CALGARY— Swimming in the buff in a public pool is creating waves in Calgary.
Naturist groups across Canada say it’s nothing new. They’ve been renting public pool time for family-friendly swimming events for years, if not decades.
“We are everyday people … who just prefer and are more comfortable living as much as possible in the nude lifestyle and using a city pool nude,” said Ray Jorritsma with the Edmonton Naturists Swim Group.
The group is one of two in Edmonton that regularly holds nude swims at public pools and has been doing so for about 30 years. Jorritsma is at a loss to explain why the issue is causing controversy in the southern Alberta city.
The Calgary Nude Recreation club has sold out tickets for a swim night on Sunday at the Southland Leisure Centre. The club describes the private, after-hours event on its Facebook page as a way of snubbing winter in the nude and on a waterslide.
An online petition is calling for the club to cancel the swim or ban children from attending because of potential pedophiles.
“Sexual predators will be on the prowl having an event like that is just like Christmas to them,” says the petition posted by April Parker. By Monday afternoon, 10,000 people had signed.
The Calgary club did not respond to a request for comment, but has posted replies on its Facebook page.
“The suggestion that our events should be marketed as ‘adult only’ entertainment illustrates the disconnect between what people THINK social nudity is about versus what social nudity is ACTUALLY about,” it said.
A spokesperson for the City of Calgary would not comment on the swim night, but said the attention the event is getting has prompted staff to meet with organizers “to ensure the privacy and security of participants can be maintained.”
In 2013, the Surrey Skinnydippers in British Columbia were told they could no longer rent out the Newton Wave pool after a community newspaper published a story about their swims and people phoned in with complaints. The group took the city to court and four years later won the right to keep on swimming.
Perry Fulop with the City of Surrey said the group continues to rent the pool once a month, covering windows with paper for privacy, and there have been no issues or complaints.
Nude swimming parties in public pools are more popular than people know, he said.
Ron Schout, president of the Federation of Canadian Naturists, said groups in Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver have long held swim events at public facilities. In Toronto, he’s been organizing such swims for 30 years.
Most swimmers are club members, he said, and include parents who bring their children. Some also invite friends, but all have to register with photo identification. Other clubs also do interviews.
Ward King with the Sunny Chinooks group out of Sundre, Alta., said its swim events are kept quiet. Events aren’t publicized and the group doesn’t have a Facebook page.
They’ve been swimming naked in a Calgary public pool for at least 10 years.
“We’re low key and we do that for a reason,” he said. “People don’t know they think the worst and it’s all taboo. And it’s really not that at all.
“It’s actually a really fun time.”