This summer, and several summers before, I have been a National Park Lifeguard. In most ways, it's not that different than any other lifeguard job in America. You sit on a stand, you try and stop kids from doing something stupid, and then go get them when they inevitably get themselves into trouble. But one of the beaches they send us to is in fact a nude beach, New Jersey's only clothing optional beach. As you imagine, the people there are different there then they are at the other beaches.
5. There's a huge population of hippies who show up daily.
Did you ever wonder what happened to hippies after the 1960s ended? Well now almost fifty years later, you can see them, and they're pretty much doing the same things they were doing back then. They also show up almost every day. It gets to the point that, as a person who simply works there from time to time, I have learned not only recognize patrons, but also learned people's name and personalities. As a result...
4. Most of the patrons know the rules better than the lifeguards
Since so many of these people are here every day, they sort of form their own community. In this community, they self police everything ranging from balls in the water to fights breaking out. The exception to this is on the weekends when non patrons show up, creating all sorts of new problems...
3. and 2. On the weekends, people come from all over, and treat it like one big party.
Every day at the nude beach, but particularly on weekends, patrons come from all over. You'll see people from Maryland and Pennsylvania getting there at 8 a.m. and showing no signs of leaving at at 6 p.m. The people set up tents and windscreens from one end of the beach to the other, and there could be as many as five thousand people on the quarter mile of beach. It kind of looks like the Hoovervilles from the Great Depression. And on the weekends, when its not just the regulars there, the beach is treated like one big party. The biggest we have believe it or not, is drinking and fights. I once had to deal with a woman who knocked out a man for accidentally getting watermelon juice on her, in truth that doesn't even seem that weird because...
1. We see every type of weird under the sun.
I don't know what it is about the beach, but it attracts the strangest people. Everyday, there's a man who hits a golf ball from the top of the beach, and wherever it lands is where he sets up his stuff. There's a woman who just does hula hoop tricks for hours, I'm actually pretty impressed by her endurance. Probably the most memorable though, are two men, one who walks around the beach wearing a khaki kilt and a ukulele, and a man who legitimately thinks that he's Jesus.
While the clothing optional beach is definitely strange, I quickly learned that it was weird in a way I never would have expected. And whether I like it or not, I never know what to expect.