Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunsport Gardens

After trying a trip to Florida twice (2010 and 2011), we finally made it this year! We attended the annual Mid-Winter Festival at Sunsport Gardens Family Naturist Resort.

We decided to drive down in a rental and tent camp for the festival. On the way down, we stayed at a wonderful little Bed & Breakfast called Clearview Horse Farm. When the weather is good, guests can take the houses out on the trail. For us, however, it was cool and drizzle. But it was better than the snow we battled while leaving Wisconsin.

The weather was perfect during our entire stay in Florida. This allowed us to be nude for the entire festival. Even at night, keeping covered with a sarong was enough to stay warm. Per comments made during the festival, this year had unusually great weather.

When we first checked in, we were warmly welcomed by a young gal. She never said anything discouraging. Since we wanted to do some sightseeing in the Everglades, we asked for her recommendations. "You're in it" was the first answer, but then she recommended a place that wasn't too far away. We explored and saw a wild gater and other wildlife. After that, we were done being tourists and settled in at our campsite.

What did we do at Sunsport? He's the list of the daytime workshops we attended, with a comment or two. More info on each workshop can be found in the festival schedule.
  • Sexting, a Naturist Issue? - Discussion where I think we concluded it is, sort-of.
  • Valentine's Day Superstitions - A fun interactive workshop led by an energetic gal.
  • Networking for a C.O. Beach in Delray - Met Dave who has been working hard to make this a reality.
  • Speed Friending - Interesting way to meet people where each gets to talk for 3 minutes. Many found it difficult to talk about themselves for 3 minutes straight.
  • NAC Current Issues - Informative as always. Learned the difference between the yearly Gatherings and Festivals. Gathering = TNS organized event. Festival = Organized by someone else and is a NAC fundraiser.
  • Changes in Naturism Past & Future - Discussion, which was a bit boring. Decided to avoid similar workshops from same host.
  • Intro to Naturism and This Festival - Good overview of TNS, Sunsport, and how the festival is organized.
  • Henna and Body Tattoos - Possibly a new hobby for Percilla.
  • The Greying of Naturism - Hosted by the person I was avoiding. Percilla went and observed that there were a lot of grey people.
  • Privatizing a Backyard - Made us wish that our plants grew as fast as Florida's.
  • Drumming for Novices - Percilla went, apparently the host was a novice as well. Ran out of drums so they brought out pots and pans.
  • Involving Young Adults & Families in Naturism - Morley discussing why Sunsport is so successful for attracting younger people.
  • Naturist Photography 2011 - Presentation by one of the photographers with stories.
  • 2 Burning Man discussions - The most experienced person (10 trips) didn't lead either of them.
  • Haulover Beach Ambassadors - Insightful discussion about how it works and how successful it's been. Finally got to meet local celebrity Richard Mason.
  • History of Florida Naturism - Mostly about Lake Como, Cypress Cove, and a few others.
  • Learn to Juggle, "success guaranteed" - Percilla went and proved otherwise.
  • Why Are You a Nudist - Discussion. One middle-aged attendee grew up in a nudist resort and was the only one in his circle of friends to stick with it, so it was an interesting perspective.
  • NAC/NEF Donor Reception - I gave them a good donation, and it wasn't as busy as I was hoping.
  • Nude Art, Naturism, and Nazis - Interesting slideshow (with real slides!) of paintings and drawings with stories.
  • Professors & Researchers SIG - Added myself to the group. See their website here.
  • Where to go for Nude Rec. in Florida - Interesting review of coastal beaches. (Didn't get to lakes.) Two beaches were highly recommended and hard to get to, so I'd love to check them out in a future trip.
  • Florida Naturist Groups - Big meeting of most groups to share info and strategies.
  • Beach Groups - More info sharing between beach-related "Friends Of" groups.
  • Informing Politicians of Naturist Family Values - Paul presented his amazingly concise, research-backed, informative book Naturists: Upholders of Strong Family Values. Listed here.
  • Sunsport Gardens: The Vision - More from Morley on why Sunsport is such an amazing resort.
  • Bipolar Bares - Percilla attended and said this was a wonderful support group and was very informational. (Some in her family have this disorder.)
  • Science, Engineering, Technology and Human Concern: Mankind is Advancing Beyond Old Ideologies - I like edgy presentations, but I had to bite my tongue a lot. More about this later.
  • Off the Grid: A Decentralized Approach to Mankind's Energy Needs - Same presenter as above, same effect.
  • Wear Clothes: Destroy the Planet, Get Sick Quicker, Die Sooner - Discussed chemicals in clothes and how they get absorbed by the skin and likely cause harm. Also covered how destructive the manufacturing is.
  • Women & Body Acceptance in Naturism - Percilla went and said they need more groups like that. It was a great support group. Nicky told a story about a woman who was screened for breast cancer and 47 lumps were found. Nicky persuaded her to not wear a bra for a month until her next checkup. At that time, she only had 3 lumps.
  • Sunsport Memoirs: A Pictorial History - One of the photographers spent a year scanning pictures from a big box maintained in the office. Showed the history and told stories.
  • Naturist Action Committee Area Representative Program - Great meeting to discuss what we're doing and how else we can help.
  • Politics of Children in Naturism - More wise words from Morley.
  • Writing for N Magazine - Learned that N is seeking more young writers.
  • No Sex Please, We're Naturists - An insider review of Caliente Tampa's newer sexy advertising. Mostly a discussion on if sex hurts the nudist industry, inconclusive.
  • Closing Friendship Circle - Everyone says a few words. Ideas and suggestions are recorded by Morley and discussed by the board for future improvements.

