BY MELISSA CLEMENT
Shrieks of laughter and the sounds of splashing water
come from the clubhouse area at Whispering Pines. It’s a scorching
day. People are cooling off and having fun in a secluded swimming
pool. With bare feet, I pad over to the pool, where men are playing
a spirited game of volleyball. Women on towels recline in beach
chairs, their heads buried in magazines.
It looks like any other summer weekend getaway. Then a dripping
man climbs from the pool as his wife tosses him a towel. I take a
look and suck in my breath. He is buck naked.
For a few minutes, I am, well, taken aback. I don’t know what I
had expected. I was the one to make reservations at the Whispering
Pine Nudist Resort near Ocean Isle on the North Carolina coast, and
I had researched the subject before leaping into my latest
• Nudists, or “naturalists,” obviously travel light.
Etiquette dictates, however, that they carry one small
accessory — a towel to sit on for sanitary reasons.
Gawking or staring is frowned upon.
• Cameras are not
allowed at most resorts.
• The lifestyle attracts more men
than women, but most resort owners report that they “aim” for
balance, so females do not feel uncomfortable. Children are
allowed at many resorts.
• Some nudist resorts or camps,
including Whispering Pines near Ocean Isle, promote a
• Most nudist facilities
forbid overt sexual behavior in public. Nude recreation
enthusiasts emphasize that their no-clothing lifestyle is
about self-acceptance of one’s own body and is not sexually
• A good way to gauge your interest in a
“family-oriented” resort is to inquire about activities.
Whispering Pines, for example, is open year-round and
entertainment options include pig-pickings, pool volleyball,
horseshoes, bingo, shuffleboard, canoeing, paddle boating on
the lake, picnics, karaoke, Saturday night dances and
Sunday-morning nondenominational worship services.
I mean, it’s not like I haven’t seen plenty of nudes before,
particularly in life drawing classes, but they were posing. The
nudes here are doing ordinary everyday things that people usually do
while wearing clothes. Nudity has never shocked me. The role I
choose in life is to walk a mile in what, in this case, happens to
be someone else’s flip-flops.
Still, I thought I would be more worldly about nudism or
“naturalism,” as it is sometimes called. It just takes a little time
to get used to people standing around chatting and looking perfectly
comfortable in their birthday suits.
Get a grip, I tell myself. Act like a reporter who is here to do
a story and learn why this lifestyle is so appealing to so many that
it has spawned an entire industry. Think nude cruises, spas, camps,
clubs, resorts, beaches — and private housing developments dedicated
to naturalists are spouting up across this country and even in
Canada. Brrrr. In Europe, where they don’t have our puritanical
background, nudity is common on beaches and in other public areas.
No hang-ups there.
NO HINTS OF SEX, EITHER
While my mind is pondering my own reactions to about 150 nude
bodies, Rachael, the photographer, and I receive warm greetings and
hugs from Carol, the genial hostess who owns the resort with her
She practices what she preaches. Her petite body remains
unclothed, as far as I know, during our two-day stay.
She told me when I called that I might want to wear a long man’s
shirt over my bare flesh at first, instead of stripping down. I
bought four super-size shirts at Goodwill.
I will admit that it’s cool and refreshing sitting in a golf cart
for a ride around the 35 acres while wearing nothing but a long
shirt and sandals. Wow.
Marian, a former professional
dancer from Poland, and writer Melissa Clement enjoy the scenery at
Things continue to look up. I have my first interview with
Marian, who walks right up and introduces himself. I am careful not
to let my eyes wander, just act as if I was used to interviewing men
wearing only sandals. He carries a large white towel, a requirement.
Guests must sit on their own towels for sanitary reasons. A towel
can also be used to cover up any embarrassing occasions that might
Speaking of that, I didn’t observe anyone, anytime, anywhere who
even hinted at sex. Believe me, naked bodies, even well-formed ones,
are not much of a turn-on when you see them from end to end, no pun
Besides, Whispering Pines is billed as a family-friendly resort
where nude is not lewd or rude. Rules forbid even fanny-patting. The
parrot, Bubba, is the only one allowed to whistle at girls.
