The best reason to take your clothes off in front of thousands of people
“Look over there, another woman with only one boob!” screamed the sarong-clad stranger standing next to me.
I was puzzled and turned to her and asked, “What do you mean?” She pulled down her sarong and showed me her chest, on one side a breast, the other side a scar. I peered in the direction she had pointed, and another woman with a similar appearance was proudly walking out of the water.
I watched as two complete strangers joyfully connected with one another. No words were required, just one look of recognition, a smile and then an embrace. I was in tears, a blubbering mess. It was the purest form of human connection, kindness, courage and love and a story was unfolding before my very eyes.
In the course of one day my life has changed forever. I am a better human being; I have experienced more joy than I’ll ever be able to express. I didn’t get married, I didn’t save someone’s life, nor did I rescue a small animal. I simply took my clothes off and swam in the ocean with more than a thousand strangers.
Participants in the Sydney Skinny. (Taryn is on the end).
The Sydney Skinny is an event like no other; it is the world’s largest nude ocean swim and happens each year at the stunning Cobblers Cove in Sydney. The event is a celebration of body acceptance and encourages participants to reconnect with their sense of adventure.
Here’s how the day unfolded for me:
I woke up on Sunday morning feeling slightly uneasy that I had engaged in a hearty feast of curry and chocolate cake the evening before. Seriously Taryn, could you not have shown some restraint on the food front before you partook in a nude swim?
It wasn’t so much the roundness of my tummy that was that bothering me but rather at what stage of the morning I would be “offloading” the previous night’s indulgences.
I arrived at Cobblers Cove early, filled with anticipation, excitement and nerves. Getting my clothes off in front of strangers is not something I’ve ever done. I walked around welcoming people with a smile and an air of assurance that could’ve been mistaken for confidence and bucket loads of experience in the nudity arena. We know this not to be true.
When I got to the beach, the first thing I saw was a penis. Yep, a man’s penis and oddly, it wasn’t my husband’s. Then I saw another, and another and another. Within minutes, a penis was a penis and a vagina was a vagina, and we were all just human beings. Nothing more: nothing less. Nothing scandalous, nothing dirty or creepy and nothing remarkable.
I eased myself into the water and immediately felt a sense of release, pleasure and freedom. The feeling of the water on my skin as I glided through it was delightful. The endorphin rush of being unclothed and doing something I had never done before was magical. This was life, and I was living it.
I was in the zone that, sadly, we rarely experience. I was out of the comfort zone and basking in what I describe as the sparkle zone. I felt utterly euphoric and deliriously happy.
And I wasn’t alone. I heard people squealing with joy exclaiming, “I never want to swim with clothes on again!” and I saw others joyfully hugging as if they had just been reunited after a lifetime apart. There were high fives, people laughing and people rejoicing.
Participants in the Sydney Skinny connected through their shared experiences – without a word.
And of course there were two women chatting, hugging and bonding over their shared mastectomy journey. One of the ladies explained to me how big a deal it was for her to do the swim, to get naked in front of other people and to face her fear. But looking into her sparkling eyes after she had completed the swim, I saw nothing but pride and happiness. When asked if she would do it again, the answer was a resounding YES!
It got me thinking that to effect a transformative change in a person’s life it requires an action to be taken (think Anthony Robbins’ fire walk). Water is an element that has been used as a purifier in many religions. Could participation in the event be the 21st century’s non-religious “psychological cleanse” that helps individuals lay their body image demons to rest? Is it possible to walk into the water with body image worries and walk out with an undeterred commitment to learn to love and respect your body more? I believe so.
Amongst the thousand people who were there on the day, I didn’t hear one person judge another. I didn’t hear one person complain about their stretch marks, cellulite or jelly belly. People were just people; there were no barriers, there was no discrimination or prejudice. People were kind to themselves and kind to each other.
If you want to feel comfortable in the skin you are in then maybe it’s time to take the dip of a lifetime. All you’ll need is a little bit of self-belief, an inkling of courage and your beautiful, bare, pure and authentic skin.