At Suntan Lake, tan lines aren’t exactly an issue for sunbathers. That’s probably because these sunbathers are also naturists who enjoy the wilderness in an unconventional, yet truly natural, way: nude. Suntan Lake is a defining feature of the North Florida naturist haven of Tallahassee Naturally (TN).
Founding member of TN and over 20 year veteran of naturism, Paul LeValley clarifies the difference in naturism and nudism.
“Naturists are attuned to nature, and focus on being at one with nature,” LeValley said. “This is very much a back to nature club. There are fancy resorts that call themselves nudists. So we fit the naturist definition a little better.”
Florida State U. boasts the only collegiate naturist club in the nation, aptly named Naturally FSU. The club is likely known best for its full-moon skinny dips in Suntan Lake during the warmer months, which attract many curious college students. Naturally FSU derives its name from its parent organization, Tallahassee Naturally, which is the local naturist community founded in the ’80s.
Ron Georgalis, a graduate student studying anthropology and the president of Naturally FSU spoke of the intrinsic connection between Naturally FSU and TN.
“Membership overlaps and the two organizations are not mutually exclusive in away way,” Georgalis said. “Tallahassee Naturally is the community group, and we’re an arm of Tallahassee Naturally. We are independent, but we also use the property that they rent and have events together.”
Bonding over the common exhilaration of returning to nature in its most literal sense, TN members of the North Florida-South Georgia naturist community gathered on Sunday, July 15 to celebrate National Nude Weekend during which the organization hosts their annual Open House.
The Open House event intentionally had staggered degrees of dress: from 10 to 11 a.m., all participants were clothed, between 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., clothing was optional and from 1 to 4 p.m., the dress code changed to completely nude.
Anyone was welcome to attend the Open House; however, the event was specifically designed to give TN members the opportunity to speak to candidates running for public office. (The politicians did not stay after 11 a.m., which is when the clothing-optional dress code took effect.) While tan lines aren’t a concern for the naturist set, matters of privacy and freedoms are.
TN’s Paul LeValley, who is the Chair of the Political Committee, extended invitations to several candidates, including Mark Schlakman. Schlakman is the Democratic candidate for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, who also holds the position of senior program director Center for the Advancement of Human Rights at FSU.
Schlakman’s expertise in the areas of politics and human rights made him the ideal guest for an organization so concerned with legal free expression.
“I respect the issues here,” Schlakman said. “Being at the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights at FSU, the issues here resonate in terms of privacy interests and exercising their freedoms, rights, and liberties without encroaching upon others.”
Located about 30 miles east of Tallahassee in Jefferson County, TN rents a 40-acre plot of wooded, secluded land (which includes a private lake) where naturists are free to be comfortably nude while avoiding voyeurs and the public eye. The organizations are considerate of others in that TN and Naturally FSU go 30 miles or more out of their way not to offend the public.
“I think that appropriate notice and discretion [is important],” Schlakman said. “It’s not that people are trying to foist their preferences upon anyone else. It’s just to freely exercise rights while providing appropriate notice so that people aren’t offended. It makes perfect sense.”
Open House is one of Tallahassee Naturally’s clothed events, but Georgalis oversees two nude events that college students are encouraged to participate in. The first is the Full-Moon Skinny-Dip which is usually scheduled for the Friday nearest the full moon from months April to October. Students can take a shuttle out to Suntan Lake at 7 p.m. and take a dip in the lake’s blue waters in the light of the moon.
The second event Georgalis described was the ancient pentathlon, which is based on the original Greek Olympic Games. It closely resembles what the games would have actually been like because all contestants and even spectators must be fully nude to participate. TN’s pentathlon events include javelin, discus, 200-meter dash, long-jump, and others. Men and women compete separately and according to age and skill-level.
The games promote sportsmanship and Georgalis encourages FSU students to experience the good-natured atmosphere for themselves.
“There’s something primally gratifying about [naturism].” Georgalis said. “I think everybody should experience something wild and unruly every now and then.”