After-hours or special events:
  • Campfire and Drum Circle - The most professional bonfire setup I've ever seen, and later at night it became fairly active. The weekly ones the rest of the year may be more fun.
  • DJ Dance - A computer in the pavilion is used as a jukebox. Songs played one-by-one by request mostly. Not many people attended but it was still fun.
  • Karaoke - Fun and well-run, much more popular than the dances.
  • Bingo - Not part of the festival itself, but we played anyway the night before the festival. They have a good setup for it and they keep it fun.
  • An Evening of Peace, Love, and Joy - Music by Faerie Elane. We thought it was slow and weird, so didn't stay long. Not sure about others.
  • Armand & Angelina - We're still confused at how they developed a cult following in the naturist world. Everyone loves them.
  • Clothing Optional Fashion Show - Showing off mostly jewelry and other hand-made items from the vendors.
  • Variety Show - Entertaining show with a host who was full of good jokes.
  • Haulover Trip - Amazing place to visit, especially when we tag along with an awesome beach ambassador in a 2012 Camero.

Outside of the workshops, we enjoyed most of Sunsport's facilities. The sauna was nice, the pool is big and warm, and the hot tub is perfect. (Heat for the water is mostly solar.) We watched the turtles and frogs in the ponds. The tennis courts, bocce ball courts, and volleyball courts were all professional quality. The food was wonderful. (And more healthful than what the restaurant normally serves outside of the festival.) Showers and bathrooms were comfortable. The playground was big and well-positioned, which is good for the many children around and the many parents that like to check in. Everything was well-designed and maintained. It seems that if they do something, they do it right.

I discovered a unique combination of outdoor facilities at Sunsport that provides the perfect recipe for a chilly evening. No other resort we've been to has this. First, I'd take a shower as required before entering the pool. Then, it's a short hop into the hot tub. Cycle between the hot tub and the pool as desired. Last, go into the sauna just long enough to dry off. You'll end up warm and dry before going to bed. At other resorts, there is usually no sauna. We need to make a special trip to trade sarongs (our usual) with towels, and we usually end up cold by the time we dry off and get into bed.

Sunsport drew a healthy demographic to the festival where all age groups were well represented. There was a healthy balance of gender. The general population seemed thinner than usual too. I've long been convinced that Sunsport is doing something right, and finally got to see it with my own eyes.

