It’s a Friday afternoon and Rich Diller has a weekend of relaxation in front of him. His camping trailer is parked on a grassy hill at the edge of the lake. He has all he needs: food for the weekend, a shade tree, a fold-up lawn chair and tools to work on his red Volkswagen bug. He packed light, like he always does, leaving heavy clothes — well, really most clothes, for that matter — at home.
When Diller, a 43-year-old IT tech from Elk Grove, goes on vacation, he goes in the nude. He usually ends up at Laguna del Sol, the clothing-optional resort in Wilton.
Diller wasn’t always a bare-it-all naturalist. But when a coworker challenged him to experience public nudity for himself, there was no turning back.
“I was here two hours, and I said, ‘I’m joining this place!’” Diller said.
‘Parts are parts’
Laguna Del Sol — the clothing-optional resort with four glistening pools, a restaurant, nightlife, camping and a recreational lake where people kayak and fish in the buff — is a summer refuge for its 1,800 members who seek either solitude or a lively party.
For many, the idea of going to a nudist resort is unfathomable and conjures ideas of sex parties and old hippies trying to relive the summer of love. While some might be able to find that at the resort, so-called “nakations” are popular for singles, couples and families who say they want to enjoy the freedom of being naked. Nude recreation is a $440 million industry, according to the American Association for Nude Recreation, up from $400 million in 2001.
Suzanne Schell, who owns Laguna Del Sol and a second resort in Arizona with her husband, Wayne, says business is staying steady, even though the economy has hit the hospitality industry around the country.
Steven Sailors, manager of Laguna Del Sol and resident nudist, says many people end up at the resort out of curiosity or because a significant other talked them into trying it out. Usually, though, he says it’s the person who was at-first hesitant who decide they want to return.
“It’s no big deal to be naked. You see everybody’s scars or whatever is missing,” Sailors said. “Parts are parts. Everybody has them.”
Solitude and recreation
Located on Rawhide Road, off of Dillard Road between Elk Grove and Galt, the 250-acre resort has 80 acres set aside for camping and recreation.
The lake is the centerpiece of the resort, where nude couples kayak and children cool off at the rope swing.
On one side of the lake, nude campers set up tents and often keep to themselves, reading or riding bikes to the Cosumnes River Preserve. Also on the east side is an archery course and the indoor pool, where the water is always heated to 80 degrees and a wall of windows offers swimmers the view of the lake and the busier side of the resort. Many guests stay in RVs along the east side of the lake, near the main swimming areas, where there is a large pool and a horseshoe shaped conversation pool.
The resort’s permanent residents live nearby in small neighborhoods of modular homes that are well-kept and decorated with lawn ornaments. At night, the neighbors barbecue in their courtyard or dance to live music at the pool with the weekend visitors who are from Lodi, Galt, Fresno and as far as Canada.
Laguna Del Sol is nothing new to the area. It has been open for nearly 50 years and was known as Rawhide Ranch until the Schells took over ownership in 1984. They renamed it Laguna Del Sol and transformed it into the upscale, high-functioning resort it is today. An average summer weekend will bring in 500 to 700 visitors and between 50 and 75 new members, Sailors said. The numbers are higher when the resort hosts one of its special weekends, such as this month’s Nudestock that will feature live concerts and a nude wedding.
‘The nudity disappears’
Once newbies spend a few clotheless hours at Laguna Del Sol, they say being naked is no big deal. Letting it all hang out doesn’t mean they’re swingers, “peeping Toms” or whack-o’s. For many, public nudity is fun, freeing, a way of life and a way to connect.
“It’s such a highly social atmosphere. The nudity disappears ... you make lifelong friends.” Sailors said.
Sailors doesn’t call himself a nudist; clothes are just not that important to him. For Sailors, the resort is simply, human beings being with other human beings. No one can hide, and some find a sense of comfort in that.
But he also says the environment allows a separation between sex and nudity — two things that shouldn’t always be connected but have been culturally. What he sees among the naked are people acting with a much deeper level of respect.
“Here, people are at the peak versions of themselves with kindness and consideration,” he said.
Sailors has lived at the resort for 18 years, and raised his two children on the grounds. There were times when the children felt isolated on the resort, and his daughter questioned it for a time. But mostly, he feels it helped his children be more open to all situations in life.
While he says many young boys would do anything to see a naked woman, his son learned to be more respectful after growing up in a naturalist environment.
“I think it gave him a healthy, more respectful view of women,” he said.
You don’t feel you’re not good enough
Carol, a single mother who requested her last name remain anonymous, joined Laguna Del Sol last weekend after trying it out for a few days.
Like a lot of people, she had been to a nude beach and wanted to explore a little further.
On a Friday, she pulled her car onto the lawn and set up a small tent under shade trees, where she camped alone, though she says she wouldn’t feel comfortable camping anywhere else by herself. She spends the day with friends she’s met, lounging by the pool with nothing but a Hawaiian sarong wrapped loosely around her waist.
In her 40s, Carol has found that age has made her become more comfortable with her body. She says it doesn’t matter as much to her that people see her flaws.
“What I got is what I got,” she said. “There are all different body types here, so you don’t feel that you’re not good enough.”
Many single people, like Carol, decide to take the step to bare themselves, even if they aren’t sure they have enough confidence to join the crowd.
One man who wanted to stay at the resort wasn’t sure if he could go through with it because he was insecure about his back hair. After 15 minutes on the grounds, he walked back into Sailors’ office with a big smile and said, “No one cares.”
When everyone is doing it, going naked doesn’t seem so strange.
“It’s not like you’re walking into Target with no clothes on,” said Diller, as he changes the oil in his Volkswagen — completely naked.
‘It’s not Match.com Naked’
Laguna Del Sol not only prides itself on its facilities and blend of upscale and natural surroundings, but they have also learned how to keep out most of the trouble makers. Each member must complete a background check to rule out any creeps or Megan’s Law offenders.
It’s a family-friendly place with plenty of children, so Sailors says he keeps an eye out for anyone there with ulterior motives. Many residents, have also learned how to spot someone who is there for the wrong reason.
Problems are rare and easily controlled, but Sailors says the biggest problems arise when people drink to make themselves feel comfortable and get out of hand.
Though there are many singles who spend weekends at Laguna Del Sol, most say it’s not necessarily a place to find dating partners, though people do create friendships.
“It’s not Match.com Naked, although that would be interesting,” Carol said.
And just because they’re naked doesn’t mean it’s a constant sex party.
“I think people think it’s a big, swinging orgy, but it’s not,” she said.
The main purpose of Laguna Del Sol is the complete relaxation experience.
“Time stops here. Two days here can be like five days anywhere else,” Sailors said. “We jokingly call it Laguna time.”
Contact Lodi Living editor Lauren Nelson at email@example.com.