That time I wore a fatkini — and less — on a nude beach

that time i went to a nude beach as a fat lady

Back in March, the Viking and I flew out to Hawaii’s Big Island for nine days of sunshine, rest and relaxation.

Me being me, that didn’t exactly happen. I’m bad at relaxing. So we spent the entire time clambering around on rocks, exploring tide pools, watching dolphins, and taking about as many photos as you’d expect of two camera-obsessed goofballs.

It’s not like we didn’t spend any time on a beach, though. The nearest beach to our little rental cottage was Kehena Beach, one of Hawaii’s clothing-optional beaches. And it’s a good thing we were prepared for scrambling around on rocks, because the trail down the cliff is, shall we say, intimidating. It’s less “trail” and more “good luck and try not to catch a shoe or piece of clothing on jagged lava and fall and die while friendly svelte tanned people cheerfully edge past you on this sad excuse for a trail.”

Did I get nekkid? Yes, I did. And here’s why.

No, internet, you don’t get photos of the nekkid. Duh. But you do get my first-ever public bikini photos. Behold the paleness:

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No touchups were done on these photos at all, other than lightening them a bit so you could see me in the shade. No edit, no shame.

The first time we went down to the beach, there was no way no how I was doing anything adventurous. I expected anything called a “nude beach” to be full of young, gorgeous, tanned people who would scoff and possibly chase me off the beach for being fat and also pale as the moon. (German and Scottish blood, represent!) I wore my boring, sensible one-piece bathing suit under regular clothing and trudged through the sand fully expecting to be the unwelcome center of attention.

And it wasn’t that way at all. I can’t speak for any other beach on any other coastline in the world, but the Kehena folks were pretty much into minding their own business and having their own fun. Some people were clothed, some weren’t, and it just wasn’t that big a deal. There weren’t that many people on the beach, and most of them were male, but I saw people of at least two genders and a wide variety of ages, from twenty-ish to seventy-ish.

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We didn’t make it back down to the beach again until our last couple of days, somewhat deterred by the cliff scramble to get there and back and somewhat by the fact that getting in the water there can be seriously uncomfortable if you’re not used to going barefoot on very sharp black sand. But I wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass to wear my bikini in public for the first time, and possibly lounge in my all-togethers in a place where people were likely to barely even notice.

I’ll be honest with you: I did a lot of waffling about going nude. I did a lot of waffling even before that about the bikini. What decided me about the bikini was partly the fatkini movement, in which larger women are living out loud in whatever beachwear they want, and partly because what kind of voice am I for positive body image and living a life without body shame if I can’t live up to my own message?

portrait of the artist, extremely pale on a nude beach

So I wore the bikini, and it was fine. No one gave me a second glance. It was fine. The world did not end. Even if someone had been awful about it, the world would still not have ended, and I proved to myself that I could do it.

(I’ll also be honest that as swimsuits go, a bikini isn’t particularly comfortable for me. I love this design, which is semi-custom by Designs by Ro, but my boobs are pretty heavy and halter straps put a lot of weight on my neck. So I likely won’t be wearing a fatkini of any kind in future unless I want to show off some assets, simply because other styles are more comfortable for me in particular.)

Now that I’d proven the one, it was time for the other. I stripped won, chucked the bikini in my bag, and settled carefully right back down on that towel because let me tell you, that sand really is sharp and I didn’t want any of it in my anywheres.

Once again, the world did not end. It was fine. A couple of people glanced my way and went right back to their own lives. For them I might have been an inspiration (“You go, girl!”). Or a cautionary tale (“Wow, I’d better cut back on the butter”). Or an ego boost (“At least I don’t look like that”). But since I wasn’t doing it for them, it didn’t matter a single bit what they thought.

I sat on that towel totally nude in public for maybe five minutes, and then it started to rain. And not fantasy tropical warm rain in which you’d dance in slow-motion joy. Big, fat, cold drops of rain that were not only making me shiver, but making that cliff trail look even more difficult. So we packed up and left.

As we trudged through the black sand toward the trail, we passed a buff, conventionally-attracted dude in his mid-twenties who was stoically waiting out the rain. Given past experience with mean people, he of anyone was the one I’d expected to say something horrible. Nope. He smiled politely and greeted us just as he would have anyone else on the beach.

I don’t expect anyone else’s experience to be as calm and affirming as my own time in a fatkini and on a nude beach as a fat lady. I don’t know that my own experience on that same beach would have been different on a different day. But I’m no longer going to let fear drive what I wear on the beach. And when you’re ready to hit the beach in your own fatkini — or whatever kind of beachwear makes you happiest — call me up and we’ll go together.



Hi there! I'm Lindley (she/her, pronounced LIN-lee). I create artwork that celebrates the unique beauty of bodies that fall outside conventional "beauty" standards at Body Liberation Photography. I'm also the creator of Body Liberation Stock, which provides body-positive stock photos for commercial use, and the Body Love Shop, a curated central resource for body-friendly artwork and products. Find all my work at