Not everyone is convinced, however. I was pulled aside by a permanent resident who wasn't fond of the noisy drum circles, thought the place was full of weirdos (partly due to a lot of holistic workshops happening nearby), and thought the festival was a rip-off for the attendees. I suspect this same person was the one who recently caused friction between Sunsport and the Florida Young Naturists. With beer in hand that morning, obviously not his first, he hinted at moving to a different state. Morley immediately came to mind. When talking about his ban on smoking, he said "Yeah we lost a few members, but we gained a lot more!" Sunsport may lose this member.

At Haulover, I got to meet the founders of the Florida Young Naturists. I also got to listen in on a lively discussion on what happened at one of the recent events, why they're avoiding Sunsport for a bit, and how they are working to resolve the issue. I hope that FYN will be back at Sunsport soon. I would love to attend one of their events.

Sunsport is on only 40 acres, but a many of these acres are undeveloped and contain a network of trails. The trails aren't as professional as those at Cedar Trails, but they are still quite enjoyable. I believe they keep the trails a bit wild (skinny dirt paths) on purpose. Unique plants have little signs by them all around the resort including the trails. I wasn't aware that wild coffee grew in Florida, but we found some. The biggest surprise was that, in the middle of nowhere, there was a big long grassy patch. If you want some privacy for a discussion, or a meeting place for women new to naturism, that would make a great spot.

Saturday night, I was pulled in to a game of pool with a group of guys. We all were decent players and the games were all pretty close. It was all laid back and fun. Then, a person not much older than me joined in. I'll call him Mark. (Short for "Marksman" since he does have a military history.) Him and I played, and I quickly gathered that he was far more serious about winning then anyone else. I was on the edge of saying "I quit because you're taking this way too seriously." He won against me (and I was happy to leave), but lost the next round (and he also left). Little did I know, he would go on to host the two most favored workshops and be the most talked about person at the closing circle (even though he wasn't there.)

Mark and I generally share a similar background. The only big difference is that he opted for military work while I opted for a Masters degree. I was the only person at the 2009 gathering using PowerPoint and lecturing. He was the only person at this gathering doing the same. He talked about technology and how it should be put to full use to change the world. I was the only person who cringed and sunk into my chair.

Mark's presentations, which he also presents everywhere via tours, are meant to get people excited about technology. He's certainly excited about technology -- so much so that he wants to rip out everything old and replace it with something new. (He's never heard of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" apparently.) He proposes putting small wind turbines on light poles, painting cars with photovoltaic paints, replacing sidewalks with piezoelectric generators, and all sorts of other technologies which produce a small amount of electricity in small quantities. Adding it all up, he believes there will be no longer be an energy crisis.

Morley asked for his recommendation on what to do at Sunsport. Mark suggested a small-scale wind turbine. I later emailed Morley citing this study and concluding that he would lose money by buying one. The best performing small-scale wind turbine in 2009 cost about $14,460 and generated 2,109 kWh in a year. Compared with buying that much from the power company at 10 cents per kWh, it would take 69 years to break even. The turbine will not last that long. So not only will you lose money, but the damage to the environment for manufacturing these things does far more harm than good. Most (or maybe even all) of Mark's suggested technologies are like this -- environmentally damaging and not cost effective. (But I should note that large-scale turbines and solar installations do end up cost-effective and help the environment.)

After he solves the energy crisis, he believes that the world socioeconomic structure will shift. Since technology can provide plenty of food, energy, and other resources, money will disappear and everyone will share by nature. He talked about numerous studies which concluded that people are naturally willing to share fairly. If one person gets a sandwich, and another gets nothing, the person with the sandwich will split it down the middle and share. I agree that people are generous when in front of researchers, but John List and other researchers, in the last decade, have proven that people aren't so generous in the real world.

I wish Mark luck with his new company, which aims to create an open-source off-grid factory to rapidly grow and harvest crops autonomously. He plans to deploy these to freely feed the hungry in poverty-stricken areas.

If there's one thing that rekindles my energy for naturism, it's a festival or gathering. I meet a lot of cool people -- "celebrities of naturism". I learn about new opportunities, get motivated to donate to NAC and help out as much as I can, and get motivated to work on my own projects that benefit naturism. I want to go back next year and host a whole bunch of workshops. I'm hooked.