Ancient Greek Olympic sportsmen competed in the buff. Yes. Fully nude. It was a tribute to the gods, and it was for the masses to admire the male physique.
We evolved. Then we clothed ourselves. We evolved further. Then we streaked, and then we got arrested.
But nudies are no longer invading our playing fields; they are taking them over and competing nude. So is society finally ready for the naked high five?
For years, we’ve been bridging the gap, with women’s beach volleyball just one string pull away.
Tens of thousands attend packed arenas around America’s South cheer on shaved and tanned men as they rumble and fake wrestle one another. And then there is the World Bikini Football League.
But all of those competitions are G-rated compared to the folks around the globe taking it further:
Last year a New Zealand rugby team the ‘Nude Blacks’ celebrated National Nude Day in a bout with the visiting and very naked Welsh Leeks for the nude rugby World Cup.
And one man named Keith Whelan has just left WA attempting to become the first Irish man to row solo across the Indian Ocean … and says he’s doing it naked.
But not everyone embracing nature has received a warm welcome from onlookers.
A few weeks ago, a man in Ohio, USA tried to run a marathon naked … and was tasered by police. (He says his shorts were too loose, so he took them off to finish the race.)
Based on his experience, I figure it is probably safer to participate in organised nude activities rather than try your luck on the day. So in the spirit of journalistic research, I googled the local Sydney offerings of nude sports, but alas could only find one outlet: Naked Men’s Yoga. Even with a BYO mat policy, I could not partake. There is no way I would expose my downward dog to just anybody.
What about activities with less 'exposure'? I guess i'll never know because in Australia, there is no nude soccer, no volleyball, and no mixed-touch footy, damn it.
But if push came to shove, would I really be prepared to participate in a game of mixed, naked soccer? Perhaps in the warmer months, but when that afternoon southerly came through, I would be making sure my shrinkage was covered with something warm.
The Australian Naturist Federation tried to put on a nudie Olympics in 2010 in South Australia, but according to their website, ‘nobody put their hands up [nor their pants down] to make it a reality’.
Imagine a nude Olympics: snuggling up in the 4-man bobsled could be treacherous. Women’s synchronised swimming? I would TiVo that. The 100m sprint; would the incessant bounce of all those dangly bits be too much to bear? Lawn bowls? Oh dear. Handball anyone?
Jesting aside, what is the big deal with nudity? Last year Spencer Tunick took a photograph of 5,200 completely nude Sydneysiders lying on this country’s most precious monument, the Sydney Opera House. And for some years, Black + White magazine published photos of Australian Olympic athletes in the nude.
And if artists are allowed do it, so should athletes be. After all, the word gymnasium stems from the Greek word gymos, which means “naked”.
To find out what it is really like to embrace sport in the nude, I asked the world’s most notorious streaker, Mark Roberts. This man streaked and went balls out at Wimbledon in front of Anna Kournikova, avoided being gorded during a nudie Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, and exposed way more than Janet Jackson’s nipple during The Super Bowl. The man has exposed it all to millions at over 500 events.
I emailed Mark with a polite introduction and one question: WHY?
"To be naked is the perfect expression of freedom and ultimate confidence, and to be naked in front of thousands of people at a major sporting event being chased by many policemen is the perfect expression of freedom and lack of compliance with society’s rules … with a smile."
Thanks Mark. You’ve sold me on nudie sports, so I’m now looking for a nudie, mixed-doubles tennis partner that can provide a bit of confidence. Just bring a racquet. I’ll supply the balls.
Nudie sports. Would you watch it, or even compete?