The good old days of skinny
dipping on the seashore are over
By DEWEY PARR
you might think this is a strange subject for me to approach.
not really. Skinny dipping has a long history on the Outer
Banks. I don’t really understand what the allure is to walk
beach or swim naked, but to many it has been a long-time tradition.
I recall years ago there was uproar in the news media about a
congressman who was seen walking the beach naked in Florida.
one of my stories that I wrote years ago, entitled “The Secrets of
Sunrise,” I gave a first-hand account of a gentleman walking the beach
naked. Some who visit the beach are little more
They wait for the cover of night before they drop their clothes and
plunge into the ocean for a midnight swim.
I don’t feel skinny dipping has a sexual connotation. The
skinny dipping I am referring to is same sex. I was surprised
learn from talking to my wife that the desire to skinny dip was not
just a male thing. Groups of girls have been known to go
dipping as well. Of course, she claims she never engaged in
an illicit activity. After all, she grew up in West Virginia.
have a feeling that even in West Virginia and states not near the
ocean, there has been a lot of skinny dipping.
I define skinny dipping as a mischievous act that conjures up the
feelings of being free. When you go to the beach, you just
naturally feel free and adventurous. There is something about
roar of the ocean and the waves splashing on the beach that makes you
want to throw all your worries and cares to the wind. This is
feeling that causes some to toss their clothes aside and jump in the
Now I will ask you a personal question. You don’t dare openly
answer this for it might incriminate or embarrass you. You surely would
not want your kids or grandkids to know. That might destroy
saintly image. Have you ever skinny dipped?
I think the answer to that might have to do with the
in which you grew up. If you lived on a farm that had a pond
creek or river nearby, the answer might well be “yes.” TV
programs like “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Waltons” are a
good example of a way of life that lent itself to skinny
Have you ever dropped your clothes and gone skinny dipping and had
someone take your clothes? This seems to a favorite theme in
of the Western movies. It can be an embarrassing moment, even
done just in jest by your friends.
I am going to share a personal secret with you that I hope will not
make you think any less of me. I have skinny dipped at
in the sound and the ocean. What’s more, I enjoyed it and
do it again. My skinny dipping days were while growing up on Hatteras
Island. In those days, we did not have tourists on the
island. You could go to the sound or beach and seldom see
Many times, we boys skinny-dipped in the sound. Captain
boat was one of our favorite places to swim to in the sound.
kept the boat anchored out in the sound. I can remember well the fun we
had jumping off his boat into the water.
Occasionally, not often, someone would hide our clothes as a
joke. I do recall one time I had to sneak home naked because
it. Of course, back then there were times you could even walk
sand roads and not see a person. Far as that goes, it is
if anyone saw you they would be alarmed or run and tell.
was no calling the police for we did not have police on the
island. We policed ourselves. They would probably just get a
laugh out of the fact someone played a joke on you and hid your clothes
when you went skinny dipping.
Sadly, our skinny dipping days are over on the Outer Banks. Nudity in
any form on the beach, no matter how innocent it may be, can lead to
serious trouble for the offender. No longer are we free to
the simplest pleasures like walking the beach, shelling, fishing,
sunbathing, and driving without being constantly watched.
In the last three years, we have witnessed the strong-arm tactics of
the National Park Service in administering their program to protect a
handful of birds.
In the name of protecting endangered and threatened species, the Cape
Hatteras National Seashore has mauled and killed much of the wildlife
that once roamed our forests with their predator program.
program uses tax dollars to pay the salary of an animal
exterminator. The Park Service has cajoled, criticized, and
divided people into two major camps. One group favors closing the
beaches to all vehicles and limiting foot traffic. The other, which is
in the majority, favors keeping free and open beach access as was
promised in writing at the beginning by the Cape Hatteras National
Now, adding insult to injury, a paid permit system to drive the beach
is being instituted that places limits on how many vehicles can be on
the beach at a time and how they should be parked. No longer will
groups be allowed to cluster on the beach or park behind one
It will be interesting to see how this new rule plays out on the famous
fishing area know as Cape Point. During special holidays and
fall fishing season, off-road vehicles are stacked
Tourists, as well as locals, will have to make a personal appearance to
undergo a training session on how to drive the beach and what is
required equipment. After completion of their
session, they will be asked to shell out money for a permit to drive
the beach. At this time the price has not been officially
announced, but it will be somewhere between $90 to $150
The paid permit will not guarantee access to the beach. It
depends on the number of allowed vehicles in an
Additional closures will occur at the whim of the seashore
superintendent and will limit access to the beach even
In the last three years, walking and driving access points to the beach
have fluctuated from day to day. Can you see visitors
their precious vacation time waiting in line at a checkpoint for a spot
to open up so they can go to the beach?
This type program could only be designed for one purpose.
to discourage people from coming to the islands. There is no doubt that
this new program will entail checkpoints being established for entrance
onto the beach. At the checkpoints drivers, as well as the
contents of their vehicles, will be under scrutiny.
constant patrolling the beach and monitoring the activities of all who
are there will occur.
For those who had the freedom in times past to collect shells,
driftwood, and other items that wash up on the beach, I am sure will be
watched and limits will be put on that activity. There has
been mention in the NPS literature that a shuttle service could be
implemented to places like Cape Point. Of course, this will be for a
So far I have not seen anything about providing portable
Could well be this is another way they can generate more money for
their coffers by issuing tickets to those who “got to go.”
sure if the “I had to go” excuse will stand up in a federal court
before a judge who is in favor of closing the beaches to all traffic.
With this as a background about the mentality of the Cape Hatteras
National Seashore administration and the staff, I would definitely
discourage anyone from ever thinking of skinny dipping again.
Those days are gone and it would behoove parents to instruct their
children to be careful how they conduct themselves on the
I base this on some of the things I have been told the park rangers
have done over the last three years – such as hassling visitors for
tossing a cracker to a seagull, a child for reaching hand under a rope
pick up a shell, and a family for coming early in the morning
watch the sunrise by claiming they were sleeping in their
As far as I know, there is no federal law on the books in regard to
nudity in a national park. I would assume the charge would be based on
state or local law. I would advise everyone to check out
the laws within your state and how they are being
Every region and different cultures have different interpretations on
the subject. In some areas, some of the bathing suits seen on
beaches would be classified as violating the nudity laws.
Probably the next move by the National Park Service will be to issue a
statement on what type of swimwear you will be allowed to have on the
beach. It would be interesting to see what they come up
with. Now there is a study for you! The history of
Below is the law in regard to being nude in North Carolina. I
would advise you not to give the stool pigeons or do-gooders who now
roam our beaches an opportunity to report you. Who knows? You
might end up on Facebook.
North Carolina Code 14-190.9 defines nudity as “willful exposure of
private parts in a public place and in the presence of others of
sex or aiding, abetting or procuring another to do so.” Breastfeeding
of an infant is exempted. The fine is six months in
and a $500 fine.
My advice is to keep your bathing suit on, for the good-ole-days of
skinny dipping on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands are gone forever.
note: Dewey Parr spent most of his boyhood on Hatteras Island
now lives in Buxton, where he owns and operates The Old Gray House gift
shop in Buxton with his wife, Mary. He has written often
island life and traditions in days gone by and about how he thinks the
National Park Service is eradicating these traditions. He
was “just having a little fun” when he wrote this article, so maybe
it’s tongue-in-cheek – or maybe not. To read more of Dewey’s
articles, go to http://www.outerbanksshells.com/)