A group of naturist women and skinny dippers from Byron Shire say they do not feel intimidated visiting Tyagarah’s clothing optional beach, despite claims from some locals that it remains a haunt for sexual predators and exhibitionists.
Maxine Hawker said her visit to the beach a week ago was a positive experience.
‘I live at Sunrise and I walked up the beach,’ she said.
‘I saw an older couple, a single guy on his own collecting shells, certainly not threatening or lewd behaviour.
‘I think that the Sunrise end (which is where I swim naked) has been cleaned up because of the police presence.
Detective Inspector Matt Kehoe of Byron Bay police told Echonetdaily that in the last month two incidents were recorded of people found to be naked outside the designated area, while a further two were given ‘move on’ directions.
This, he said, ‘could be anything from being drunk and disorderly to making others concerned or fearful’.
He added that there may have been other incidents that went unrecorded as no one was spoken to.
Police continue to patrol the area daily.
Sunrise locals disadvantaged
Sunrise local, Annie, told Echonetdaily ‘I don’t really want to have to drive to go for a swim.
‘I just want to have a quick skinny dip when I’m walking up the beach from Sunrise, so I do think there would be a lot of benefit in making the southern boundary a lot closer to town’ she said.
Annie said she would like the clothing optional area to start ‘a couple of hundred metres’ north of the entrance.
Maxine said when she used to skinny dip at Sunrise, ‘we would always walk at least 200 metres up from (Elements) resort.
‘I never had any complaints, never had anything threatening or creepy.’
Debra Lee Conomy, a member of Byron Naturists, said she’d had an experience with lewd behaviour at the beach about nine months ago but she called the man’s bluff.
‘I was sitting just outside the clothing optional beach– and I actually had a bikini on!
‘This guy walking along the water’s edge saw me sitting up there – and he purposely walked up, eyeballed me and [started masturbating].
‘I told him if he didn’t get lost I’d take his photo and report him to police.’
‘He took off,’ she said.
Deb said she believed that the presence of naturists at the beach was an important factor in keeping the creeps at bay.
‘If you take away the naturists, you’re going to have all the lewd behavior return in droves. Because it’s going to be isolated. That’s what people don’t realise.
‘At the moment, you’ve got the naturists down there – they’re looking out for everyone and reporting any incidents. So you take them away, who’s there then?’ Deb queried.
Maxine said she believed the reduction in the length of the beach had, ironically, contributed to the sense of isolation.
‘In the research I’ve looked at, the problems at clothing optional beaches tend to occur in areas that are isolated.
‘When there’s close access to car parks and other [clad] beaches, there aren’t incidences of lewd behavior.’
Annie said she thought closing down clothing optional beaches in Byron went against the culture of the area.
‘It’s a bit like asking Nimbin to stop having their MardiGrass.
In Byron Bay, where we’ve all come to live because of its non mainstream lifestyle, we now have a council that wants to close down the beaches. How ridiculous is that?
Committee not representative
Maxine said she felt the Safe Beaches committee was ‘not representative of the community’.
‘I don’t see a community voice being heard. I just see this voice being strongly driven by business and that is not the history and the culture of our area. Business and development hasn’t driven who we are, in fact it’s been in at times quite the opposite: that we’ve maintained our culture despite big business trying to change us.
‘We’ve been swimming naked here for 50 years – this is a long-term history for our area.
‘My beach is now no longer clothing optional and I’ve been swimming there for 25 years – how did that happen?’
*Name changed by request
Byron Shire Council is set to make a final decision on the future of the beach at its October meeting.
Byron Naturists are organising a beach day on Sunday September 16 from 10am and are encouraging those who want to keep it clothing optional to attend.