Nudism and the counter culture converge where beach meets the sea at Jacob Riis Park
Our moment in history is defined by a majority consensus for change around a lot of issues. Sexual liberty is one of these, with a hundred and eighty degree attitude shift having happened over my adult lifetime—at least for most. This was proper. Nudism may or may not be non-sexual, but going without clothing must seem like a sexual practice to the uninitiated, and nudists should be natural allies to people who are romantically and sexually interested in their own sexes.
I first experience experienced [then] legal beach nudity at Riis Park in 1970 and '71. I was 17 and 18 years old during those summers. It was my first opportunity to be naked outdoors without fear of being caught. I spent long happy days in the nude, body surfing, gathering shells, sunning, even waiting in line naked to buy a potato knish on the boardwalk. For the first time, I got tan all over. On hot days it was mobbed, with only narrow paths of exposed sand to walk on between “wall-to-wall” beach towels. In my memory the crowd was an equal mix of gay and straight, and I don't recall any tension about that. The great majority of people (including my boyfriend) wore swimsuits , but nudity wasn't uncommon; it was legal and accepted. It was very public but also very anonymous; a liberating combination. Well, it was anonymous for the most part… I once recognized my former camp counselor, and another day I saw a retired couple who lived upstairs from me in Manhattan. All of them wore swimsuits. My first impulse in both cases was to turn away and hope that I had not been seen, but I forced myself to say hello. We had friendly conversations. My nudity was neither acknowledged nor awkward. When I later encountered those neighbors in our apartment building, I realized that their having seen me naked changed nothing. For me, these were moments of growth. When laws around nudity at Riis changed I felt the loss strongly.