Q life: with GABRIEL TABASCO
Nude Beach Rulebook Nude beaches. The world is dotted with them. Europe especially has plenty; from the volcanic beaches of the Canary Islands to secret coves of the Greek island. Though there is a common understanding on how to (and how not to) behave, there is no set rulebook.
Different beaches have different vibes. Most gay beaches are found at the rocky far-end of a beach. This was because to most beach-goers bathing on rocks was unappealing. As with anything, the gays took over what was unwanted and made it cool; turning unwanted rocks into nude sunbathing and cruising areas. Some of which have become famous and commercial.
Of the commercial gay beaches the most infamous is Elia Beach on Mykonos. One summer, as my friend and I sat sunning ourselves, one man arrived and began undressing. His low-hangers dangled freely as he bent over to pack his clothes away. My friend picked up the bag of nuts we bought as a snack (no really, we did), held it up and said ‘would you like some nuts?'
‘It's fine. I got some right here' I laughed, as the man's big balls swayed between his legs right in front of us.
Some men are more confortable being naked than others. Still on Elia beach, one stunning man, with toned biceps, unblemished, tanned skin and washboard abs sat alone on a sunbed. It was impossible not to notice him. Not because of his beauty but from the way he was sitting: with his legs to his chest revealing his asshole that, like the rest of his body, was tanned (bleached?) and as smooth as marble. It was as if a museum was displaying a rare gem in an exhibition previously not open to the public. Anyone who happened to pass by, momentarily stop to stare at him. I caught some snatches of the conversation as people made comments. They ranged from ‘wow' to ‘really?' If there was a rulebook for a nude/ gay beach then how much and what is appropriate to display?
The sandy part of Elia Beach, or any nude beach, gives way to the rocks where, as tradition dictates, all the sexual activity takes place, either one-on-one or in groups. Peering from my sunbed I could see small groups of men huddling together. Further away, one man was standing as another man's head bobbed up and down.
Other beaches, though they have no amenities are popular to gay men. One beach in Crete, covered in sharp pebbles, rocks of chalk and only accessible by descending a dirt-track was so unpopular, it became a common gay beach after the gays laid claim to it. I would go there my friends to sunbathe. Some of them would hook up. Others would pose for photos for their online dating profile. But mostly it was to enjoy the nude beach.
As we sunbathed I noticed the occasional jeep or van drive in the cliffs above. The men, probably closeted or married, would gaze down at us but they would never join us.
‘I don't feel comfortable' I said.
‘They just want to look. They won't touch,' Andrea said before adding ‘don't be so frigid.'
I was not aware that I could still be frigid while sunbathing naked, in public, as a strange man overtly observed me. Nor did I know that it was possible to be chatted up while being shouted at from the cliffs above me. Those rugged men would wave and ask how we were. They were flirting. I was being polite. And my friends ignored them. Those conversations went nowhere. It was hard to be hit on by a man in dusty dungarees who was standing metres above me on jagged rocks.
From the beach below we could see who walked on the cliff's edge. On one occasion my friend Nick (in his bathers) emerged with his new boyfriend (in the nude).
‘He's not that big' said Andrea who was evaluating the new boyfriend.
‘He's so hunky… and beautiful' I said, happy that there was a nude man on the nude beach.
At times it seemed that men with bathers outnumbered the nude sunbathers. I once spotted a sleazy architect I knew, wearing a shirt and jeans (in the summer heat!) on the nude beach.
‘Yeah. Hi. Yeah' he said uncomfortably when he spotted us. ‘Just here to walk my dog.' ‘But… you live 80km away' I said.
‘Yeah, but, you know… the dog likes this beach.'
Let's establish at least one rule: don't use your pet to perv on men at a nude beach. Surely you can't be that horny. Surely you don't need to drive 80km to look at nude men. And if you do, then own it like those married men on the cliffs.
On holiday in Spain, I looked in my guidebook for a gay beach. Once finding it, I stripped off only to wonder if indeed it was a gay beach. It was a beautiful beach of shallow, rocky pools of water but there were no gays. In fact, there were no people. I asked my friend who worked in the gay travel industry about it.
‘Sometimes, if we don't have content we just make it up and say a certain place is a gay beach. Then the gays read about it, go there and make it gay.'
‘So you trick the gays?' I asked.
‘I guess… but only for their benefit' he added.
Perhaps the best nude beaches are the beaches that are not labelled as nude and where there is no sign reading ‘Beach'. With friends I spent one idyllic day on one hidden beach in Milos. We claimed one side of the beach, while hippies shading themselves in caves claimed the other. The middle part of the beach was shared territory.
We were comfortable in our nudity until a family of tourists invaded our beach with their lilos, playing balls games and screaming like lunatics in the waves, before leaving after 45 minutes. We were drunk of sun and saltwater so it did not bother us… but it got me thinking: what are the rules for asking someone to leave a beach if you were there first? Technically isn't the beach yours?
I think the best nude beaches are the ones that are hardly beaches at all; hidden nooks of rock and sand, not labelled on any maps and where the only people are the ones you bring with you. On such beaches there are no gawking farmers, no irritating families, and there are no rules. None are needed. There are no ball games though there may be the occasional nuts. Not including the ones you bring as snacks.