The standard joke among men here, upon seeing a shapely nude
female, is: “Wouldn’t she look great in a tight T-shirt?’’
HANGING OUT WITH MARIAN
Anyway, there is Marian, waiting for me to interview him. I ask
him why he comes to this resort.
“For relaxation,’’ he says with his Polish accent, “to meet some
friends and just relax and be myself. If you are going to do this
once, then you are going to figure out why. If you swim in the nude,
you are never going to put on a bathing suit again.
“My personal opinion,’’ he says, “if God created me like this and
God is not ashamed, then I am not ashamed of my body. I am not going
to go naked on the street. This is not the time and place. Right
here, we are so blessed.’’
Marian, once a professional dancer in Europe, is now 55.
(nudism) absolutely does not make me uncomfortable,” he chats on. “I
don’t know philosophy — from a man’s point of view, if you cover
your body, we are thinking what is underneath. In America, we are
talking too much about sexuality, but talking the wrong way.’’
One reason he comes to this resort is because the people are
friendly and there is no class distinction. White collar and
blue-collar workers all come and mingle, he says.
I wonder, how does one tell a man’s status in life with no collar
at all? I keep hearing the word “textiles.” What’s that about?
I finally learn that it refers to outsiders who persist in
wearing clothing and just don’t “get it.”
B A R E F A C T
Vacations in the
buff are picking up steam, according to Carolyn Hawkins of the
American Association for Nude Recreation. “They find visiting
a nude resort, they can travel more and pack
400 MEMBERS & A COUPLE OF HONEYMOONERS
Inside the clubhouse, Carol sits at her desk doing paperwork. She
adores animals ... and is surrounded by horses, dogs, cats, talking
birds and assorted other critters that she’s rescued. Carol and
Jerry are successful business partners with 400 members at their
year-round resort, which caters to families and the older set.
“Most people say when they enter here, they leave their clothes
and their troubles at the gate,’’ she says.
The original name of the resort was Apollo Sun Club, and it
opened in the early 1970s, says Carol. She and Jerry bought the
business in 1993.
At the dining room table, Joe and Carole, in their 60s, are
seated on towels, holding hands. They were married the day before in
the garden and are still glowing. Two years ago, Joe was not a
nudist — just looking for a place to live at the beach.
“There was an RV here,’’ he says. “I came by to say hello, and by
2 o’clock, I had bought it.’’ He decided to keep the RV at the
resort. “I found the people here more open and friendly and
accepting than those in the textile world. We are family-oriented
He is now the resort’s Web master (whisperingpinesnudistresort.com).
Joe and Carole actually met on the Internet. She jokes that she
bought Joe on eBay. She wasn’t a nudist until she met him, but has
grown to love the lifestyle.
“Nudity cuts down on your laundry,’’ she says. “You just wash and
wear, wrinkles and all.’’
READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP
In the late afternoon, as the pool area clears, Rachael is ready
to take photos of me. Covered with a towel, I slip into the pool,
leaving the towel high and dry. Swimming in the nude really is a
great feeling. Posing for a water photo is not. I keep floating to
the top. Not a pretty picture.
As dinnertime arrives, I inquire whether guests “dress for
dinner.” Yes, I am told, so I put on short-shorts and my shirt. Some
members “semi-dress,” in just tops or just bottoms. One woman wears
nothing but a black bolero jacket; another dons just a sarong. More
men are nude than women. They seem to take to nudity easier than
Owner and cook, Jerry, has on a black T-shirt long enough to
protect vital parts from the flame of outdoor grilling. His steaks
and vegetables are excellent.
Ray, in his late 20s, sits down on his towel at our table. He
says he grew up in New Jersey, where his family members were
regulars at a nudist camp. “So, how did that influence you?”
“I did the same thing regular textiles do, play, hang out,” he
responds. “I had more friends at the camp, though. I think I had a
better self-image than regular kids ... who were ashamed of
themselves, you know, when they go to gym and had to shower.
