Members shocked after warning about surf club's 'no nudity' policy

A number of people have complained to the popular surf club saying the behaviour of some members is confronting.

A surf club on the NSW Central Coast has hit back at members who, despite a strict 'no nudity' policy, continue to breach rules in place that protect its younger members.

Jon Harkness, CEO of Surf Life Saving Central Coast, which oversees the club in Terrigal, says members using the change room facilities must refrain from stripping naked — an existing policy that due to ongoing complaints has recently been reinforced.

"We've had some complaints or issues raised by younger members of Terrigal Surf Life Saving Club that sometimes they feel uncomfortable in the change rooms when older people come in and get naked in front of them," he told Yahoo News Australia.

"The change rooms, whilst you can't see them, are quite compact, and if you're a child having a shower or getting changed, it can be quite confronting if an older gentleman or female becomes naked in front of you in such a confined environment."

Terrigal Surf Life Saving Club building at Terrigal beach, NSW Central Coast.
Terrigal Surf Life Saving Club has enforced a 'no nudity' policy to keep children who use change rooms safe and comfortable. Source: Google Images

Nudity in change rooms is 'unacceptable'

Mr Harkness said board members have communicated the message with their membership base through newsletters, email and also on social media. There was even a public forum held on Tuesday, he said. While most have been compliant, some "continued to breach the policy" and those members were issued a separate letter, he explained. In it the club said that "nudity is not acceptable as per the Child Safe Policy," and advised members there'll be "disciplinary action" should they disobey the rule.

Woman 'shocked and stressed' after receiving club letter

One member Nada Pantle told the ABC she was "extremely shocked and stressed" after receiving a warning letter from the club. Until recently, she regularly used the club's change rooms to shower after an early morning ocean swim.

"They didn't say what I did or who had made a complaint, but it sort of implied I'd done something almost sexual," she said. "At some point, you've got to take your clothes off to get your other clothes on. That's why we have change rooms."

Ms Pantle said she almost feels she's been "body shamed", but Mr Harkness stressed the club's a "very inclusive organisation". "There's been absolutely no body shaming or anything like that in place," he told Yahoo News.

Change room sign inside change rooms at Terrigal Surf Life Saving Club.
Members are required to shower in their swimmers and use a towel to cover up while changing. Source: ABC Central Coast/Nada Pantle

Policy designed to make 'children feel safer'

Mr Harkness said the club decided on the policy to make children feel safer and if "one child has raised an issue, it's one issue too many for us".

Terrigal Surf Life Saving Club has 949 members, 362 of those memberships are for juniors under the age of 16. There are 211 patrolling members on the beach and the rest are "associate members" often part of a swim group who are most often the ones using the showers and "getting naked", he said.

"We ask that people respect the space of young people," he said. "One of our mottos is creating great young Australians and we need to make sure that through Surf Life Saving, Australians that come through feel safe in that environment as well."

Terrigal beach and ocean with swimmers.
Many of the club's members are children who have complained about feeling uncomfortable. Source: Google Images

Calls for change room redesign

The club is currently looking at expanding the current change rooms which would involve a redesign to potentially include private cubicles for members to change in. Until then, members would be expected to shower in their swimwear, and "be discreet and use a towel" when changing.

"The change rooms are still open for everybody at the moment, but if people keep doing the wrong thing, it puts it at risk for everybody," Mr Harkness said.

"The only sensible option is separate cubicles. That’s what ALL modern facilities have," one member argued on Facebook. "Open change rooms no longer meet the requirements of a modern facility," said another.

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