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Tuesday May 3, 2011

Nudists bare all at Spanish gym

In Spain it always seems to be the Catalonians in the north east of the country who court controversy and raise eyebrows. After all it was the socialists in the region who devised an election campaign with a risqué television advert whose protagonist had an orgasm while casting her ballot. It was in Catalonia that the first “queer kissing flashmob” was staged to upset the Pope and where prostitutes touting for work on motorways were ordered to wear fluorescent jackets. And lest we forget it was in Catalonia too, that the first clinic to “cure gays” was launched and where the largest brothel in Europe was proudly unveiled.

Now Catalonia has competition as the Basque region in the north of Spain unveils the country’s first ever nudist gym. The appropriately named Easy Gym in the town of Arrigorriaga, is now offering workouts to those with an urge to strip off while pumping iron or participating in aerobic exercise. The owner, Merche Laseca, explained that she hoped to establish a new clientele during harsh economic conditions and as the region had more than 12 nudist beaches, anticipated a good local response. Two swimming pools in the town that already offer regular sessions for nudists, have received enthusiastic support from the area’s naturists and the gym has also been given the thumbs up. Maite Vicuna, president of the Basque Naturist Association said, “Doing sport without clothes is natural-and much more comfy.”

There are those who do not share Maite Vicuna’s zeal for flaunting the flab in a public gym. Many critics insist that using exercise equipment without appropriate attire-or any, for that matter- is neither comfy nor hygienic especially as its key purpose is to offer support to the body and more importantly to absorb sweat. Merche Laseca has argued that all nude clients are offered towels “for comfort and to prevent slippage” which has understandably triggered puerile and smutty jokes in the Spanish media.

Disappointingly and despite having braced itself for a massive turnout from the region’s exhibitionists, only a handful of nudists turned up for the gym’s first fitness session. Not to lose face, the gym’s management has maintained that it will take time to build momentum and trust within the nudist community.

I’m not convinced. Surely the low turn-out is simply because even those with the thick skin, ego and unflagging confidence of a Gaddafi, draw the line at such gymnastic exposure- or worse- watching others performing press ups, roll overs and squats in the buff. Sometimes the naked truth can be just too much to bear.

This article first appeared in Telegraph Expat

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