Volleyball: The Official Sport of Nude Recreation

By Pete Williams


This is an Olympic year and for nudists it’s fashionable to think back to the original Summer Games in Greece, where athletes competed in the buff.


Organized nudism has a long history with sports dating back to early 20th century Germany, where nudist gatherings often included calisthenics and spirited sports competitions. Nude recreation today is more laid back, of course, but the connection between nudism and sports is alive and well.


In this new Bulletin column, “The Nude Sporting Life,” we’ll examine the world of nude sports, taking a look at upcoming events and athletic trends in the nudist world.

Any discussion of nudism and sports begins with volleyball, the most popular nudist sport. Requiring little equipment other than a net, it’s an active, competitive sport with little physical contact that requires no clothing and often not even shoes when played on grass or sand. It’s all-inclusive—as many as 12 people at a time can play—and can be organized around any skill level.


Organized nude volleyball goes back at least to 1927, when members of a nudist club outside of Paris played in the buff. In this country, a men’s “clothing-optional” club in St. Petersburg, Fla., offered volleyball in 1932. Nudist magazines of the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s almost always included photos of nudists playing volleyball. Viewers of the Korean War-era TV show “M.A.S.H.” will remember lead character Hawkeye Pierce joking that he “read” such magazines for the volleyball scores. Older AANR members will recall pre-2000 national conventions that featured spirited volleyball competitions with many clubs sending teams.


In 1971, White Thorn Lodge members Betty and Wayne Alwine organized the inaugural “Super Bowl of Volleyball” at the western Pennsylvania nudist club, an event that still attracts several thousand visitors the weekend after Labor Day. ESPN the Magazine sent a team to the event in 2009 for a story that became the centerpiece of its annual “Bodies” issue celebrating the nude athletic form.


Unlike many nude volleyball tournaments, which are clothing-optional, White Thorn requires players to be nude. With six-on-six games spread out over as many as 10 courts at once, it’s an amazing display of mass nudity even to those accustomed to large nudist gatherings. During the week after Labor Day, the White Thorn grounds become a tent city for the entire week.


Michele Rauter, a former college and pro volleyball player who competed for the ESPN team at White Thorn in 2009, was profiled in The Bulletin in 2010 and has since returned to the Super Bowl and visited other nudist clubs, becoming a nude volleyball ambassador of sorts.


In 2002, Lake Como Resort launched “Super Bowl South,” which attracts hundreds of players to an event now held over 10 days in March. The iconic Florida nudist resort also was the site in 2003 of the filming of “Volleyball in the Buff,” a nude volleyball video that generated enormous publicity in the early Internet era.

Many other AANR clubs host annual tournaments, some staging several a year. (The website nudistvolleyball.com lists many of them.)


Perhaps no sport, with the possible exceptions of tennis and running, is more popular among women. For decades, there have been more women’s volleyball teams than any other college sport, and that was before the introduction of women’s beach volleyball as a scholarship sport at the college level in 2011.


Women’s volleyball, like women’s tennis, tends to be more popular than its men’s counterpart since it features longer rallies and less dominance by a few taller players. Not surprisingly, the top-level women’s games at the White Thorn Super Bowl, which have featured former Division I players, often attract the most spectators.

Women’s beach volleyball is among the most popular Olympic sports, broadcast in prime time with gymnastics and swimming. Between the excitement of volleyball, the cool beach vibe, and bikini “uniforms” that seem to get skimpier each year, the sport no doubt will be spotlighted again in Rio this Olympiad. Perhaps some of those players will find their way to the nudist community, where volleyball is always the most popular sport—not just every four years.


The American Association for Nude Recreation - Western Region

The American Association for Nude Recreation

Western Region

23679 Calabasas Road, Suite 966

Calabasas, CA 91302


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