Our participation in Burning Man2017 has been approved, and our theme camp Gymnasium will be at 7:30 Plaza. Oh well, it’s not the 7:30 Portal where we were in 2015, but 7:30 is apparently the most requested sector of the Black Rock City, and plazas get a lot of traffic – so we are expecting a lot of visitors participants in our events! We will announce the schedule in a month or so, stay tuned!
We are always open to new campmates too, so if you would like to participate, please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Theme camp Gymnasium has become a big part of Active Naturists project, and we are set to continue at this year’s Burning Man festival. We’ve already scored some tickets for the core crew, and a few of us are applying for Low Income Program, but the rest should get tickets through the Main Sale: registration opens next Wednesday, and the sale itself is in two weeks (info and dates here). We are open for new campmates too, so if you would like to participate, please e-mail us or leave a comment below!
If you read this blog, you must have heard about our theme camp quite a lot, but if you are new here or would like a reminder, here are some key links:
Secret Cove on the Lake Tahoe shore was our “decompression” destination after Burning Man last year, but it surely would have been an amazing place to visit even if we hadn’t spent a week in the dusty desert: crystal clear water and fresh mountain air is a great start, but add to that stunning views and a nice laid-back atmosphere, and you’ll see why this spot is so remarkable.
You can enjoy the views of snow-peaked mountains while sunbathing and swimming naked – a combination that is hard to find. As our previous post-burn destinations were oceanic beaches of San Francisco – Marshall’s and Baker – where the water is always cold and obviously salty, Lake Tahoe was clearly a better choice for rehydration of the body, as we could swim in its fresh and refreshing waters.
Lake Tahoe is famous for its large smooth boulders,
and some of the ones at Secret Cove look especially peculiar with their spheric shapes
– also nice to sit on and relax.
A little farther away, the boulders are used for the same purpose by ducks.
Another creature that you’re likely to see sunbathing on the rocks but away from the water is the sagebrush lizard.
Though it’s quite shy and will hide in the bushes if you approach it.
You won’t need to hide your naked self from anyone though, as Secret Cove is an officially recognized clothing-optional location,
popular with locals and tourists alike. Of course most visitors opt for no clothes. This might be a reason why the atmosphere is so friendly there; e.g., I overheard a conversation between a local couple and tourists from Switzerland who had just met there, and an hour later the former invited the latter for a family dinner 🙂
It gets quite busy in the afternoon, as that’s when the thin mountain air gets finally warm (but beware that high altitude also means stronger sun activity). Given that it’s a relatively small cove surrounded by high banks, it doesn’t get too windy. The mornings, however, can be quite chilly even in August and September, and you are more likely to encounter bird-watchers rather than nude sunbathers during early hours.
As an alternative to driving and hiking, some people arrive by boats
or paddle-boards, for which Lake Tahoe must perfect.
When we were there, two women did yoga on the paddle board, something I’m eager to try sometime to challenge my balancing skills.
A large portion of Lake Tahoe shore, including the Secret Cove, is covered by coniferous forest. The most notable tree is the sugar pine,
which is the tallest pine species
and boasts the longest cones of any conifers.
I’m not sure why it’s got its name, perhaps due to the sap leaking from the cones that may appear like a sweet nectar.
Cones of the Jeffrey pine are quite impressive too,
but there are animals who clearly appreciate more than just their appearance:
Marshall’s Beach in San Francisco is a great place for a sunny afternoon within easy reach of downtown; you can be naked there and enjoy one of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
That’s where Tam and I headed after Burning Man last year; in the wake of spending more than a week in a dusty desert, we were clearly drawn to large bodies of water (and it doesn’t get any larger than the Pacific Ocean).
We could have been just chilling on the beach, but we thought we’d rather have another session of acro-yoga, as I didn’t get enough of it during the festival, because I was mostly taking pictures of it.
We kicked off with the ‘front bird’,
and then moved on to more complicated poses.
Tam was keen on practicing ‘basing’ with hands,
and it worked out pretty well.
