09 July 2010

A Lovely Place to Get Wrecked...

Wreck Beach in the Spring, before thousands of nude sun seekers descend. (Photo taken from here)

I have referenced Wreck Beach a few times here on madnessandbeauty, but only in cheeky hyperlink ways that could easily be missed. But now, it is time to fess up and let you know: I frequent a nude beach.

But it's not what you think! When most people picture a nude beach, they envision a weirdo hippie swinger commune where love rules and drum circles unite in the sunset. And while I admit, there is that certain element down at my beloved Wreck, its about much more than that. People from all walks of life flock to the edges of UBC to descend the 473 steps to the bottom of a cliff. Wrapping around this steep hillside is a utopic slice of sand, the prettiest you can get in the Lower Mainland and one of the most renowned nude beaches in the world. Hell, it was even nominated to be one of Canada's Seven Wonders!

Part of Wreck's allure is that its location prevents a few things: mass crowds of people and development (there is no road access.) However, that doesn't prevent a ragtag group of vendors from setting up shop, hoisting their ware up and down all those stairs just to make it happen. There are people meandering around selling beer, jello shots, marijuana, homemade empanadas, pizza, hot pork buns (the affable Thai fellow's slogan is "would you like to eat my nice, hot buns?,) sarongs, jewelry, palm readings, portraits, and "icy cold organic soft drinks." The vendors, like most of the beachgoers, are in various stages of undress - the most hardcore among them nude but for their fanny packs....

Lining the back of the beach are more vendors, these ones more professionally set up as seasonal "permanent" stalls. Stormin' Norman's Spirit Burgers is a long time favourite, staffed by surly naked French Canadians and featuring exotic meat burgers. There are also Peruvian, Vegan and Greek take-out joints, not to mention a larger naked lady who braves the spluttering of hot oil as she makes french fries and even poutine. Yes, on the beach.

Getting buck naked is not mandatory, but it is considered polite to get at least kind of nude. I myself go topless, only going for the full monty about 10% of the time. "Tourists," often from more restrictive cultures/countries can sometimes be seen lining the back of the beach and leering, but the Wreck beach police (a groups of scraggy old hippies who have been down at the beach since the 60's, when Vancouver was referred to as "San Francisco of the North") chase them away. You do not want to piss these old timers off - brandish a camera and they turn into pitbulls.

I have been going to Wreck for about 8 years, and in that time have developed a little core crew of friends who also spend 10 months of the year dreaming of the beach. We spend all week holding our breaths and hoping the weather will be at least 25 degrees (Celcius, my yank friends. We're not that crazy) and then Jay makes a vat of sangria, and we wile away the hours gossiping, eating, swimming and even occasionally skim boarding at the water's edge.

But it's not the food or illicit drinking that makes it such a draw for me. Rather, it's the calm, laid back attitude of everyone on the beach, the giggling toddlers wandering around, the puppies playing in the water and the tattooed hipsters catching sidelong glances of their naked crushes. It's this weird feeling of community that keeps all of us trudging down (and back up) those brutal stairs. Gazing out at the water, with no visible buildings or landmass in sight, just forest and sand and waves, I remarked to my best friend Xstina "it's like the apocalyse has happened and we're all stranded here on this beach and we don't care because it is awesome..."

Ok, maybe that was the vendor beer talking, but I stand by it.

Even when I was here, I missed mah beach!