My GF and I disrobed at a SoCal nude beach — and so can you

Every relationship has its firsts: first kiss, first date, first night you sleep on a futon after an argument, first time you meet the parents, first break up, first getting back together, first public disrobing. After checking off all but the latter on that list, I, as an overly-jealous man, thought it would be a good idea for my girlfriend and I to spend a few hours at a Southern California nude beach.

Spoiler alert: There are no nude photos in this article.

Spoiler alert: My body looks like a whitewashed toothpick with hair, so you're welcome.

Black's Beach (way down there…)

When it opened in the 1970s, Black's Beach was America's first--and only--nude beach. Back then, there was a large sign reading "Swimsuit Optional" so that high schoolers would know where to ogle. I know this information because, before doing anything, I research it madly — this is even more true when I ask my significant other to join me in stripping for strangers. Said significant other will confirm she'd rather disrobe daily for a crowd than have to put up with my "Googling the day away." In the case of Black's Beach, my Googling saved us potential jail time as there are actually two sections to the beach: one nude and one ... well, with the bikinis and Speedos we saw, I believe the other section is "nearly nude."

While I'm sure you're as anxious to get to the nude section as the guy walking behind us was, this distinction is important: Black's Beach is a secluded section of Torrey Pines State Beach, and the northern portion of Black's is managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, while the southern section is jointly managed by the City of San Diego and the state park. Nudity is no longer permitted in the southern portion.

Flickr/Nathan Rupert

The misadventure begins when you convince your significant other to join you in impacting sand in all your crevices. Then you ignore the inevitable as you drive past the University of California, San Diego, to Torrey Pines Gliderport. Those who want to check out the nude beach while also risking their lives can use the porta-potties, or rent paragliders from the Gliderport. If you're not too nervous to eat, or the Xanax has kicked in, there's also the Cliffhanger Café.

Wikipedia Creative Commons/Abeach4u

Once we parked, we grabbed our bags of towels, water, and sunscreen, then I dug through the compost heap of my trunk to extricate my beach umbrella. Sufficiently weighed down, I assured my girlfriend we'd have plenty of time to continue the argument about why I never clean my car on the hike to the beach.

Don't fret — you'll also have plenty of time to ask yourself, "What am I doing? Why did I think this was a good idea? Is that ... is that guy going to see [name of girlfriend/boyfriend/me] naked?", on your descent. There are two trails to Black's, both equally vertiginous. We made our way to the Main Trail, in the southwest corner of the lot. Here, there's a paved path between a chain-link fence. There's also a sign reading "NO BEACH ACCESS." Ignore it. This trail is better maintained than the alternative, wide as a sidewalk, and intermittently includes sections of stairs. (The other trail is at the north end of the parking lot; it's steep and sometimes slippery, but doable. However, if you're uneasy with heights — as I am — avoid it.)

Flickr/geoff dude

Once you reach the sand, head north to the nude beach section. How will you know you've reached the nude section? You'll know.

We visited on a weekday, so there weren't many sans-clothing people. Nervous about being too close to the cliffs and possible rockslides, and too close to other nudes and possible interactions, I set up the towels and umbrella away from both.

"I think it's just like a Band-Aid," my girlfriend said, ripping off her bikini.

I wasn't sure, because my brain had ceased to function; only whichever primitive area regulates jealousy was still active. But thinking that a quick disrobing was probably better than a slow strip tease, I yanked off my swimsuit then joined her in lying face-down on the towel.

Nudists will tell you that once you're naked you'll soon forget you're naked. This is true because you'll be too focused on the nudity of whomever you're with. But for the non-neurotic, I'm told this is indeed the case. My girlfriend said she often forgot she was fully exposed, but also was aware of how "freeing" the whole experience was: "It's like when you're a kid and can't wait to get home and rip your clothes off and run around the house. There's something just natural and fun about being naked."

Regardless of your childhood relationship to nudity, how you spend your time on Black's is dependent on what you fancy doing on a beach. Hating sun, sand, and people, I'm not good on a clothing-not-optional beach, but based on my girlfriend's experiences, I can report there's plenty to do — with certain modifications.

Wikipedia Creative Commons/Abeach4u

While I cowered under the umbrella, my girlfriend enjoyed getting a tan-line-free tan. Usually, I'd go and explore tide pools and their creatures — and Torrey Pines has some great ones — but it was high-tide and I was afraid of a crab biting my genitals.

If you get tired of pretending not to look at naked people, turn your attention to the nearby cliffs: there, you'll hopefully see people changing in the surrounding mansions. But even the gawkiest of people will want to check out the funincular (cable car) that travels down the cliffs into a beach abode known as the "mushroom house."

Wikipedia Creative Commons/Raquel Baranow

Once the girlfriend was sufficiently scorched, she recommended we try the water (more accurately, she threatened to continue splashing sand on me unless I joined her in the Pacific Ocean).

Eyes will follow you when you walk from your towel to the water. But that will only make it easier for you to enter the on-loan-from-the-Arctic water of the Pacific. This is what I was promised, but it still wasn't easy to wade in. Nor did my body ever "get used to it." (My girlfriend offering her breasts as floatation devices in case of emergency should have helped, but I was too cold to appreciate it.)

Floating in the water like a naked baby in a frigid womb, I did have to admit, "it may be my frozen brain fluid talking, but there is something kind of liberating about being au natural in the ocean." There was something primal and giddy, and I understood, here, the reference to running around naked as a child.

"Still would've preferred not getting frostbite on every extremity, but this is nice."

My girlfriend would repeat the tanning-skinny dipping-tanning routine a few more times. I'd remain sand-covered on the towel.

You need not be concerned about body type (though I still was) — Black's Beach has an inclusive vibe. When we went, we saw buck-naked hand-holding men, women, and even a nude military officer walking arm-in-arm with an individual who had both breasts and male parts.

"Finally, someone we can both be jealous of," I said to my girlfriend.

"Stop looking. It's rude," my girlfriend said to me.

(Tip: Try arguing nude. It's difficult to stay mad and/or focus, and you'll want to keep the argument from going in circles.)

With the sun nowhere close to setting, we brushed the sand off each other with sandy hands, re-robed, and packed up our materials. (Another tip: don't drink all your water on the beach or bring a beach umbrella or wear heavy swimsuits. The ascent up the trail is brutal. And, unlike the descent, there's no reward waiting for you at the end. Unless you treasure finding tiny shells in your nethers for two weeks and arguing about why you'd even do this, you're a private person and don't even like beaches, anyway, clothed or not.)

To answer the question I'm always asked when recounting this story: 2 mg of Xanax taken before we even got in the car. And, yes, there are way more men than women at the nude beach.

  • Bring sunscreen and water — including water for the death march back uphill.
  • Don't stare at others or take photos without permission.
  • Make sure your beach umbrella does not dip down too low, or when some random naked dude comes over to casually chat with you and your (sunning-on-her-back) significant other, you'll only be able to see him from the waist down.
  • Sexual activity isn't tolerated. Engaging in any will get you, at best, a fine, and, at worst, require you register as a sex offender.
  • You're near a naval base. Don't compare your body.

Josh Herman is a writer who's lived in L.A. for 17 years yet has managed to, mostly, avoid the sun. He is still together with the girlfriend mentioned in this article.