The iconic Golden Gate Bridge surely provided a perfect backdrop for the photos.
Burning Man festival this year saw the second installation of our theme camp Gymnasium, which refers to the Ancient Greek institution for athletics, philosophy and socializing. You can read more about the concept of our camp on its webpage, but here is our report with some imagery that should help you imagine what it was like (or evoke some good memories, if you participated in our events).
Even though our theme camp was first conceived with an idea to revive the ideals of the Ancient Olympics, this year besides the athletics we put more effort into another aspect of the concept of ‘gymnasium’ in its original meaning – philosophical discussions (with wine). For one session, each participant received a quote of a Greek philosopher and lead discussion on its subject, which let us cover all kinds of topics. We also had a session when we talked about our personal attitudes towards nudity as well as our views on the possible role for naturism in the [default] society. The common theme was the feeling of liberation and bonding with others that brings the simple act of social nudity – and the photos here seem to confirm that.
An entirely new idea for this year was the gymnastics wheel (aka German wheel). Several month before the festival, I stumbled upon a photo with German wheel gymnasts from 1920’s and immediately got an impression that it would be a big hit at Burning Man. As you can see below, it provided a perfect link between the theme of our camp and the theme of Burning Man this year – ‘Da Vinci’s Workshop’.
We of course refer to the drawing of the Vitruvian Man by Da Vinci, and expectedly the Man himself took the iconic shape this year.
We were so happy to see that our idea was immediately understood by other burners – as soon as we rolled the wheel onto the playa, we had people queuing to take a picture,
and it seemed like it was self-explanatory that one was supposed to get naked for a photo à la Vitruvian Man 🙂
This was a big success in terms of bringing all kinds of people to try a new fun activity in the buff and in public,
and they were creative with poses.
But we didn’t forget the primary function of the gymnastics wheel,
and the flat playa surface was perfect to roll it.
We had to be careful to avoid possible injuries, as even one rotation proved to be a lot more difficult than we had anticipated. The gymnastics wheel turned out to be a great magnet for people back at the camp too – dozens of passers by stopped to try it every day; only a few managed though, even with helpers.
In their defense, I have to note that in the first days we only knew one, difficult way of holding yourself in the wheel during rotation: pushing up with your arms with all power while maintaining them as straight as possible. That was until someone came by and said that there had been a workshop on gymnastics wheel at Hellfire Society camp. (On what subject isn’t there a workshop at Burning Man?) So we went there, and the camp lead gladly arranged another workshop specially for us. It turned out that while our technique wasn’t impossible, the typical and much better way to hold yourself during rotation on the wheel was by hooking your feet.
After we learned that, the success rate among all the newbies to gymnastics wheel skyrocketed, and we were on the roll 🙂
Our first athletic event in the week was the running race.
This year we only had a short race on our street,
but it was a nice way to get attention from our neighbors and passers by.
It was all for fun, but it was a competition nevertheless.
Our Gymnasium also offered daily fitness exercises, with Matt leading push-up sessions every morning.
This year we had a certified yoga/acro-yoga instructor among our campmates,
so we had a few sessions at the camp
and also played a bit on the playa.
We probably should have spent a little more time posing with those amazing and massive art pieces,
but unfortunately some of them were burned much earlier in the week than we had anticipated (e.g. the pyramids on Friday morning).
Some installations were quite interactive and served as great frames for photos, literally.
Other installations referred to familiar views of the “default world”, like NYC skyline at the Kostume Kult, making the whole experience only more surreal…
(I wish we could sip our morning coffee in Manhattan just like that!)
Unfortunately I enjoyed my nights out in an immediate manner, and recorded neither my own naked dancing on the ashes of the burned Man and at the White Ocean nor the performance by a couple of naked fire-spinners at the Mayan Warrior art car, which was probably my favorite mutant vehicle in terms of the music (and certainly in terms of the lights). But here is a short clip from that night I found online, where you can see those two naked fire-spinners, but resting in the crowd at the time – perhaps a video with their performance will appear at some point too, but I’m just happy to have witnessed it.
