Naked fun in the sun!

Our 36th annual guide to Bay Area nude beaches

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MUIR BEACH PHOTO BY AMANDA BOGGS

Entertainer Wavy Gravy and Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg like Red Rock Beach; Marin Superior Court Commissioner Roy Chernus favors Bass Lake, and Marin County Sup. Steve Kinsey says he's been naked at Red Rock, Bolinas, Hagmier Pond, and Mount Vision Pond.

"I've probably hit every nude beach in Marin," says Kinsey, who has described his visits as "exhilarating and normal." "My last dip was at Bass Lake last fall. It has beautiful, fresh water, and the swimming environment is wonderful. I look forward to the next opportunity."

But on their next trips to the nude section of beautiful Muir Beach, visitors may notice something new: a warning sign is being erected by the county this summer to urge users to be "respectful" of each other and to notify authorities if there's trouble.

The sign is the result of a compromise worked out by nudists, law enforcers, county officials, and local homeowners, some of whom wanted nudity stopped. Under the agreement, cops are making a few more visits than before. But through July 1, 2010, only four complaints about nudity and one citation for improper sexual conduct have occurred since January 1, 2009, and none since August 13, 2009, according to marin county sheriff's office crime analyst Susan Medina. "We keep responding to complaints, but I can't recall any recent citations," says Lt. Cheryl Fisher, commander of the Marin County Sheriff's Office's West Marin Station. Fisher says the subjects are usually suited up by the time deputies arrive. "A deputy showed up on a very hot Sunday," says regular visitor Michael Velkoff of Scotts Valley. "As soon as he left, everybody was naked again."

"Of course, guys in spiked penis rings not parading themselves around also have helped," says Sup. Kinsey, who, for now, has spiked his previous threat to fight back by starting an effort to make Muir and other beaches clothing-optional under a 1975 law giving Marin County the power to exempt areas from its anti-nudity provisions. "Sometimes the best thing we can do in government is to stay out of the way."

Homeowners remain wary. One, who wants to remain anonymous, tells the Guardian: "We are optimistic" about being able to "coexist" with the naturists, "but we also remain very clear about what is legal and what will and won't be tolerated." And a former advocate of the ban told me that instead of not going to Muir Beach "a person wanting to use the beach nude might do it in a manner that doesn't draw a lot of attention."

As if the Marin mashup wasn't enough, nervous naturists also got ready to do battle with state authorities, who they feared would eventually ban nudity at Devil's Slide in San Mateo County and at Bonny Doon Beach near Santa Cruz, both of which are state beaches.

The jitters came in the wake of an October 2009 California high court ruling allowing a crackdown on nude sunbathing on state beaches, even in areas traditionally used for such activity. "All it takes now is an individual ranger with the desire to issue a citation," warns R. Allen Baylis, a Huntington Beach attorney representing the Naturist Action Committee, the country's biggest nudist lobbying group. "It could have a chilling effect [on nudity] on any state beach."

"Our thin line of security has been overturned," says Rich Pasco, head of the Bay Area Naturists, based in San Jose. "So let's hope that in today's economy, the thin level of state park staff has better things to do with their time than dealing with naturists."

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