The Current

Canada's oldest nudist club is marking its 80th anniversary

Birthday suits of all shapes and sizes will be on display Saturday as Canada's oldest nudist club marks its 80th anniversary in Vancouver.

A lot has changed since Van Tan Club's inception in 1939, spokesperson Daniel Jackson says

Founded in 1939, the Van Tan Club is Canada's oldest nudist group. Members will mark its 80th anniversary on Saturday by doing what they enjoy most: relaxing. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

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Birthday suits of all shapes and sizes will be on display Saturday as Canada's oldest nudist club marks its 80th anniversary in Vancouver.

"Once the clothes are off, everybody is equal and the same," said Daniel Jackson, member and spokesperson for the Van Tan Club.

Founded in 1939, the Van Tan Club emerged from a nudist colony in the dense mountainside forest that scales North Vancouver's shore.

In the club's infancy, members used to play a variety of sports, such as volleyball, horseshoes and petanque. The top activity now, Jackson says, is relaxation. (Submitted by the Van Tan Club)

Its five-acre space boasts an idyllic bare-bones, off-the-grid resort that is surrounded by trees and panoramic views of nearby Mount Baker.

Co-founders Edward Landsdowne and Ray Connett purchased the property in 1939 from a skeet shooting club, and it has belonged to the group ever since. 

"It's on a little shoulder that is not visible from the town below," Jackson told The Current's guest host Laura Lynch. "It's a quiet park setting."

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

The Van Tan Club is a hotspot for naturists, as they're commonly known, who have enjoyed au naturel sunbathing, swimming and socializing in the isolated oasis for the last 80 years.

A lot has changed in that time, he says.

Social mores of the late-1930s and early-1940s, for example, have shifted, making it easier for naturists to meet and shed their clothes. 

"In the early days of the naturist movement, people connected through cryptic entries and coded words placed in classified ads," said Jackson.

Naturists seeking others to share in the hobby used specific words to signal there was a "nudist or naturist flavour" to the entry as well as secret handshakes, he explained.

"You can imagine how difficult that would be trying to, you know, find people who are sympathetic, yet qualified to join the movement."

The Van Tan Club hit its stride in the 1970s when membership peaked at 150 naturists. (Submitted by the Van Tan Club)

During the 1970s, the Van Tan Club's membership peaked at about 150 people. Today the group has roughly 50 members.

The longest-serving has been part of the club for 40 years. "That's half the life of the club," said Jackson.

A wood-fired sauna is constructed on the property. Apart from a few structures, the club has largely left the space untouched to ensure it's a peaceful retreat away from the city. (Submitted by Van Tan Club)

On Saturday, the Van Tan Club is planning to play lawn games, sing karaoke and have a pig roast. However, no naturist celebration is complete without some down time. 

"Life is busy enough down in the town that relaxation has to be the main thing," Jackson said.

Written by Amara McLaughlin. Produced by Ines Colabrese.


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