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But I didn't. In fact, after about five minutes, I realized I was the only person at the pool who was wearing clothes. I stuck out in the crowd because I wasn't naked.
Screw it, I thought. I'm here; let's do this.
So I took it off. All of it. And it was totally not a big deal. After a few minutes I actually forgot that everyone was naked. Young people and old people. Heavy people and skinny people. Tall people and short people. It really didn't matter. No one was eyeing each other, and there were no judgments being laid down on anyone. All were free to be themselves.
I hopped in the pool just as the approved witness (the priest) was getting ready to start his head count.
This would be the first time that anyone attempted to set a record for largest group skinny-dip, so it was a total lock that everyone standing in that pool with me would be a part of the record.
Avatan is part of a larger network of nudist clubs called the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR), composed of roughly 270 nudist clubs and resorts across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and beyond. All of them would be participating in the simultaneous skinny-dip.
When the dust settled, the official count at Avatan was 223 people skinny-dipping in unison, doing our part to set the record. While there is still no confirmed total for the participants, the record-holders will likely number well over 1,000 strong (and naked).
As I floated there alone in the middle of the pool, trying not to stare for too long at any one person, an older guy standing next to me gave me a nod.
"First time skinny-dipping?" he asked.
Not sure what gave me away—the confused look on my face or the fact that I was cupping my manhood with both hands (okay, fine, one hand). I smiled and nodded back. "What about you? Are you a regular?"
"No, it's my first time here, but I've gone skinny-dipping other places in the cities."
"Oh really? I didn't realize that there were other places like this outside of East Bethel. Where else have you gone skinny-dipping?"
"Oh, just the normal places, like Cedar and Twin Lakes," he said.
"Wait, you can skinny-dip there? When was this?" I asked, wondering why I had never seen any nude action during my weekend jogs.
"Well you can't officially," he answered, giving me a half-smile before dipping underwater.
ONCE THE OFFICIAL COUNT had been taken, it was time for the photos to be snapped for the Guinness Book. The first were done by the official Avatan photographer, who assured everyone that the images would remain confidential.
"Okay, everybody," the organizer yelled into his megaphone, "this next shot is going to be used in City Pages, so if you don't want anyone to see your face, you can turn around and face the back of the pool."
All of a sudden there was a feeling of unease from some of the people in the pool, primarily first-time guests of the club. On the edge of the pool, a younger couple looked at each other and it was obvious that the woman was not so thrilled about being in a newspaper.
"Are you kidding me?" she asked. "This is going to be in City Pages? Goddammit!"
Her husband rubbed her shoulders and did his best to calm her down, assuring her that no one was going to see her face. "It's fine; we'll just face the back of the pool and no one will know who we are."
A few other people joined in the decision to shy away from the camera, but the majority of the swimmers were more than happy to smile, wave, and celebrate the attention. After a few pictures, the organizer thanked everyone for participating and released the crowd to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.
"We just set a world record, everybody!" he shouted as the crowd cheered.
I hopped out, grabbed my towel—it's a rule at Avatan that visitors must carry one at all times to sit on—and headed off to get a full tour of the grounds. I met up with our photographer, who actually seemed just as comfortable in his skin as the regulars. (As a side note: I'm guessing we were the first two employees in City Pages history to meet each other for the first time naked. At least I hope so.)
We wandered over to the check-in table, where I met the host couple, Dave and Jane. (I quickly learned that in the interest of anonymity, the club uses only first names and last initials for all members. It kind of reminded me of the movie Fight Club, except everyone was naked and no one got beat up.)
The couple looked to be in their early 60s, and reminded me a little bit of my grandparents. Our conversation was laid-back, and they were quick to break the ice by telling us about their entry into the world of nudism (they got their first taste during a 13-month vacation in Europe 10 years ago and have been hooked ever since).
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