As you can see, our camp was primarily focused on providing interactive events rather than art and installations,
but we arranged some decorations to highlight our reference to Ancient Greece.
This year we added a statue depicting Hercules wrestling Diomedes for his 8th labor. By the way, I haven’t been able to find an explanation behind that ‘penile grip’ – so if there are specialists in history of art among the readers here, please enlighten us in the comments 😎
And yes, we are long overdue with our report re Burning Man experience this year, but it’s coming. And here is just another reminder about the nu-dancing video we shot at Burning Man last year with our instructor damoN – still can’t get enough of it!
In less than a month, our theme camp Gymnasium will come again to the much anticipated Burning Man festival. If you read this and plan to be there, I’m pretty sure you’ll want to visit our camp. And if you wanted to go but couldn’t get tickets, we have good news for you – two tickets and a vehicle pass are available through our camp, please e-mail us or leave a comment here! New members are very welcome!
You can read about our theme camp idea on its page, and check out our last year’s experience, including the famous naked oil wrestling:
This year we shall enjoy our new big fun toy – gymnastics wheel (aka German wheel), which should be a lot of fun to roll on the playa. And given this year’s theme for Burning Man – ‘Da Vinci’s Workshop’, we can use it as a photo booth to take photographs a la Vitruvian Man.
Below is the schedule of our events, but keep in mind that we plan to do even more than we have announced – so stop by our camp at 8:15 & Donatello and you’ll find something fun to do and learn… all in the buff! And what is mind-boggling is that it’s all just a tiny fraction of all the “craziness” that Burning Man is!
Butt-Cheeky Run Come get your burn started – with the sun’s soft caresses on your butt cheeks! The Ancient Greeks always trained and competed naked – in fact the ’gym’ comes from the word ‘gymnos’, meaning ‘naked’ in Greek. Come experience the amazing freedom of running and jumping and exercising free of clothing! Or at least come and see what a great spectator sport it is:) We’ll do a warm-up at the camp and then run wild in the ‘hood and all the way to the Man!
Monday, 29 Aug, 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Naked Oil Wrestling Wrestling is one of the most fun sports you can ever try. It’s also one of humanity’s oldest and was among the major events of the original Olympics. Long before we were kicking balls around we were rolling around in the dirt, putting each other in headlocks! It doesn’t matter if you’re a complete novice who’s never tried it in your life or an experienced fighter, come along and experience this amazing bonding experience in Gymnasium, Black Rock City’s Ancient Greek wrestling school!
Tuesday, 30 Aug, 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, 1 Sep, 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Friday, 2 Sep, 1 p.m – additional match at another camp at 2:15 & G
Saturday, 3 Sep, 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Discus-ish Throw in the dark… and in the buff Discus (well, LED-lit frisbee) throw competition followed by ultimate frisbee game (or regular frisbee, depending on the mood). Bare your body, but wear lights! The Ancient Greeks always trained and competed naked – in fact the ’gym’ comes from the word ‘gymnos’, meaning ‘naked’ in Greek. Come experience the amazing freedom of running and jumping and exercising free of clothing! Or at least come and see what a great spectator sport it is:) This is our only night event, but don’t worry about cold – movement will keep you warm!
Wednesday, 31 Aug, 8 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Friday, 2 Sep, 8 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Naked Piggy-Back and Wheelbarrow Run Race Bare with us for this fun athletic event! Bring your friends, but choose wisely, as you’ll have to bear them on your back, bareback… or vice versa. Great bonding experience guaranteed! The Ancient Greeks always trained and competed naked – in fact the ’gym’ comes from the word ‘gymnos’, meaning ‘naked’ in Greek. Come experience the amazing freedom of running and jumping and exercising free of clothing! Or at least come and see what a great spectator sport it is:) PS In ancient Olympics this would have been an equestrian event, but BMORG wouldn’t let us bring horses…
Friday, 2 Sep, 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Greek Dance workshop Let’s dance like it’s… Bacchanalia! Well, not only, but you’ll have fun learning ancient and modern folk dances from Greece. You’ll learn the distinction between the calm and lyrical Apollonian dance and the passionate, “orgasmic” Dionysian dance.
