Would you bare all for charity?
We wanted to create an event that would not only push the boundaries and drive awareness for an important cause, but also inspire people to let go of their inhibitions, have fun and celebrate their wonderful bodies in all their diversity.
If this hot weather is making you want to strip off and head to the beach, you could be in good company next month when the Bay of Plenty is hosting a group skinny dip for a good cause.
The inaugural Nude Dude charity swim is being held on March 15 at an unnamed Western Bay beach.
The swim will be a fundraiser for Tauranga's Breast Cancer Support Service, which provides emotional and practical support for Western Bay women with breast cancer, and their families.
Don't be fooled by the name — this is not just for men.
Participants can be of any gender (dude is used in the Kiwi sense of the word to mean man or woman), must register, must be over 18 and must fundraise a certain amount — $300 for individuals and $1000 for groups of up to four — to make the cut for the birthday suit 100m splash in the surf.
Only those competing will be able to access to the beach.
At the strictly non-spectator event participants make their way to the shore before ditching their sarong, frolicking into the surf and swimming an easy 100m lap wearing only their birthday suit.
Breast Cancer Support Service manager Helen Alice says the event will allow Kiwis to celebrate who they are, no matter their size, shape or gender.
"We wanted to create an event that would not only push the boundaries and drive awareness for an important cause, but also inspire people to let go of their inhibitions, have fun and celebrate their wonderful bodies in all their diversity."
She said the event was partly inspired by footage her team saw from the hugely successful Sydney Skinny nude swim in Australia.
"There were a number of women who had mastectomies without reconstruction taking part, and they all looked so beautiful and happy. There is something quite special about celebrating 'just being alive' and accepting the skin you are in."
She said it was important for women battling cancer to still want to look and feel their best.
"Body acceptance and positive thinking becomes hard at times, but so important to their overall wellbeing."
One woman who knows the preciousness of life is Te Puke mother of three Tracy Harding.
It is two and a half years since she was diagnosed with breast cancer and following treatment, including a mastectomy, she is now clear.
She is taking part in the swim, despite the fact not even her husband has seen her scars fully. In the water will be the first time she bares all.
"When you go through cancer it changes your perspective on a lot of things ... my friend who I am doing it with has also had breast cancer, and she has lost people to breast cancer. So when you go through all that, worrying about being naked seems silly."
Her colleagues at The Warehouse have been supportive and her husband and adult children are behind her too.
"My son thinks it is a little crazy, but my girls are like 'go for it mum, do it , do it'. So looks like I am doing it."
Harding said any apprehension was quelled by her memories of how supportive the local services had been.
"They are amazing, and I just feel like this is my way of saying thank you, and giving back."
Support also came from many places when Sonya Nicol was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Nicol has a couple of "titty friends".
They're fellow breast cancer survivors who supported her four years ago when she underwent a hard year of cancer, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Sonya is now cancer-free, happy and grateful to be alive and to have received such wonderful support.
"It's important to have one or two titty friends," she says. "When you talk to people who haven't experienced it, you tend to be upbeat about it ... you need to have somebody you can share the dark side jokes with, you can have a bit of a potty mouth about it.
"You can feel sorry for yourself and they just get it.
"They don't try and fix it, they just get it."
Baring it all for the cause
Sonya, a personal development coach from Katikati, went for a routine mammogram when she turned 45. A lump was found but she couldn't feel it, even after she knew it was there.
The invasive cancer was stage three and she underwent a lumpectomy. Unfortunately, the sentinel lymph node test came back showing the cancer had spread and Sonya required lymph node removal surgery, where recovery can be just as gruelling as the initial surgery.
Chemotherapy followed. Sonya thinks she handled the three months well, despite having heard terrible stories.
"There was fatigue, I felt lousy and I was off my food but I think I am the only one I know who didn't have a completely awful time of it."
She held a hair shaving party where friends also loped off their locks.
Radiotherapy was next. And then it was all over.
"The hardest part was for my youngest daughter. She was just 11 at the time. I can remember her saying to me 'why you,' and I said, 'because I can handle it."'
"I always knew I was going to be OK, I think it is harder for the family."
Sonya was blown away by the amount of support she received from family and friends and Breast Cancer Support Service Tauranga (BCSST) during those hard times. Sonya says the group gave her permission "not be OK sometimes".
Now it's time to give back. She's helping promote the Nude Dude event and will be there on the day helping. She's also a BCSST support buddy helping anyone newly diagnosed who requires support.
Tauranga/Coromandel breakfast show host Brian Kelly has not signed up for the swim ... yet ... but is very supportive.
"It's a great idea ... as long as it's done with good taste and it certainly seems to be." Kelly tried to organise a similar charity event back in 2000 — a nude surfing competition — and still has the Bay of Plenty Times front page promoting the event.
Despite getting several entries, it did not go ahead, but Kelly thinks the times, they are a changing.
"I don't think the Bay was quite ready for it in 2000. Maybe now."
He's still on the fence about taking the plunge. "Mmm, still considering, 18 years on is the world ready for BK's 2018 body."
Yes BK, do it, do it!
March 15, at an unnamed Western Bay beach.
All funds raised will go directly to Breast Cancer Support Service Tauranga — a local independent trust that supports people with breast cancer and their families. The trust receives no government funding and relies on grants, donations and fundraising activities to continue its work in supporting people. More than 3000 New Zealand women (and men) are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, with 250 in the Western Bay of Plenty alone. Register online at: www.nudedude.org.nz
Additional reporting by Rebecca Mauger