There were no shirts, no shoes and all smiles as members of South Florida Free Beaches and the B.E.A.C.H.E.S. Foundation celebrated the 24th anniversary of the clothing-optional section of Haulover Beach with birthday cake and lemonade.
Dozens of members and visitors gathered Saturday afternoon to celebrate the 2000-foot stretch of Haulover Beach at 10800 Collins Ave., where people have been free to shed their swimsuits since 1991. Richard Mason, president of the SFFB, said that in the late 1980s and early 90s that section of the beach was far from a tourist destination.
“Before we started it was not considered a very nice beach,” Mason said. “Everything that’s there is there because of our efforts.”
Perry Silver, organizer of the foundation’s clothing-optional social club, said the organization raises funds and advocates for improvements along this stretch of the beach and has donated and contributed items over the years.
“We put in showers, mobi-mats (for the disabled) and donated wheelchairs that can bring handicap people right to the water,” Silver said. “Our donations help make it a nice place to come.”
According to the foundation, the clothing-optional beach annually draws millions of visitors and tourists and largely contributes to the more than $1 million in parking revenue Haulover Beach generates for the Miami-Dade Parks Department.
Silver said that one of the main reasons the nude beach has remained popular over the years is because the foundation has worked to help visitors feel safe. He said that beach ambassadors comb the beach ensuring there’s no illegal behavior and curtailing any catcalling or harassment.
“The social club is set up so that people can feel comfortable and can come and hang out,” Silver said. “A woman can feel more comfortable participating and feels like someone has their back.”
Naturists like Derrick Wiggins said that the relaxed setting has kept him visiting Haulover Beach for about five years. Wiggins said he stumbled on the nude stretch of the beach with his girlfriend, struck up a conversation with another visitor and was sold.
“In the nudist scene you meet people who are more willing to get you out of your comfort zone,” Wiggins said. “When you’re out here, it’s like you’re in the shower but you’re outside.”