Beware, men of the deep — there’s danger lurking below when you go diving naked.
While drifting bare-bummed under the waves might sound enchanting, there are hazards, warns Ken Holliday, co-owner of Northwest Scuba, who after 30 years of teaching ran his first nude scuba lesson last weekend at Scona pool.
He once saw a sea creature chomp on the penis of a man diving in his birthday suit instead of a bathing suit, going for it like a worm on a hook.
“In the ocean, big fish eat things that dangle,” he explains.
“The big fish eat the little fish … It’s like swimming with sharks. If you put your finger out, it looks like food to them.”
While the diver wasn’t seriously injured, he “did put their hand on it in a hurry,” Holliday says.
He also knows someone who has been repeatedly stung by jellyfish while diving nude near Jamaica, which might have been a less painful experience if wearing a wet suit.
Even in a concrete Edmonton pool tank, he recommends putting on a T-shirt to avoid chafing.
“The equipment is nylon, and it does rub on the shoulders and nipples and stuff.”
Holliday isn’t fazed by teaching students who are wearing only what God gave them, saying he grew up in Spain, Africa and other warm areas where sunbathers often go au naturel.
The scuba event was staged by Cottontail Corner, a group that congregates during the summer on a secluded clothing-optional area beside the North Saskatchewan River near Devon.
They rented Scona pool to ensure privacy for the scuba class, and are also holding what organizer Emily Lamoureux calls a “nudey swim” March 12 at the Hardisty Fitness and Leisure Centre.
“It’s important, I think, to people who aren’t part of the naturist lifestyle to understand a little more about it,” the 29-year-old journeyman carpenter says.
“Naturism is in harmony with nature. It’s a lot more respect for ourselves and others.”
Families and children are encouraged to take part, although because someone on Facebook posted fears youngsters might be molested, parents need to bring ID to show they’ve brought their own child, Lamoureux says.
She doesn’t think those fears are justified, saying their members are just as careful with their kids as “textile parents.”
“People are extremely friendly. After a while, you just don’t realize you’re naked.”
The granddaddy of no-suit Edmonton pool organizations is the Naturist Swim Group, which has being holding swims for more than 30 years.
They gather indoors every two weeks from October to April, and are set to relocate to Hardisty after recently using the Eastglen Leisure Centre, swim manager Ray Jorritsma says.
About 30 to 35 people attend on a typical night. For a while last year, the city stopped allowing minors, but it reversed that policy before Christmas, Jorritsma says.
He has never had a complaint about people swimming naked in a municipal pool. A city spokesperson confirmed that because the facilities are rented privately and aren’t open to the public during the events, there haven’t been any issues.
At Scona pool, Holliday agrees that renting the whole site prevents someone from dropping in unawares and becoming upset.
While the event he’s teaching is aimed at the unclothed, he likes more layers.
“I’m still going to be in a wetsuit, because I know it gets bloody cold in a pool. We just try and be professional, and if they want to get naked, they get naked.”
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