Nudity ordinance creates naked talk

By Tiffany Poremba
Stanford Intern

It was a sunless icicle of a summer's day. Fog was spitting at the couple of surfers who were suiting up to brave a wind-whipped ocean.

Despite recent claims of immodesty against beachgoers, there wasn't much flesh to be seen today - just a wrist, or an ankle fish white with cold.

The most bare skin showing were the surfers' reddened and goosepimpled faces. Even a Puritan wouldn't think this scene sexy.

So much for Pacifica's scintillating stripshow.

Stripshow or not, last week's City Council approval of the new nudity ordinance has Pacifica all hot and bothered, with quite a few people having quite a few things to say. From CNN to AP, the nudity story brought Pacifica national attention and extensive Bay Area scrutiny. Everybody knows it's soon going to be illegal to expose certain parts of the body in Pacifica's public places. Maybe that's one advantage to the media frenzy:

No one can claim they don't know about the law.

If any indiscreet privileged parts are shown starting Aug. 28, perpetrators will be fined a stiff $100 for a first offense, $200 for the second offense and $500 for the third.

While targeted at all beachgoers and would-be exhibitionists, surfers have felt unduly targeted by the rule and have expressed more than a few concerns over it. (A clandestine poster has already been printed up, appearing on cars and select businesses around town. It shows 11 bare butts bent over at the beach with "Full Moon Over Pacifica" written above and "A big surfer salute to the City Council" below.)

Besides a lot of eye-rolling, there were more than a few "It's ridiculous" and "It's silly" heard. One surfer hocked a spit-ball at the mention of it. Presumably, he didn't approve of the ordinance.

One surfer suggested that the council has the wrong guys. "I'd much rather see some guy with nothing, than a guy with those stupid speedo trunks on. Now those should be illegal," said Archie Felix.

Other than matters of taste, surfers cited reasons from political to spiritual on why they disliked the ordinance. Although he adamantly dislikes the ordinance, Keoni Yen said, "It ruins my surfing zen!"

"It's too cold to be naked here. You better have something major going on, or you're going to be embarrassed," he added, leaving what the major thing is to the imagination. On a more practical note, Felix said, "It would really hurt. The wax of the board is really sticky."

Although some surfers admit that occasionally there is something to see on the beaches besides surfing, "people would have to be looking really, really hard to see anything," said San Francisco surfer Wyn Bamberg.

Regardless, many surfers said that they would not be so crass as to go running around naked. "It makes us sound like a bunch of inconsiderate flashers" said Allen.

Despite the surfers' pleas of innocence, the council said that there had been at least six official complaints of beachgoing brashness.

Another place that has complained of nudity repeatedly has been Nick's Restaurant. With its position on Rockaway Beach, four-time Pacifica former mayor Nick Gust complained that the ordinance was "long overdue."

Although he disagrees with the ordinance, Scott Allen, a Pacifica resident and surfer, sympathized with Nick. "With all the people eating, I can understand why they wouldn't want naked people. Maybe it's bad for the digestion."

Councilmember Cal Hinton said that he passed the measure to protect the senior center and day-care facilities near the beach.

Other places particularly plagued by a bevy of private parts have been the Taco Bell and Pacifica Community Center parking lots.

Although most of the kids were too young to ask about such things, some of the seniors hanging out at the Senior Center just laughed about the ordinance.

"There's some stripping going on down there?" Cecil Prowse asked.

"Oh yeah, at that nudie beach near Half Moon Bay. Just go take a camera down there and you can see 'em all nudie," said a woman who calls herself Big Red.

Then, Cody Reinert chimed in, "I only have 10 percent vision, so I'm not going to see anything anyway."

Adding some history to the discussion, Cecil Prowse said, "It's just like when they complained about miniskirts in the sixties. People have to realize things change."

With that sort of progressive mindset she added, "If you haven't seen it before then it won't shock you, and if you have seen it before it shouldn't shock you."

In fact, some people jokingly suggested that the split-second spectacle of skin is part of Pacifica's attraction.

Although she doesn't believe that surfers are immodest, Tricia Lindo said the potential nakedness "gives Pacifica an extra spark," with her eyes sparking up as well. Lindo, who works at Century 21 in Rockaway Beach, does not believe, luckily, that housing rates will go down due to the loss of that asset.

One group of tourists, a band called Supernovice, however, did joke that they won't be coming back now that the nudity ordinance has passed. "What?

There's no naked surfers anymore?" shouted bassist Pasquale Talariko in mock horror.

"That's it. I can't take it anymore. We drive all this way, and there's no naked!" he cried with a grand flourish.

Once the band grew a little more serious, drummer Stefan Veselko said, "If we wanted to see naked people, we'd just go back to L.A."

In fact, many people have pointed out the irony of Pacifica placing an ordinance against nudity when the place actually seems much more modest than most beach towns, especially in comparison to L.A., not to mention France or Brazil, where beaches are topless.

Except for the occasional hearty tourist from Alaska, there are few who brave the ocean or even the cool Pacifica air in a bikini. On the beach, one does not see much more than a bare thigh or shoulder.

Full-body wetsuits, jeans or the pair of scandalous shorts are about as racy as it gets in Pacifica, unlike beaches down south where colored dental floss is about as much modesty as one gets. According to those standards, Pacifica's beaches would by no means seem to be risque.

Rather than worry about people's bodies, many people said that there were much more serious things to worry about besides a nipple or two.

"If I were the city, I'd be much more concerned about the broken glass on the beach, and the bathrooms. They are disgusting," Allen said, commenting that he would never change in them.

Changing was another big issue brought up by Allen as well as other surfers. "We are supposed to change in these places?" said Allen. One look at the dilapidated, distinctively odoriferous plywood "comfort shelter" suggests that the only comfort to be found in the place is in the name. In fact, the notion of shelter seemed somewhat questionable considering the large chunks missing from the structure.

"This is just totally ridiculous. It just seems like a big joke. I'll be amazed if they keep this one on the books," said Yen in a final observation.

Whether the city decides to stay modest or not, the ordinance will likely remain a topic on the tip of Pacifica's tongue - no ifs, ands or butts about it.