How Wreck Beach got naked

What will always be affordable? Naked swimming.

September 29, 2016

By Stacey McLachlan / Photo: Byron Eggenschwiler

Okay, Rich Uncle Pennybags with your fancy special “bathing costume,” you’d best check yourself: clothed swimming isn’t a privilege afforded to everyone. The prohibitive cost of beachwear during the Depression is actually what spawned Vancouver’s first reported nude beach—poor, unemployed, very naked young men would gather on the rocky beach by Siwash Rock in Stanley Park and presumably get horrendous sunburns.

But a complaint reported in the Vancouver Sun by a Mrs. Grundy (more like Mrs. No-Fun-dy, right guys?) just increased interest in nudist bathing, until in ’47 a peeping tom hid in the woods for three days straight and ruined everything for everyone. Nude sunbathers decided to pack up and head somewhere with a little more privacy, and the difficult-to-access Wreck Beach seemed like the way to deter the lazier perverts in the city.

It stayed a quiet spot for decades, but when interest in letting it all hang out increased in the ’60s, hippies flocked to the shores. Complaints were filed—I’m just going to go ahead and assume it was Ol’ No-Fun-dy, up to her usual tricks—and in 1970 the police raided the beach, arresting 13 people for “committing an indecent act.” (And yet no one does anything about those Third Beach drum circles. Where are my tax dollars going?)

The Georgia Straight retaliated by promoting a “Nude-In” protest, and 3,000 very naked people showed up in support. The police left the revellers alone, charges against the arrested were dropped and nudity at Wreck went on to exist in a no-harm, no-foul zone until 1991, when it was officially ratified as Canada’s first clothing-optional beach. Now, whether you’ve got a bathing costume or not, there will always be a place to enjoy the simple pleasures a day at the seaside brings: the sun on your skin, the breeze in your hair and pork buns served by a man without pants.

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