Saturday, 3 Sep, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Nude Yoga + Wine Nude yoga and acro-yoga – for a better flow and connection 🙂 We’ll end the session with drinking wine in your favorite poses, as Ancient Greeks sometimes drank wine in acrobatic poses at their symposiums. Then you could stay for our philosophical discussions sessions. Free your body, free your mind!
Monday, 29 Aug, 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, 1 Sep, 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Sunday, 4 Sep, 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Naked Philosophy Nudity has the power to surprise and shock, yet why, on reflection, can something as mundane as the naked body inspire simultaneously so much passion and revulsion? To be naked in 21st century western society demands intense self-examination, the questioning and reappraisal of conventional conventions and morality. In this sense, naturism, as the cultural and political movement of nudism is often known, is an inherently philosophical practice. And what better way to do philosophy than naked? We’re sure your college seminars would have been much more fun nude. Come and join us for lively discussions, debates and story-telling. We’ll be discussing naturism, body image, sharing experiences, debating body modification, if and how laws should be changed – really everything related to the human body.
We also went as Gymnasium camp to FreeForm Festival a month ago, but unfortunately we had to cancel our famous naked oil wrestling – big success last year – due to terrible weather. A chilly drizzle lasted almost the whole last day of the festival… We still had lots of fun the day and night before though.
But we’ll go on with this project beyond the festivals, and on this coming Monday, the US Independence Day, we are hosting a wrestling session at our favorite beach in NYC area – Gunnison on Sandy Hook peninsula. We shall have a workshop on different wrestling styles and then a fun match in the afternoon. Look for us on the right side of the beach, with an orange banner that says ΓΥΜΝΆΣΙΟΝ (Gymnasium). The workshop starts at 3pm.
Many of you have been asking whether we are going back to Burning Man with our Gymnasium project, and the answer is definite YES! Thanks to our successful participation last year, we could secure tickets for the core members via Directed Group Sale, but you can still get yours through the main sale – and join our camp too? If you’d like to, please e-mail or leave a comment here!
And let’s just reiterate this quote from Wikipedia:
“The gymnasium in ancient Greece functioned as a training facility for competitors in public games. It was also a place for socializing and engaging in intellectual pursuits. The name comes from the Ancient Greek term γυμνός [gymnós] meaning “naked”.
The word gymnasium is the latinisation of the Greek noun γυμνάσιον (gymnasion), “gymnastic school”, in pl. “bodily exercises” and generally “school” which in turn is derived from the common Greek adjective γυμνός (gymnos) meaning “naked”, by way of the related verb γυμνάζω (gymnazo), whose meaning is “to train naked”, “train in gymnastic exercise”, generally “to train, to exercise”. The verb had this meaning because one undressed for exercise. Historically, the gymnasium was used for exercise, communal bathing, and scholarly and philosophical pursuits. The English noun gymnast, first recorded in 1594, is formed from the Greek γυμναστής (gymnastēs), but in Greek this word means “trainer” not “gymnast”. The palaistra was the part of the gymnasium devoted to wrestling, boxing and ball games.”
Here comes our report from Burning Man festival this year, when 18 of us gathered together to create a camp themed around Gymnasium as an Ancient Greek institution for athletics, philosophy and socializing. You can read more about the concept of our camp on its own webpage; we launched this project a few months earlier at FreeForm Festival, and here you can see how it came about at the festival of festivals, Burning Man. (But keep in mind that this is by no means an attempt to write about the festival as a whole, there simply “too much” fun stuff happens to be able to grasp more than just a fraction of it.)
