Rift over naturism laid bare by bar on Spain’s oldest nudist beach

More than 1,700 people have called on officials in Spain to preserve the character of the country’s oldest official nudist beach in a row with a newly-installed bar they say limits the practice of naturism in the area.

The Costa Natura beach, a narrow stretch of sandy shore near the southern Spanish town of Estepona, was designated the country’s first nudist beach in 1979.

Spain was emerging from more than three decades of dictatorship under Gen Francisco Franco at the time, forcing proponents of naturism to spend nearly three years convincing officials that the practice would not pose any kind of social hazard to Spaniards.

The years-long effort transformed Costa Natura into an enduring symbol, even as nudist beaches continued to be established in Spain. “It’s very special because it was the first,” said Almudena Medrano Martín. “At the time Spain was far behind other countries when it came to the acceptance of naturism.”

Recently, however, she and other nudists who frequent Costa Natura have begun to worry the spirit that has long permeated the beach is being eroded. A bar that opened in mid-July has sparked complaints after nudists said they were told its sun beds were off limits to those in their birthday suits.

“It feels like we’re taking a step backwards again,” said Medrano Martín. “If they’re bothered by us they shouldn’t have set up here.”

She and other nudists launched an online petition earlier this month calling for “the nudist character of the Costa Natura beach in Estepona be respected”. The beach bar’s rules for using the sun beds as well as the wide tract of land taken up by the rows of loungers is “limiting the possibilities for practising naturism”, the petition reads. To date it has been signed by 1,752 people.

The bar did not reply to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Estepona council said the bar had obtained all the necessary authorisations to use the plot of land and that, like any other restaurant, the use of its facilities was subject to the norms set out by the business. “Nothing has changed in relation to the nudist character of the beach,” it said in a statement.

Medrano Martín said efforts to address the matter directly with the beach bar and local officials had so far proved futile. “Until now we’ve never had any problems in this area,” she said. “Nudists and textile-clad bathers have always coexisted peacefully here.”