JAY — Hidden Lake Resort on Oct. 21 offers what owner Tim Nowling says many runners wish to do in their lifetimes: participate in a clothing-optional 5k.
The registration fee is $30 for the resort’s 4th Annual 5k Boo Run/Walk with 20 percent of the proceeds going to the nonprofit Operation Outdoor Freedom.
The resort’s first run in 2014 drew only five participants but by 2016 that number grew to 25, according to Nowling.
“We’re estimating at least 30 runners,” he said. “As long as the numbers keep improving…we’ll continue to have it.”
This year, all participants will receive a Hidden Lake Tushie towel and $100 will go to the runner who beats last year’s first-place time of 19:15.
The run draws people curious about nudism as well as those looking to complete the run as a life goal.
“It’s a drawing card,” Nowling said. “We get people that normally would not go to a nudist camp. It gives them an excuse…We have actually had people that have joined that ran in a race and have never been out here.”
Nowling said he and other resort members are not pushy when it comes to what to wear, or not wear, for the event.
“We understand people that have never experienced nudism,” he said. “We can tell they’re nervous, so for their first time here it’s clothing optional for them.”
People who run the nude race come from all walks of life, according to Nowling.
“Doctors run it,” he said. “Some, you don’t know their occupation. A lot said it was on their bucket list. We had several of those, especially last year.”
Participants come from across the South and even points beyond.
“Most of our clientele is from the Pensacola, Pace, Milton and Crestview area,” Nowling said. “We also have people from Montgomery, Ala. We’ve had people from Georgia that joined and Mississippi and Louisiana. We actually have a guy the second year who flew down from Pennsylvania.”
Due to the camp’s secluded location, the only barriers at the 110-acre resort are the trees.
“A lot of (nudist) resorts have high fences,” Nowling said. “Here, it’s all natural. You can walk the trails and see deer, turkey, a hog now and again…Our run is through the woods. Every trail is at least 15 feet wide and cleared. The main thing to watch for is roots. Pine trees grow all around.”
When the clothes come off, so does one’s status, Nowling says.
“Nobody can tell if you’re a doctor, a lawyer or a nurse,” he said. “You just don’t know. It strips you of your social status as far as what your clothes portray. That’s a good thing.”
Nowling also took the opportunity to dispel some nudism myths.
“People used to call it a nudist colony. That sounds like a cult. That’s definitely not what it is,” he said. “A lot of people think the resort is a swinging resort…We do not put up with open displays of affection.”
The Jay community has peacefully coexisted with Hidden Creek, according to Nowling.
“We haven’t had anyone come by or tell me we shouldn’t be doing that,” he said. “We have had no negative responses. We try to participate in some local things going on. That’s something we’re working on…Things like Operation Outdoor Freedom does that.”
The 5k supports OOF through a 20-percent donation of event proceeds. OOF is a Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services service allowing Florida wounded veterans to participate in various outdoor activities at no charge.
For those who have not registered for the run and wish to participate, registration is available starting at 8 a.m. the day of the race. A potluck dinner and music will follow the race. Call 910-1494 or visit www.hiddenlakecamp.com for more information.