After months of preparation, the last days before the festivals were very exciting but also a bit scary – with this endeavor being our first experience as such a theme camp, something was likely to go wrong! Indeed, our early arrival/construction crew had a flat tire at the start of the trip in San Francisco, and as we collected all the stuff that we planned to carry to Black Rock City, we realized we had to buy an extra trailer. We resolved all the issues smoothly but experienced another setback due to the weather, as on Saturday before the opening of the festival, when we had planned to construct our camp, a severe dust storm took place; we could only enter Black Rock City in the evening and started construction early on Sunday.
Well, luckily we didn’t plan on building anything complicated, so we raised most of our shade structures before the rest of our campmates arrived. (Then later on in the afternoon a strong gust almost blew off a part of our shade structure, bending some of the carrying metal parts and tearing apart one of the tarps, but we were able to fix it; although it doesn’t say so in the instructions, it is apparently important to fix the structure with additional ropes and rebar.)
The final touch was putting up the banner of our camp.
Our location was great – at 7:30 Portal and A, we were at a busy intersection, but also with easy access to the Esplanade and an open view all the way to the man.
And that view proved to be nothing short of amazing on the first night, with the supermoon rising next to the Man statue.
Another nature’s wonder was a mini-tornado coming to us from the playa –
it was not any dangerous though, as you can see in the video below.
Well, this video shows a few other things too, but there’s still a lot more to the story (and two more videos) – so keep on reading. A couple more words about the camp:
We had a simple bike rack available for the visitors (note the horse head masks used for its decoration, I’ll mention them later).
For decoration, we used an olive tree (artificial – live plants are prohibited at Burning Man), columns adorned with ivy, and a small statue of Poseidon (without a trident, to make him look more like a generic Ancient Greek athlete…) – next time, we plan to team up with a 3D-printing camp to make a bigger statue.
The schedule of our activities was put daily on the blackboard.
Our first event included two running races – a 100-yard sprint
and a longer, approx. 1.8 km run from our camp to the Man and back.
The sprint was won by Chris, and the long run by yours truly 🙂
Admittedly, there weren’t that many participants, but it was still very early in the week, while many camps were still wrapping up their construction. We had other races planned, e.g. piggy-back and barrel-run, as we did at FreeForm, but we had to postpone and eventually cancel those due to dust storms and because the horse head masks which were meant for the final run of that race were stolen borrowed without asking from our bike rack. We also had to cancel our only night event – ‘discus (LED-lit frisbee) throw in the dark… and in the buff’ – because the nights were bitterly cold in the second half of the week! (Though as you can briefly see in the video above, we still managed to dance naked at some night parties getting warm by the fire from the art cars.)
Our ‘Naked Philosophy’ session was more of a personal introduction among our camp mates, as we did not know each of us in person; and then we discussed our experience in naturism and what it meant for us.
Our most successful event by far was the naked oil wrestling, and here is our second video dedicated to it. Unfortunately some of the video is quite blurry, because oil got on my camera, and most of the footage was not usable at all Oh well, at least it was a GoPro in a sealed casing, so the camera was totally fine after washing.
Our naked oil wrestling drew a lot of attention, even people in fancy mutant vehicles stopped to watch the match.
As at FreeForm Festival, we used sumo rules, which are the easiest to follow from all wrestling types, and added some Greekness to it with olive oil (and nudity), as a reference to the authentic Olympics.
Each match started with ceremonial wide steps, and then opponents tried to push each other
until one of them stepped outside the ring;
and the soles of the feet were the only part of the body allowed to touch the ground – so pushing the opponent down could also work.
But perhaps the most effective approach is simply carrying the opponent outside the ring, preferably keeping him upside down! 😀
For each pair, the victory was decided in 2 wins out of 3 matches.
We didn’t structure the whole event as an ultimate competition though – anyone could challenge whoever they wanted, and more than once. But we had two wrestlers that stood out
and were well matched –
so their sparring was very intense and captivating.
But even the fiercest match ended with a hug.
And both of them received well-deserved golden laurel wreaths!
(By the way, I lost their contact, so if anyone knows them – please put us in touch!)
