The Surrey Skinnydippers’ once-a-month Saturday night nude swim – for members only and open to children who are accompanied by their parents – is once again making waves in the community.
“As a child advocate, I want to make you aware that these children may be victims of voyeurism at the least,” a person identifying as Rachel, at email@example.com, wrote to the Now-Leader. “As a taxpayer, please be aware this is a grave concern for many taxpaying citizens that subsidize your facilities for PUBLIC use. Please reconsider.”
The nude-only swims are held at Newton Wave Pool, at 13730 72 Ave., from 9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month. Adults are $12 ($10 online) and children under 18, admitted only when accompanied by their parent or legal guardian, get in free. According to the club, membership is mandatory.
Surrey resident Zachary Johnson told the Now-Leader he learned about the nude swims on Twitter.
“I thought that’s weird. I clicked on the link and it showed there’s going to be kids there as well. I thought well this is pretty inappropriate,” he said. “I wouldn’t really have a problem with it if there weren’t underage people involved. If it was only for adults, then it wouldn’t really be an issue.”
Paul Andreassen, organizer the Skindippers’ swims, said children have “always been there, and they are safe as they are at any other event where their parents are present.” He said parents “absolutely” have to be with the children.
“It’s a closed event, it’s a private event. The windows are covered.”
Andreassen said that “usually around 40” people come to the nude swims but “not at lot” of kids go.
He said the club began its swims in June 2002 until January 2003, “which is when Surrey decided to pull the plug, under McCallum and the then council. So we did appeal to council; they were not moved, so we moved our swim to Vancouver for a period of time while we organized and decided how to turn things around. Ultimately we wound up taking it to the B.C. Supreme Court.”
Justice Paul Williamson presided over the case, Skinnydipper Services Inc. v. City of Surrey and Laurie Cavan, heard in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver in 2007.
“For those who came of age in the 1960s, skinnydipping would hardly seem to be a threat to the moral fibre of western civilization,” Williamson wrote in his reasons for judgment. “Not so, however, for some of the good burghers of Surrey.”
Williamson had noted that the city cancelled the group’s rental permits soon after many in the community expressed their outrage to city employees of the day, threatening to boycott the pool.
“Not long after, on March 31, 2003, the Federation of Canadian Naturists, the group who had been renting the pool for late night private skinnydipping, received a letter from the City of Surrey stating that the Surrey Council had considered the matter at a closed council meeting, in itself rather odd in a democracy, and had affirmed the action of the staff in cancelling the pool rental agreement.”
The judge decided that “the decisions to cancel the nudist group’s permits and to decline to rent pool facilities to the petitioner are patently unreasonable.”
Andreassen says the club requires membership to attend the swims. “We screen everyone, we take photo ID, we keep records on everyone that attends our event.”
None are anonymous, he said.
The city staff who do the life-guarding are not working in the buff, Andreassen noted.
“They are the same that lifeguard the public swims. Think about it, they are there for our safety and they have to be identifiable – they can’t just blend in to the crowd. Same thing at a public swim, they are wearing their official issued T-shirts and carrying their whistles and all that sort of thing. They are representing the City and everything is kept under control.”
Laurie Cavan, Surrey’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, told the Now-Leader via email that the event is a “private function” and that the pool is rented to the organization after regular public swimming hours are finished for the day.
“The City of Surrey is complying with the court ruling that found it reasonable for civic pool facilities to be rented out privately for this purpose,” Cavan’s statement read.