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Byron Shire
June 20, 2024

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Fleshing it out

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Photo Jeff Dawson.

There’s nothing quite like swimming naked in the ocean. Swimming naked is always so much more invigorating and life affirming than wearing bathers. 

I’m not a naturist. I’m one of those people who sees a deserted beach, strips off and has a swim, and would really like not to be fined because society has developed some weird hypocrisy around the human body that seems to be okay with hardcore porn being accessible on your phone but not okay with the non-sexualised activity of nude bathing. 

Today I checked out Tyagarah’s newly appointed clothing-optional beach: 800 metres of beach where people can legally swim, stroll, sunbake, and even play volleyball in the buff. Of course they can also wear pants. That’s what ‘optional’ means. It’s possibly the most inclusive 800 metres of beach in the Shire.

Today was their family fun day, so it was possibly busier than most days. As I arrived at Grays Lane a bunch of skydivers were scurrying into the carpark ready for pickup; 200 metres along I spied the group who had to fight so hard to defend their right to beach usage. The group I had heard described as the ‘honeypot’ for sex predators. I wonder if anyone who used this term had actually attended the beach. 

Honeypot is not the word I would use. I would probably describe the Photoshop-perfect bodies of the under-25s in brazilian bikinis on Byron’s Main Beach in that way, but not those at this beach. These were older men and women. Grandmas, grandpas, possibly even great grandmas and great grandpas. A dad and his young son. A woman who’d had a double mastectomy. Bodies weren’t pumped and preened. They were unashamedly normal. Sagging, hairy, gender diverse, chubby, thin, old, and young. 

Are normal bodies offensive? Is this what upsets people? Are we only comfortable with artifice? Are we the imperfect supposed to be unseen? I watched a few comfortably round people enjoying a game of cricket and thought how wonderful that they were proudly enjoying their bodies on a beach where there was nothing to hide. Where they felt included and accepted. This truly was body positivity in action. 

Society spends so much time shaming us about our imperfections that this simple act of very normal ordinary people shamelessly enjoying the body they inhabit becomes somehow deviant. 

I love seeing the bodies of older women because it tells me of what is ahead for me. The powers that be don’t want us to see these bodies. They don’t want us to ever truly like ourselves, in case we stop getting botox, or attending boot camp, or joining gyms. 

When I was in Munich we spent a day in the English Gardens and swam in the river. One side of the river is clothed, the other is not. That’s about five metres of river separating the groups. I got a wonderful photo of an old naked dude with a giant donger walking with two women in burquas beside him. No-one seemed to have a problem. It was so refreshingly healthy I took a photo but I can’t show it on Facebook because it’s owned by Americans and they censor healthy humanity. Giant boobs pushed together in a bra commercial for Victoria’s Secret would be okay though. Objectification is fine. Just don’t show us anything real. 

You don’t have to be a naturist to support a person’s right to a clothing-optional beach. It’s about Beach Usage. I don’t like dive boats going out at The Pass because it makes it congested and wrecks my quiet swim, but I understand that other people get something out of it. The beach has many users: commercial and non-commercial – like beach weddings, horse riding, dog walking, surfing, fishing, boot camp… it’s clear that we must share this incredible resource. And hey, there is enough to go around. 

In Queensland there are no clothing-optional beaches. In NSW on a coastline that extends for 2,137km there are only 2.4km designated clothing-optional beaches. There are 79,000 skinnydipping / naturist beach users in NSW – so on that allocation that gives about 3cm of space per person! 

The argument against our CO beach has been around safety for women. If we were to look at targeting sexual-assault hotspots in our region, we’d have to stop selling alcohol and close down Byron’s main streets. 

People are responsible for their behaviour. You can’t limit the freedoms of everyone else to ‘control’ a minority of sick people. I am proud that I live in one of the few progressive communities in NSW that has a clothing-optional beach. If Byron Shire ever loses that, if we become another conservative town, then who are we? 

You may as well pave paradise and whack in a McDonald’s.

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  1. Spot on Mandy!

    A refreshingly healthy view about nudity and body positivity. This story resonates with anyone who regularly visits a nudist beach. As the article says… if the Bay did lose its clothing optional beach you might as well pave over paradise!

  2. Thank you, Mandy, for writing about the inclusiveness, civility and lack of judgemental attitudes among the attendees at CO beaches and in particular the tiny piece of the Australian coastline we enjoy at Tyagarah Beach.

  3. On behalf of ‘nice lifestyle’ Queenslanders and members of the Adam and Eve Social Club – a huge thankyou for some clear words in 2019 which rise above the mudslinging which tainted the Tyagarah Tradition in 2018.

  4. YES! YES! and YES! and thank you for venting so clearly what has frustrated us sooooo for the last months! We have lost “our” beach at the end of the Industrial estate where it is now compulsory to walk 1.5km before we can just take a dip (a feat under the sun or at the end of a hard working day we don’t often feel like) meanwhile there is usually no one on that beach after a few 300m which we always walked to a) not bother or impose b) be private ourselves. We find it vexing and nonByron and we can’t help but wonder if the fact that Elements of Byron’s land (and its plethora of no trespassing signs) stop precisely at that limit of 1.5km and is not the true reason for those 2 huge offensive signs telling us WE are the offense!
    Mandy thank you
    Simon Richardson and co PLEASE save the lifestyle of the locals
    Sabine and Vianney

  5. Well written article telling the truth about the human body, those that think it is creepy need to look to their own upbringing. We grew up in a world where nudity was normal and pornography was not, the current world seems to have reversed this and needs to look at why it is so.

  6. Brilliant observations very well articulated. As a regular at Cobblers Beach in Sydney I can only hope we can continue to enjoy the wonder of nude swimming.

  7. Great article, Mandy. As I said once before, ALL beaches should be clothing optional and a few small stretches of beach made clothing compulsory for the prudes. This would completely remove the ‘pervert’ problem – except for a few who might find clothing kinky?)

  8. You say you aren’t a naturist but gee you have pretty much summed up the nudist/naturist mind set! Well written and spot on !


  9. I regularly drive from Brisbane to Tyagarah, just to enjoy the beach naturally. The Byron naturists welcomed me and I feel safe and secure on this beach. I will not tolerate any behaviour that will jeopardise the enjoyment of this beach for all and I look forward to the monthly Byron naturist get togethers. Thanks for your article, spot on!


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