A couple weeks after relocating to the charmed island of Maui, I was advised by a vagabond called “Sterling” about a wild party that happens every Sunday at a place called Little Beach. An alternative environment boasting a cornucopia of intoxcants, drum circles, fire dancing, and… it’s ‘clothing optional’. At first I felt uneasy. Insecure. Scared. Skeptical. I’d never been to a nude beach and my first reaction was to think it would be full of ‘weirdos’ engaging in debaucherous activities. Until that moment, I hadn’t realised that the concept of public nudity made me so tense. I caught myself picturing a huge group of beautiful people that I wouldn’t be able to “fit in” with. The whole thing sounded like it could be extremely uncomortable. Here I was judging people I hadn’t even met yet, and an experience I hadn’t even had yet! I decided that all this mental debating was exactly the reason why I needed to go to Little Beach and see this phenomenon for myself.
The very next Sunday we sputter southward in a rusted out 1984 honda civic from Kihei to Big Beach. A couple of newly made acquaintences happily show us the walking path from Big Beach to Little Beach. As we trudge through the sand, my heart summersaults with nervous trepidation. Along the way we pass all sorts of interesting faces; dreadlocked, tie died, tattooed, flower power children of all ages. I breathe in slowly and enjoy the familiar smell of burning herbs in the distance. We arrive at the base of a small hill, the edge of an ancient lava flow on it’s way to the sea. Leading up to the right we find a narrow path smoothed out by uncountable feet passing through here over uncountable years. When we reach the top of the hill, I stop for a moment to take in the panoramic view. The vibrations of a distant drum circle creep up from the beach below arousing the senses. The atmosphere is changing. At the turn in the path where it begins to decend to the other side I notice a well placed sign posted on a tree.
Down the path the drumming becomes clearer and more defined. You hear the waves crashing on a beach that is still mostly out of sight. As your view opens up you begin to see the scene in it’s entirety; a half-clothed assembly of characters scattered along a crescent shaped beach, each one starring in their own individual storyline. To the right the beach nonchalantly transforms into golden-green scrub brush and tall wiry trees. To the left the mighty Pacific Ocean cradles the desert island of Kahoolawe and it’s younger cousin, Molokini Crater. We stroll ahead leisurely, absorbing the sights and sounds, while deciding on the right place to sit. After finding a spot near the drum circle, but not too close or too crowded, we unfurl our over-sized towels and set up our camp for the day.
The first order of business consists of emptying a cold can of Natural Ice into our stomachs as quickly as humanly posible, out of pent up thirst. Carrying the day-camp supplies over that hill in the heat of the day makes everyone parched. As the serenity washes over me, I suddenly realise something; I’m HOME. All the nervous static surrounding the “clothing optional” part of this adventure melted away in an instant. I gaze across the sea of people finding each one unique. Each one comfortable in his or her own skin. Each one accepting and beautiful in their own right. It wasn’t long before we knew all of our neighbors and were fervently talking story with one another. All pretentions of society had melted away and we were all here… at this place… together. Strangers become friends in an instant with all the ease and simpliticty of mere eye contact. This is Utopia.
As the sun makes it’s daily pilgrimage westward, we soak in it’s warmth and light like a battery being recharged. We play hide and seek with our inner child, regaining some of that reckless abandon that we somehow ditched when we began to “grow up”. The simple joys of playing frisbee with a handful of passer-bys, or peeing in the ocean, or taking off your clothes and doing naked cartweels, we bask in the opportunity to liberate and cleanse the soul. The rich colours of the sunset emblazon the sky with inspiration. The beat of the drums gradually gains speed… so slowly that you don’t really notice it. Growing energy builds latent excitement and as the jam peaks and breaks, the crowd comes alive… together we clap and howl and laugh and dance and live. The beat intensifies and our tribe gives thanks to that majestic fire in the sky, as the dancers prepare for their performance. The last bit of light from the horizon escapes as the first torch is lit, as if the fire has been transferred from the sun to the caring hands of our dancers. The crowd gathers and a circle forms, the drums guide our journey, the firelight captivates in hypnotic repose.
