Dozens of brightly colored floats bobbed in the pond. There were noodles and air mattresses, blow-up fish and alligators, boogie boards and floating chairs. Children laughed and adults waved to friends drifting by. It could have been a scene out of any summer camp vacation, except for one thing: Everyone was naked.
“Floatopia” was one of several weekend events at Solair Recreation League, a family-friendly, member-owned nude recreation resort and campground set on 360 secluded acres in northeastern Connecticut. Solair is an affiliate of AANR, the American Association for Nude Recreation, which defines its mission as “to advocate nudity and nude recreation in appropriate settings while educating and informing society of their value and enjoyment.”
I visited Solair on a sunny Saturday in the company of Nancy Greenhouse, a summer resident who volunteers as the resort’s marketing director. At first, it was hard to know where to look. But not long after I entered the property (having passed a sex- and criminal-offender background check), I found myself less focused on nude bodies and more focused on the heartfelt welcome I received from everyone I met.
Many of Solair’s summer residents are reverse snowbirds, who lease sites — small lots with cottages, manufactured homes, or RVs. There are also some 50 rental properties, including tent sites. Most residents navigate the property in golf carts. Along with the beach, the resort has a solar-heated pool, clubhouse with hot tub and unisex showers, open-air pavilion for arts and crafts and dances, and several miles of hiking trails. Among the large assortment of activities are pickleball, volleyball, meditation, yoga, horseshoes, bocce, shuffleboard, arts and crafts, kayaking, and paddleboards. The Naked Turtle Café recently opened under new management; David and Kim Brotzman, former chef-owners of the Main Street Grille in Putnam, are aiming to upgrade the resort’s food profile, with options like coconut mahi mahi and homemade clam chowder.
Summer weekends draw families, including many who have been coming for generations (Solair opened in 1934). While not all nudist resorts are family friendly, AANR affiliation guarantees a safe, family-friendly environment, according to Ronna E. Krozy, an AANR trustee and Solair member.
As I chatted with residents and visitors (feeling oddly overdressed in capris and a tee), several themes emerged consistently. First, people enjoy the comfort of nudity, especially at the beach. Penny, whose first foray into nude recreation was a nude beach on Martha’s Vineyard, still recalls how much she disliked “that ride back from Cape Cod with salt and sand on your skin.” Adds Bill: “I hate wearing a bathing suit at the beach! This is natural, more comfortable, cooler in the summertime, and I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to put on in the morning.” (In camp everyone goes by first name only. Most members have confided in their families and close friends, but many are reluctant to share their recreational choice with co-workers.)
Nudity levels the playing field, several members said. Ryan, whose skill in IT has endeared him to many camp residents, put it succinctly: “You see personalities. You can’t hide behind fancy clothes. You have to be yourself here.” Don, whose father brought him to Solair every summer when he was a child and who now brings his own kids, agrees. “Everyone is kind of equal. The only way I could be unequal is if I wear my Rolex watch around when I’m stark naked!”
Third, every body is valued and deserving of respect, regardless of size, shape, or condition. As Krozy explained it: “This is a place to be able to feel good about your body. We try to help people accept their own bodies, men as well as women. . . . We pride ourselves on being open to people who not only might have obesity issues or be excessively thin, but people who have disabilities.”
Mike, a newcomer to Solair, recalled his trepidation on his first visit. “I’m not young. I have a lot of years of wear and tear on this body.” After he checked in at the office, he says, “three guys walked by — my age, my size. I threw my clothes into the car, grabbed a towel, and I’ve never looked back.”
Privacy and safety are of paramount importance. Day visitors must pass a background check for criminal and sexual offenses. They then tour the property with a Solair guide who is trained to draw them out about reasons for visiting and who can quickly spot gawkers. Residents in yellow hats patrol the camp unobtrusively looking for anyone who might be behaving inappropriately, such as staring, touching, or taking pictures. “They are quickly shown the gate,” Greenhouse said. Prospective members must undergo a series of four interviews and be approved by the resort’s membership director.
While most campers opt for total nudity throughout the property, nudity is only required in the pool and the pond. Everyone carries a towel or sarong to sit on, and it’s not unusual to see a female volleyball or pickleball player wearing a sports bra. Carrying stuff can be a challenge. Cellphones can be slipped into hat brims or a small pouch on a lanyard around the neck. The cafe will keep a running tab, so customers don’t have to carry money. And there are the ubiquitous golf carts.
The sense of community is palpable. “There’s really a nice support system here,” said one member who has been coming with her husband for over 30 years. “In that time, we’ve been to [other members’] weddings, bar mitzvahs, and funerals.” Greenhouse recalled a wedding on the Solair beach two years ago that the entire camp turned out to witness. What would a bride and groom wear for nuptials at a nudist resort? you may ask. She wore a sheer white gown. He wore a bow tie and a cummerbund.
Solair Recreation League, solairrl.com
Ellen Albanese can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.