Editors Note: The following article appears in the Autumn 2020 edition of Going Natural/Au naturel magazine. It was originally written in July 2020.
Back in the Winter 2019-2020 issue of Going Natural, we published an article titled “The Future of Public Nudity in Canada” which outlined Calgary Nude Recreation’s strategy for advancing naturism within our culture. In early July, we hosted a new kind of event using that strategy – a naked bike ride.
Now, you’re probably thinking that’s already been done and pointing out that the World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) attracts thousands of people around the world every year. That’s true, but the WNBR relies on being a “protest” for its legality. Our strategy seeks to remove the focus on “authorization” to be naked and instead focus on hosting events that are not a problem.
Our bike ride – held on a sunny Sunday afternoon – occurred on paved bike paths across 12 km of Fish Creek Park in the middle of south Calgary. The ride was strictly recreational; we carried no signs and had no writing on our bodies. The City of Calgary and the Calgary Police Service were aware of our event ahead of time and were very cooperative. A special event permit authorized group use of the pathway but did not provide any provision or mention of nudity.
The most delightful part of our bike ride was how overwhelmingly supportive people were. Post-ride discussion in community Facebook groups (from members of the general public who saw us) was remarkably positive – not one poster threatened violence or expressed a “moral” outrage to the concept.
The Future of Naturism
We are in unprecedented times. Between the threat of catching and spreading COVID-19, the psychological impact of the lockdowns, the much-needed light being shined on systemic racism and oppression, and the situation in the US , the impact and “threat” of nudity has been reclassified. There is tremendous opportunity for those in the naturist space to step up and spread the message, because it is no longer the scariest, strangest, or most unusual concept facing society.
When people see actual naturism, it becomes quickly apparent that there is no need for offense. Naturism is going to be widely accepted in the future of North America. Each generation of youth is more and more accepting of body positivity, equality, and letting others live how they choose.
If those who are opposed to our form of recreation try to misrepresent naturist values and sling mud at us, they will only be further alienating themselves and their antiquated beliefs. They will be showing themselves as the outliers that they are, becoming more and more irrelevant. On our bike ride, we heard that a person that we passed wanted to call the police on us, but other park users intervened on our behalf and ridiculed them for their offense.
Safety in Numbers
The key to our success is that we conduct activities with multiple participants. On our bike ride, we would hear someone ask others in their group “why is that guy naked?”, not realizing that all of us were. They focused on the first person they saw, confused, because our form of recreation is still rarely seen. Others in their group would respond happily “they all are! They must be doing a naked bike ride!”, and then the group was usually all smiles.
It is the entire group, rather than a lone naked individual, that sells our activities as just a fun afternoon to those that we pass
The fact remains that lone individuals do not convey the proper message and meaning to our form of recreation. At least not yet anyways. We will continue working towards that end goal.
Other Group Activities
While Calgary weather has been extra uncooperative this year, we also held a hike on World Naked Hiking Day (in a provincial park in the Rocky Mountains), another naked hike through a city park (on a Tuesday evening), and a “beach” day at a new secluded spot in Fish Creek Park. All event specifics have been available exclusively to our members, although we have been gradually ramping up public promotion of our events on Facebook as well.
Seeking Others to Recreate Our Success
CNR is still looking for well-established (or ambitiously new) groups that wish to host contextually appropriate nude events in public areas. We have created a step by step guide for facilitating dialogue with the authorities. We want other nude groups to try this plan in their area, and to let us know if they can’t make the same progress.
We encourage interested groups to email CalgaryNudeRecreation@Gmail.com for more information.