After the final match, all wrestlers were welcome to go to an amazing massive group shower ‘perfoamance’ at the camp called ‘Something Freaky Foams This Way’. Next day, we arranged the same competition at their camp – so that people queuing up to get foamed would try their strength in wrestling and entertain the public, and skip the line. We got in touch with one of the organizers of this camp at FreeForm Festival, and this was the best collaboration we could ask for – getting clean and relaxed felt particularly amazing after days in the dust and then even more so after wrestling. Decent showers are obviously quite sought-after at Burning Man, but this camp brings the whole experience to the next level by making it a massive group (40 people at a time) and entertaining activity (with countdown and music, water and foam sprayed under high pressure).
Here are some more photos from the wrestling matches at our camp and ‘Something Freaky Foams This Way’, if the ones above and the video aren’t enough.
Besides planned events, we had a few spontaneous activities, e.g. dance practices by Antony and damoN.
Unfortunately, we don’t have any footage of our fun session of a naked Greek dance with music from ‘Zorba the Greek’. It was lead by our new friend from another camp, and he rightfully suggested we would like the idea of performing this dance naked, which he said was his fantasy from a while ago, when he learned it at a Greek restaurant.
And if you follow this blog, you shouldn’t be surprised seeing some naked capoeira here 🙂
And with Tam around, acro-yoga was bound to happen sooner or later –
to our own and guests’ entertainment.
Then we toured a bit around the playa and did more acro-posing with some of Burning Man’s most interesting art constructions in the background.
This structure proved to combine very well with acro-yoga,
as its multiple lines were quite easy to align with the body parts of the posers.
From afar, it looked as if the giant metal ball was resting on Antony supported by Tam’s legs…
And one of the Mars Molecules seemed to be designed perfectly for acro-yoga, not just as a background, but as a base too.
Here is a composition with three men again.
And now, three men intertwined into one ‘laughing dragon’ –
laughing and causing laughter in viewers alike.
There were a few other camps that offered activities in the buff. Besides washing your body from all the dust, sweat and, in our case, also oil at the ‘perfoamance’ camp, cleaning the nose from accumulating dust seemed like a good idea too… and of course there was a camp for that – Neti’s (naked) Nose Spa – and naked too! I really liked how I felt afterwards, so when I got home I immediately ordered a neti pot. Some events were missed due to dust storms or cold nights (e.g. black light naked twister), others I simply forgot about (e.g. naked skateboarding session).
The camp across the street from us, Decadent Oasis, provided the best light show at night, with their technicolor ever-changing palm trees and great music. We were invited to do a striptease for their bachelorette party, though we first had to find some clothes to put on 😀 They also had a slackline,
and we were treated with a show of really good slackline walker who was naked and walked it all way through.
which featured plenty of nudity in its decoration among other elements.
Another view of the R-Evolution statue.
Riding on the bike in the heat of the day felt pretty nice thanks to the light wind (unless it turned into a dust storm!)
But the best conditions seemed to be around sunset time – the sun wasn’t scorching but it was still very warm before the onset of the cold night, and the air was still – that’s when we liked strolling around in our altogethers. But the photo below shows how you can be well protected against the elements while being naked!
And for comparison, this is how the same place looked like one day after the end of the festival…
Sad that everything has to come to an end, but on the other hand Burning Man celebrates immediacy, so realization of the temporary nature of… everything is part of the festival.
We made sure to leave no trace behind us and were ready to go home for the next adventure. Gymnasium proved to be a great experience for its organizers and visitors alike (hopefully all of them, let me know if not) and will hopefully develop only more in years to come!
And here is our third, bonus video with damoN performing on the playa. This was shot while the festival was still rocking, just outside Black Rock City. In case you thought it was difficult to escape from the crowds at this massive festival, it is actually easy to find a place where you can be alone when you would like to reconnect with your ‘inner self’; and the vast open landscape of the desert will only help with that. But it’s good to know that you’re next to the city full of your friends or yet-to-become friends.