California beachgoers were officially stripped of their right to bathe nude this past October, but many naturalists are refusing to cover up.
Here's the skinny: For more than 30 years, the far south end of San Onofre State Beach has been a hot spot for those who prefer to spend a day at the coast and leave sans tan lines. The 1,000-foot stretch of shoreline—less than 3.5 per cent of the park—is not only secluded by 300-foot cliffs, but also has had a longstanding, unspoken toleration for nudity. Traditionally, naturists were left to sunbathe in peace unless another beachgoer complained, in which case an official would ask those in the buff to either cover up or leave for the day.
The bare-skinned bliss came to a halt in May 2008, when nudists became vulnerable to fines after California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman encouraged officers to ticket those who go au natural.
According to USA Today: "Park Superintendent Richard Haydon began efforts to halt the nudity after receiving reports of sexual activity and solicitation for sex."
With regard to Haydon's statement, USA Today reported that Allen Baylis—a lawyer who has sunbathed on the beach since the 1970s—said that nudists don’t want sexual activity on the beach either. Baylis pointed out that sex acts take place in other public areas regardless of whether or not there is nude sunbathing nearby.
Baylis, along with two groups of bare-skinned beachgoer advocates—the Naturist Action Committee and Friends of San Onofre Beach—fought back by suing the Department.
The naked beachgoers won their first round in court. However, they were left defenseless in October, when the California Supreme Court unanimously refused to review a lower-court ruling that allows officers to site nude sunbathers.
"Nudity prohibited" signs began popping up along a trail that leads from the parking lot to the beach, but beachgoers are refusing to cover up despite the ban.
According to USA Today, "half a dozen middle-aged men were sunning in the buff one recent November weekday when temperatures were in the 70s. On hot summer weekends, several hundred nude sunbathers may show up."
Baylis told USA Today that nudists are ready to be arrested. "If they really want to come down there and issue citations, we have people willing and able to be cited in order to take it up in the criminal courts as a matter of civil disobedience," he told the publication. "It's a very important issue for a lot of people."
On September 13, more than 100 nudists showed up at San Onofre Beach with signs reading "Nude is Not Lewd" and "Nude is Not a Crime." No citations were issued at the beach rally.
So far, park rangers have not issued any citations—but Haydon has warned park officials could begin slapping naked beachgoers with fines at any time. Tickets could carry a fine of up to $500, and would be considered misdemeanors.
A statement on the Naturist Action Committee Web site reminds nude beachgoers that "lewd activity is never appropriate" and requests that nude beachgoers "speak up for proper clothing-optional beach etiquette."