. And he, like me, went into the afternoon saying that there was no way he was dropping his pants in public. He, in fact, shed his suit before I did. Here’s the thing. Being longtime friends, this individual knows a decent amount about my past trauma and what makes me drop my defenses and give into deep belly laughs…even when the joke sucks. Being with someone you have trusted enough to share your vulnerabilities with, makes being physically vulnerable in public doable, if not somewhat comfortable even. Trust among friends is no small deal. Especially for women who are undoubtedly more at risk in situations that involve public nudity. Knowing that I was with someone who would without question have my safety top-of-mind, made the experience that much more stress-free.
- Who the f*ck are these people to me anyway: This is one of the mantras I try to live by when I start worrying about what everyone around me is thinking about me in any given situation. “Who the f*ck are these people to me anyway?” Do they control my paycheck? Do they show up for me when I need them? Why do I care what they think of me? Shortly after disrobing, my friend simply said, “I’m never going to see any of these people again anyway.” They were exactly no one to him. I didn’t have my glasses on…so who knows. I live in Portland, so perhaps I will see some of the people on that beach again sometime but, they were likely naked too so, 🤷♀️.
- Make it fun. Once the anxiety of being creeped on or made to fear for your safety is gone, having fun with your nude beach experience is paramount. We played Truth or Dare forever before our beverages and truly NOT wanting to get to know each other better gave way to a single dare which we both knew would instantly result in someone getting naked. Defenses down and ridiculousness high, dropping trow was not that difficult (for him). Some people might want to turn their first experience into a therapeutic event. I highly suggest leaning into keeping it light.
- A little competition never hurts. I just couldn’t be outdone. I’m not trying to prude shame here. If you are truly a prude who enjoys their prudishness, you be you! Seriously, I support you. I, on the other hand, am over being a prude. I am over doing what the patriarchy has taught me is right and wrong for a woman to do. I won’t lie, I expected my friend to ditch my dare, but he didn’t hesitate, which was mildly annoying. There was no question as to what I had to do. From there it was just a matter of raising the stakes. In the end, I of course won.
- Body positivity baby. I know I’m always beating this drum. But, the thing I love about all of the skinny dipping experiences I’ve had are that they remind me that there are so many different body shapes and sizes and they can all be seen as beautiful—and yours and mine and everyone else’s are perfectly imperfect and deserving of acceptance.
That day on Collins Beach was a good day. No, it was a great day. It was fun and liberating and will never be forgotten. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I ended up at Collins’ unofficially LGBTQ designated area again a week later with a group of women who I had yet another amazing experience with. I’m not completely sure why yet, but there really is something impactful about skinny dipping experiences that makes braving getting bare worthwhile. If it’s something that has been calling to you in the back of your mind, I suggest you find a friend (or friends) and give the nude beach a spin.