Carl sits at the bar, sipping Bud Select from a plastic cup, wearing nothing but a faded blue bucket hat. He looks airy and comfortable as I stand next to him, sweating through my clothes on this 92 degree July afternoon — a most historic day, when nudists across the U.S. will set the Guinness World Record for largest number of simultaneous skinny dippers. But for now, it's just me, Carl, and his bare bum in the Seminole Nudist Resort's cafe, making small talk.
I fiddle with some complimentary packets of sunblock that bear the logo of the American Association for Nude Recreation. Browse a brochure that proclaims "Enjoy life the natural way!". Open and close the cap of my pen. Being the only dressed person at a nudist resort makes me fidgety. Carl tells me he's a retired maintenance man from Fort Lauderdale, and today is his very first as a nudist. It took him a year to finally commit to the idea, and I ask why. "I think a woman's body is a beautiful thing, so I was worried about the arousal," he candidly explains. I laugh awkwardly and write "Erection etiquette?" in my notebook.
Operating since 1969, Seminole Nudist Resort has a certain nostalgic old-Florida feel, even with recent renovations by the new owners (who interestingly, are not nudists themselves). As the pretentious western neighborhoods of Davie rose up around it, Seminole remained nestled on a private 10-acre stand of pines and palms, along a blink-and-you'll-miss-it side road. RVs line the winding driveway up to the clubhouse, where resort-goers pass much of their "nakation" socializing in the sun or playing cutthroat games of water volleyball. It's simple here, like life's complications are peeled away with the clothes. Tennis, billiards, and beer are daily options, while special events dot the social calendar. The nude luau and pig roast is a favorite, though nothing beats the Halloween party (yes, people wear costumes, but nakedness is almost always incorporated).
Today is one such special event — the Guinness record attempt, taking place at 260 nude resorts and beaches across the country. At the resort's poolside tiki hut, a small, gregarious, totally nekkid crowd is gathering. While some are residents and regulars, there are a few outright newbies to the nudist scene, who heard about the record attempt from the local media and decided stripping down with strangers would make for an interesting Saturday. Their tan lines attest to their non-nude lifestyle, a contrast to the deep, monochromatic tans of the years-long nudists. First-timer Heath, from Sunrise, has brought his girlfriend Clare, who is visiting from the Jacksonville area. They both wear vintage-style sunglasses and nothing else. "The idea of being part of the world record was just too much for us to pass up," he says.
It's about half an hour to go until dip time when two Vitamin Water reps show up to gift everyone with free beverages. They are a seemingly strange corporate presence at this semi-rural outpost, with its Airstream trailers and man-made pond. But within minutes, one rep is butt naked and playing front man to the all-nude band. "He was pretty much ready to strip down in the truck, but I convinced him to give it a little bit," says his co-worker Andrae. I ask if he'll be getting naked also. "Oh no, I'm cool," he asserts, sweating through his t-shirt.
At first, it's strange to see such a motley crew of bodies. It is not the perfected, cookie-cutter nudity we are so conditioned to know from strip clubs, adult films and airbrushed magazines. There are bodies large and small, male and female, ages 25 to 65, with certain pleasing aspects and all the inherent imperfections, too. "So," I think, "this is what naked people look like." It's natural and non-erotic; it's less sexualized and more respectful than the average bar setting, even. "A lot of people have sex in mind when they hear of a nudist resort, but it's not about that at all. It's just about being comfortable in your own body," says Pam, the resort's summer manager.
Just two minutes to go now. Pam has documented the name of every skinny dipper, as required by Guinness' record-keeping standards. As the clock ticks to 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, a diverse group of 32 swimmers at the Seminole Nudist Resort contribute to a tally that will number in the thousands. Mini beach balls are tossed in the air in celebration. A world record is set, a local lifestyle continues on.