City having second thoughts about nudist swim event

by Sammy Hudes 

More from Sammy Hudes

The City of Calgary is reviewing whether a “naked water slides and wave pool” event booked at a municipal facility will proceed.

“Given the attention this event has received, we are undertaking a review with the event organizer to ensure the privacy and security of participants can be maintained,” the city said in a statement.

A final decision is expected by Wednesday.

The private, after-hours event — which has already sold out — is scheduled for Sunday at Southland Leisure Centre, organized by Calgary Nude Recreation.

But an online petition created over the weekend had already exceeded 10,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon, calling on Mayor Naheed Nenshi and the city to “put this event to rest” or “at least … make it age appropriate.”

Some have taken issue with the event because the group describes itself online as “family oriented and kid friendly and open to people of all ages,” causing concern about the safety of children. The petition states children in attendance who have experienced sexual-abuse traumas could potentially be triggered, while the event would be “just like Christmas” to sexual predators.

April Parker, who started the petition, said she is “shocked” by the amount of support it’s received.

“It seems a lot of Calgarians are concerned with the age limit for the event,” she said. “I’m hoping they will at least change it to 18 plus.”

Coun. Jeromy Farkas, whose ward encompasses the leisure centre, said his office has been flooded with calls and emails.

“I think the point is taken where it’s not anybody’s business what people do in their own time on private property without harming other people,” he said. “But what I’m hearing from my constituents is that given that this is a public facility, there needs to be a little bit more thought given to the safety, the security and the comfort of the people involved.”

But the nudist group has dismissed the assertion its events should be limited to adults.

“The suggestion that our events should be marketed as ‘adult only’ entertainment illustrates the disconnect between what people THINK social nudity is about versus what social nudity is ACTUALLY about,” it stated on its Facebook page.

Two other events are planned for Feb. 11 and March 11.

The group describes the swim nights as “naked events for people who enjoy their birthday suits” and stresses the events are a non-judgmental environment for self-expression, rather than a place to show off or stare at other people’s bodies.

Events like these have taken place at public swimming pools across the country for decades and are never limited to adults, said Ron Schout, president of the Canadian Federation of Naturists.

He said they are an opportunity to play water polo, relax in a hot tub, or converse with others, bathing-suit free.

“We do it because we enjoy a clothes-free environment,” Schout said. “And yes, it’s family. We have kids that come to these events as well and they just love the slide ride. If you’ve never gone down a slide ride naked, you’ve got to try it. You probably get about three times the speed out of that sucker. That’s half the thrill.”

One of the federation’s members, the Sundre-based Sunny Chinooks Camping Association, has rented out public pools in Calgary for years, according to Schout. He said concerns about the appropriateness of children in these environments are unfounded, since it’s what they know at home anyways.

“These kids have grown up with nudity in the family. They don’t necessarily get dressed to go have breakfast,” said Schout. “They live in a naturist environment, so seeing a naked adult is not something that’s out of line.”

Certain protections have been put in place to ensure the privacy and safety of those attending. Windows facing the lobby as well as exterior windows would be blacked out, the city has said. Cameras are prohibited and all minors must be accompanied by an adult, according to the group.

Schout said that in 22 years of organizing naked swims at public pools in Toronto, he’s never had an issue. He urged the City of Calgary to let the swim go on.

“Hopefully, with a bit of education, they’ll come to their senses and realize that this is just family fun in a different way and it is totally non-sexual whatsoever,” he said.


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