British Columbia·Photos

Naked boomers struggle to attract younger generation of nudists

Canada's oldest naturist club, according to members, is struggling to attract a younger generation of nudists.

The Van Tan club, a nudist colony in North Vancouver, has been nestled in the forest since 1939

Members of the Van Tan Club, a nudist colony in North Vancouver, enjoy the warm spring weather. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

It's a sunny Friday afternoon and a handful of aging nudists are sitting on lawn chairs overlooking a stunning view of Seymour Mountain, Burrard Inlet, and Mount Baker in the distance.

The naked group is part of the Van Tan Club, a nudist colony that was founded in the forest on North Vancouver's  Fromme Mountain in 1939, making it Canada's oldest official naturist club, according to one of the members, Daniel Jackson, 51.

Jackson said the club's membership numbers peaked in the 1970s at about 150 people, and now there are about 50 or 60 members.

Unlike these members of the Van Tan Club in Vancouver, east coast naturists tend to keep a lower profile - but many still visit Kelly's Beach in Kouchibouguac National Park every year. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"You know, if 15 new members showed up, that would be fantastic," said Jackson.

Van Tan member Linda Kent, 65, has been coming to the club from her home in Langley for five years. 

"It's an older group, and I don't know why, but it tends to stay an older group. People who join tend to be older," she said.

"People wonder what we do and we don’t really do anything that anybody else doesn’t do. We just do it without clothes on," says Van Tan Club member Linda Kent. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Jackson agrees that the club tends to draw older people, though there are a few members in their 20s.

"It's true, you would say that the emphasis is on older, wiser people, who in their own minds, probably have a lot less to lose," he said. 

"Look at the social and body image pressures younger folks face, and I think there is a lot of confusion as to what the naked body is all about."

Daniel Jackson leans on the gate that protects the Van Tan Club from the outside world. Past this gate, clothing is entirely optional. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The club is an idyllic little bare-bones, off-the-grid resort on a few acres above the Lynn Valley neighbourhood. There are no permanent cabins, but there are a few sheds for garden equipment and sports gear. There are several camping trailers parked at one end, and people are able to set up tents in the summer. 

The club has a big lawn for things like badminton and volley ball, and a pool that's actually a water reservoir, in case of fire.

The only permanent buildings are sheds to keep the equipment secure. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

According to Kent, the club would like to attract a younger crowd.

"We have a few younger members, but not a lot of younger members, and it would be nice to have younger members because we're getting too old to do the physical work. Somebody's gotta do it!"

"It's nice to have younger people around," she said, adding that younger members would ensure that Van Tan is around for years to come.

Naturist Tom "Trailer Tom" Sloan enjoys the peaceful retreat hidden in the forests of North Vancouver. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"Most people think that when you're nude there's more going on than just being nude … but there really isn't, other than gardening and building walls and cutting firewood," said Kent.

"We always wonder what we could do to be appealing directly [to younger people]. We have two open houses every summer, but whoever shows up, shows up," she said.

The next open house is June 19.

Daniel Jackson gets some gardening done at the Van Tan Club. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)