The tyranny of textiles cast off

Sun, sand and sea. Some take their holidays naked, Karen Thorne writes in the second of our summer series.

Two kilometres of four-wheel driving off Gan Gan Road near Nelson's Bay you will find Samurai Beach camp ground; a national park, a nudist colony and an eclectic group of naturists whose disregard for clothing is what brings them together every summer, some for more than 20 years. For three retirees their lives are forever interlinked from chance meetings nude.

Frank Maundrell, 68, is a retired banker who lives in Tamworth. He discovered Samurai Beach camp ground through his friend after meeting her on the beach years ago. He says they instantly got on and she agreed to accompany him on a trip to Cape York. ''It was a major risk for both of us, but worked out well. It is only a week since we returned from our latest trip together to Europe.''

In 1996 National Parks designated the camping ground on the sand dunes in Tomaree National Park as clothing optional. Or as Frank calls it, ''a textile-optional camp ground''. A term he says is "widely used in the nudist community about people who support the textile industry". The small, bare-skinned community believes this may be the only campground of its type in Australia.

Frank says most of the people are return campers, but they do get a few new people. Each year the small community gathers for three to four weeks over the summer.

There are few rules: take all your rubbish out, no fires on the sand and, most importantly, everyone has to bring their own toilet.

Frank and his late wife unsuspectingly walked on to a nudist beach in north Queensland 20 years ago. His wife turned to him and suggested they get undressed. "We stripped off and went for a swim and lay on the sand and got our bums burnt - we were very proud of that.'' From that day on they were hooked.

There are people here Frank has known for more than a decade at Samurai Beach and many he still doesn't know anything about beyond their first names.

Frank and Hanna's friend, Peter Jackson, is not one of them. ''Peter is quite a character,'' says Frank.

''He usually enters in to the spirit of what is going on and is quite a popular amongst the campers.''


"The only tan line I've got is where my watch sits," says Peter, with pride. Peter says the best thing about a nudist beach is that everyone talks to each other. ''It's not like a conventional beach where you are afraid someone is going to steal your sunglasses."

Peter, 73, is a retired motor mechanic. He used to fish at Samurai in the 1960s but only began visiting the beach with his wife as a nudist 20 years ago. Peter says he returns every year for the companionship, and gets great enjoyment from seeing people there who wouldn't always go to a beach at all.

''What can comfortably be described as grossly obese women are so happy to strip off and sit naked on the beach, it's great," he says.

Peter explains that a good thing about the small nudist colony, in the dunes near Anna Bay, is the sharing. He brews butterscotch schnapps and beer, and shares with the other campers - especially on New Year's Eve when the campers gather armed with only a plate of food and the year's fancy dress theme - this time was Rocky Horror Show.

"I met Frank on the beach probably going back 12 or 14 years ago. I get along very well with his good friend, Hanna. She says there is no fun on the beach without me."

"I am the oldest woman down there," says Hanna Brun, in a tone that suggests she doesn't care.

In a heavy German accent Hanna says she met Frank 14 years ago and although he is a great friend, he is not her boyfriend.

''I cannot say we are lovers. Being a woman and loving life, I have lots of boyfriends," laughs Hanna. At 75, she has been enjoying the nudist lifestyle at Samurai Beach for years.

Like most of the return campers Hanna met Frank and Peter down at the beach. Hanna lives nearby, so close to Samurai that she doesn't need to set up camp. When she can't be bothered to walk home she says she just sleeps in someone's car.

"We are just free people. You have nothing to hide behind, no clothes, no makeup and no hairstyles.''

Hanna gives some advice for those who are still textile inhibited, ''Walk around your house naked, for one hour naked every evening, and you will learn how beautiful you are. Because being a nudist just feels so good, so absolutely good,'' she says.

For the annual Samurai nude beach carnival, nudist clubs from throughout NSW gather to spend a day playing naked social games on the beach. From nude sack racing, body painting to egg and spoon races. The organised event is about promoting the nudist lifestyle, there are surf lifesavers present for safety - and have even been known to get their kit off once their shift has finished.

The Rosco Club, a nearby private naturists club whose members attend the event each year, says the carnival is about being comfortable with your body and a great way for first timers to see people having fun and respecting people around them.

"There seems to be a perception there is something sexual about naturism, and it's not,'' a spokesperson said.

''What is unacceptable in society, is unacceptable within the nudist movement."

All walks of life migrate to the Samurai Beach day, from families to retirees. Between 200 and 300 people attend.

For anonymity, people can choose either a green or red wristband when entering - green means you are comfortable being photographed and red means you aren't.