On Sunday, A., his friend and I headed to Gunnison Beach, the largest nude beach on the East Coast and the only legal one in New Jersey. Named after Gunnison Battery, a government fort built to protect the New York Harbor in the 1800s that later became a test site for the US Army and then missile defense installations, the beach served as a skinny-dipping spot for stationed soldiers. Three years after the base was decommissioned in 1972, Gunnison opened as a public clothing-optional beach and because it lies on federal land, NJ's state laws forbidding nude beaches do not apply here. (The same goes for alcohol so drinking on the beach is allowed, too!) Nearly 5,000 people make their way to the half-mile beach on sunny summer weekends to sunbathe without the risk of tan lines.
We boarded the American Princess ferry (the SeaStreak also makes the trip) at South Street Seaport's Pier 11 (near Wall Street) early in the morning and headed out to the Sandy Hook peninsula. Along the breezy 45-minute trip, we enjoyed views of lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn and Verrazano Bridges, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis and Governor's Islands, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Once we reached the Jersey Shore, two school buses awaited us for our transfer to the nearby beaches. I felt like such a deviant when the bus made its first stop at Gunnison and the driver kept emphasizing "CLOTHING-OPTIONAL BEACH" as we filed out. I couldn't get out fast enough.
After feeling like Jesus trekking through the desert (it's a half-mile blazing hot walk from the parking lot to the beach), it took another while to find ourselves a good spot to claim. Eye candy was sparse, people. There were naked and clothed sunbathers in all colors, shapes and sizes (lots and lots of sizes), but the majority were older than us. Still, it was interesting to see people baring all and just strutting around, completely comfortable with nudity. Imagine seeing one naked guy walk over to his nude neighbors to help them hammer in their umbrella. Or another group chat about a recent trip to Ireland. One voluptuous lady was going around recruiting people for volleyball. Naked volleyball. (I passed on seeing all that in action.) It was definitely a chill environment that if anything made me feel much better about the body I have.
All in all we had a great time frying in the sun and cooling off in the Atlantic even though the latter consisted of me clinging onto A.'s neck, screaming in pure terror and then laughing with each incoming wave. As for whether any of us joined the nudists, well, I'll just leave that one to your imagination.