“Lots of boys were ashamed of their bodies. I never was because
that was the way I was brought up. I was happy in my own skin and my
own wild life. I see things a lot different.’’
Wearing only tops: Honeymooners
Joe and Carole.
SATURDAY NIGHT KARAOKE
It’s Saturday night karaoke! A resort member, who says he’s a
policeman in the Cape Fear region, sets up the equipment in the
clubhouse. He is clothed — in shorts and a tank top.
suddenly, it’s showtime.
A nude and gutsy singer — in more ways than one — barrels up to
offer his voice. With perfect pitch and reverence, he belts out a
hymn, “Just a closer walk with thee.’’
His name is George, and he wears a navy blue shirt, no pants,
sandals and a golden tan. He says he has been coming to this resort
for two years and can’t wait to get down here on Friday nights to
feel really good.
The karaoke continues until the wee hours of the morning. No
singing for me. I’d rather just listen, and look.
How sweet it is.
On Sunday morning, 20 members show up for nondenominational
worship services in a small screened chapel in the meadow. The
gathering starts with coffee and cake and a business report of
contributions of $800 to go toward members and friends in need.
Lay minister Gerald is filling in today for their regular Baptist
pastor, David. Gerald is clothed, as are most of those
The newlyweds, still holding hands, are congratulated. There’s a
prayer and blessings before Gerald speaks from the book of Matthew
about the teachings of Jesus. He warns of the dangers of gossip and
the need for kindness among neighbors. All join in with the Lord’s
Prayer as the 45-minute service comes to an end.
REFLECTIONS ON IT ALL
It was at church that I met Julie. Julie says she managed a
Raleigh law firm, but is now happily retired. She and her husband,
Bob, both in their 70s, have been resort members since 1982.
Although they live only a few miles away, they keep their RV at the
resort for a weekend getaway, where they can indulge their love for
nature and nudity.
“It’s quiet and so relaxing,’’ Julie says. “You meet people who
come back every year. It’s like a family reunion.’’
Clearly, Sunday afternoon is a time to reflect on the experience
and the motto, “Dress in what fits you best — your own skin.’’
I ask co-owner Carol, a mother of four, how she became a nudist.
She says it was a lifestyle her husband chose. She began by going
nude around the house, vacuuming and washing dishes —until doing it
in the buff seemed natural.
“Nudity became second nature to me,”
she says. “We forget that we are not our bodies. We are who we are
inside. Your body shape shouldn’t have anything to do with who you
think you are. That’s true for textiles, as well as nudists.”
A karaoke performer opts to wear a
top (only) for her turn at the mike.
I have to say that I’ve never met any kinder, nicer, more open
and honest people than those I encountered at the resort. Shedding
clothing is a great equalizer. You can no longer announce who you
are or want to be with what you wear. For me, nudity does feel good,
but not with others around. I guess I am just what Carol calls “a
Vanity, more than modesty, may be the reason. After all, I know
all too well that I don’t have the same body I had 45 years ago when
I modeled bikinis. Drats.
I suppose I am doomed to always be an accursed textile.
It’s a long and winding road to Whispering Pines Nudist Resort,
near Ocean Isle. Here are the directions from Fayetteville:
Travel on Interstate 95 south. Take U.S. 74 east to Whiteville.
In Whiteville, take 130 east to Shallotte for about 35 miles. You’ll
be at a traffic light in Shallotte when you then make a right on to
U.S. 17 south. Proceed to 17 bypass, then make a left (heading
south) and a right on to N.C. 904. Drive for 1 1/2 miles, then take
your second right on to Russtown Road. Proceed for 1/2 mile; take a
second right (Richardson), for another 1/2 mile and the pavement
ends. Continue on a dirt road for about 200 feet, dead-ending into
Sun Street. Make a right. The gates are 200 feet down, on the
To learn more, log on to whisperingpinesnudistresort.com. Or call
(910) 287-6404; toll free (888) LUV-2-TAN.