THINK of nudists and you might conjure an image of jiggly, leathery old folks playing volleyball.
But Sydneysider Matt O has made it his mission to change that. He and a few friends founded the Young Nudists of Australia in 2016, with the aim of introducing 18-40 year olds to benefits of getting together, and getting nude.
The group quickly amassed a membership of over 350 people interested in exploring the nudist lifestyle.
Matt says being nude is a "hugely empowering and liberating experience" and one of the greatest equalisers in modern-day society.
"I'm healthy but not overly skinny but if anybody thinks only physically stunning people try naturism, one visit to a nude beach or resort and they will see that isn't true.
"Once I realised that myself, it makes you feel so much better about yourself. Nobody is judging you, nobody is critiquing you and that just makes you feel so accepted. That feeling of acceptance is why I love it.
"As for how it makes me feel, it is a great reliever of stress. You tend to leave your stresses, worries and hang-ups with your clothes and once the sun and water are on you, all of life's problems are gone, even if only temporarily.
Also, nudity is the great equaliser in society. If you're chatting to someone, you have no idea if they're a Fortune 500 CEO, a schoolteacher, politician, bus driver, cleaner or whatever. Everyone is the same - no judgment, no comparison, nothing. It's impossible not to be relaxed after a while.
Operating primarily on Facebook, Young Nudists of Australia requires all prospective members to verify their identity in order to gain access. This ensures the integrity of the group is maintained, weeds out any "fakes" and provides a level of assurance that all members have proven they are exactly who they say they are.
To celebrate the start of the summer season (a much better time of year to be nude, for obvious reasons), YNOA is holding a naked mini golf event in Sydney.
"The mega success of recent events such as the annual Sydney Skinny, Nude Live at the NSW Art Gallery and the MCA's Naturist Tours proved Sydneysiders were only too eager to get out of their clothes and socialise in their birthday suits. Adding a fun activity such as indoor mini golf was an added bonus," he explains.
It will be held at Mega Mini Golf in Campelltown on Sunday, October 15 at 3.30pm.
They will also be fundraising for The Butterfly Foundation on the day.
"This particular week is their #loveyourbodyweek which aims to raise awareness and educate on eating disorders and promoting healthy body image.
"YNOA is also very much about positive body image so any chance we can get to help with their causes, we gladly take. There's way too much shaming in the world today."
So what can you expect if you're keen to give naked mini golf a crack?
"People can expect a fully enclosed, indoor and safe venue," says Matt.
"We've hired the venue for exclusive use and the only others in attendance will be the venue's owners and any staff they need to run the event.
"The entrance will be blocked off from view and once everyone is inside, doors will be locked. It will be impossible to see inside from the street.
"Once everyone is inside, everyone undresses and leaves their clothes in an open storeroom. The group will be split into three to access the course and in the interim, there are arcade games that others can enjoy before their turn.
"The ticket price ($30) includes unlimited mini golf and food platters will be brought out in intervals for each group to enjoy. Each ticketholder can also get one non-alcoholic drink as the venue is unlicensed and cannot serve alcohol."
Once the mini golf event is done and dusted, Matt has other ideas for naked adventures.
"We have plans for other events including naked tenpin bowling. We may also look for a bar or pub in Sydney to run a naked pub night complete with live music. Other ideas include roller skating, themed parties (Halloween, Fourth of July, Easter etc) but we're still working out how to make those happen. We'd love to hear from any venues around Australia interested in hosting a naked crowd."
Best spots in Australia for people to try out naturism, according to Matt
"If you're a first-timer, definitely try and round up some friends as it will be better with people you know and trust. Look up your nearest nude beach or resort and if the latter, get in touch to find out when they are welcoming first-timers or non-members."
Is there etiquette at naturism events?
- Don't stare at people or you will virtually guarantee they will leave.
- Respect people's space.
- Always have a towel with you to sit on.
- Don't take photos. People will notice and you'll probably be approached and have your phone erased or thrown in the water. So don't take the risk. Or if you want to take a selfie, make sure anybody in the background is aware and position yourself somewhere where nobody is behind you. It's just courtesy.
What's the screening process for YNOA?
"A big thing with YNOA is that everyone who access the group has to have their ID proven and verified in order to gain access. Anybody can be anybody on social media but in order to engage with YNOA, you have to send us a selfie holding a form of photo ID. We use that photo to confirm that the photo on the ID is indeed you and that your DOB makes you younger than 40.
"Once these details are sighted and the applicant gains access, the supplied information is deleted. We often receive positive feedback that this process makes people feel safer, knowing that they are communicating with real people. Other groups do not have this system and admit anybody - so you have no idea who anyone might be.
"We've been called ageist but that's our system and it isn't changing. You're either in or you're not. And our verification process is in full compliance with state and territory privacy laws, which we've had checked."
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