The nudity laws in California, and on California beaches in particular, exist in a perpetual gray area -- a total headache for those who wish to live their lives outside the shackles of the status quo (and velcro, goddammit).
The state's penal code prescribes a misdemeanor for nudity, but only if it's carried out "lewdly." State parks don't allow any nudity at all -- but park officials could, if they so desired, designate clothing-optional areas on park land. Further blurring the lines, California's coastline is butchered into a bunch of arbitrary jurisdictions -- municipal, county, private, state-park, unassigned, etc.
The latest culture clash to result from that confusion is going down at the San Onofre State Beach / Camp Pendleton line...
... where nudists have been driven over to the federal military base by unsympathetic park rangers. The OC Register runs a brain-straining piece on the plight of the San Onofre nudists today:
Nudists banned from San Onofre's Trail 6 say they're being harassed by state park rangers as they try to find new spots to sunbathe in the buff - including a beach at Camp Pendleton.
It's been nearly two years since the state won a legal battle to ban nudity at Trail 6, a favorite nude sunbathing spot for decades. However, some of the nudists aren't complying with the ban. Instead, they're pushing back, sunbathing in the nude in the state park and trespassing on an abutting beach on Camp Pendleton.
The story then spirals into a bunch of he-said, she-said between the nudists and law-enforcement officers, but here's the gist:
Terminally naked folk want somewhere to chill, and park rangers seem quite determined not to let it happen on their watch. A couple different naked guys claim they've seen "rangers on the Camp Pendleton side of the beach spying on nudists with binoculars from cliffs and hiding in bushes, snapping photos." Military police, on the other hand, say they're mostly just worried about trespassing -- but nudists are paranoid they're cracking down harder than they would on average beachgoers, at the urging of park rangers.
Phew. At least Google Maps is on their side:
View Larger Map
Bob Morton, executive director of the Naturist Action Committee, tells the Weekly it's a matter of priority for state officials -- and protecting the preferred lifestyle of nudists, or naturists (not to be confused with naturalists, who collect bugs; though Morton says he likewise knows some naturist naturalists; mindfuck!), is not at the top of the list.
Though the Naturist Action Committee doesn't condone trespassing, Morton explains that nudists have resorted to Camp Pendleton sunbathing "to escape oppression on the state beach."
He says the State Parks and Recreation Department "is authorized to set aside places for that purpose... but they say they're really too busy managing the budget crunch."
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So how, he wonders, does the department have time and resources for the San Onofre crackdown?
Ah, well. At least nudists still have Black's Beach, some 20 minutes south -- a magical place of ancient foreskins and curious UC San Diego nerds, giggling from the bushes. A place where, every once in a blue moon, some hot young damsel in distress will attempt to scale the cliffs in full nudity, attracting a sky army of news crews and rescue copters.
Hate them or love them, even the stingiest ranger dude must admit: Naturists serve a pivotal role in making Southern California a far more interesting place to be.