I hardly remember leaving that night on that first, and most memorable, trip to Little Beach. All I knew was I was hooked. It was the one place where the concept of “normal” had no validity. The experience changed my life and my perspective. I relished in the joy of finding a true melting pot; where people of all ages, races, backgrounds, and lifestyles can mingle without judgement or prejudice. A place where tolerance and acceptance – flaws and all – flourishes. And the lack of clothing only furthered that experience, as it breaks some of the visual boundaries and stereotypes we enforce on each other. It was on this day that I truly understood what the ‘Spirit of Aloha’ meant. I now knew what my plans on Sunday would be as long as I was on island.
For the first few weeks, I wasn’t sure if the party would happen. I couldn’t believe that something this awesome could happen every Sunday. But every Sunday I ever went out there, and to my welcomed surprise it was all happening again. It got to the point where I could hardly contain my excitement on the walk from the Big Beach parking lot to the other side of the wall and frequently found myself skipping, jumping, and trotting along the way. Life starts to become more colourful. You start to think of things you should bring next weekend; Frisbee, Boogie Board, Surfboard, Bubbles? Face Paint? Glow sticks? The potential for creativity is as large as your imagination will allow. Sometimes you would put a lot of effort into preparing: chairs, ice chest, lunch, towels, a flashlight for the drunken walk back to society. Other times not having the burden of material items was just as enjoyable. Only the bare essentials which usually meant a case of Milwaukee’s Best, or a bottle of rot gut bottom shelf white rum would suffice. Free to roam the beach and drink with friends or strangers – turned friends. I love the nomadism inherent in the long walk to our world. You can only bring what you can carry – an outlook I utilise in my daily minimalistic life.
When you become a regular member of the Little Beach culture, you start to notice certain regular characters and similarities from week to week, a collection of familiar faces: A vibrant elderly fellow who vascillates between wearing purple spandex shorts, or a simple jock-strap, runs up and down beach like a wild horse at full sprint. He makes me feel like I could be in better shape. Occasioanlly he sits balanced in the top of a crooked tree, looking outward comtemplating some unknowable knowledge, like a sage. A long-haired quiet man always wore his wetsuit, mask and snorkel and carried a long Hawaiian sling for spearfishing. I honestly can’t remember if I ever saw him with a fish, it just always seemed like such an out-of-place thing to do. Here is the majority of the crowd getting loose, and this dude is hunting, alone. But I suppose we are a tribe and each of us has a different function. A tall man who always wore a top hat and nothing else, who was an experienced ribbon twirler would always set up a metal archway that would be lit on fire at the end of the night – a kind of gateway for the crowd to pass through one by one, on their way back to the path that leads toward reality. Most of the regulars tend to sit in the same place each week, as we are creatures of habit. Even in this place of random encounters, there is a loosely veiled order to it all. To the left of the drum circle was where most of the homosexual men sat, and I always thought it was interesting that even when left to our own devices outside of society, we still naturally divide ourselves based on interests.
As we all know, there is a time and place for everything. Well, there couldn’t be a better time or place to experiment with psychedelics, than on a lazy Sunday at Littles. The safety and seclusion of the beach allows your mind to travel free and easy. And if you’re looking, it won’t take long to find, just look for the guy with one nipple tattooed completely blue. He’ll always lend a helping hand with a wide variety to choose from; from the conventional pot cookies and mushroom brownies, to the impressive ganja ice cream, or tabs of white blotter. Let reality casually drip away as you soar to new heights, unlock new doors and learn about the inner workings of your mind and your conditioning and ultimately let go of it all. You’ll be in the best company you could ask for, to guide you on a mind-bending journey as you connect with the spirits of the island.
Novice and professional fire dancers alike tantalise the crowd each week. A myriad of incredible artists share their pyromania with the group. There was a woman who used a metal hula-hoop that had 6 spokes on it, and she would light each one of the spokes and hula-hoop, topless. She was middle aged and well endowed, and it was marvellous. Week after week, she would inspire and amaze people with her fascinating talent, making shapes with fire in the dark. Naked fire dancing always kind of seemed a bit dangerous to me, but I soon got used to the idea… But one Sunday a guy spit out some kerosene wrong and in an instant his whole face was on fire! At first people laughed but, as he dove into the sand face-first, the laughter turned to silence. For a split second we all feared the worst. As quickly as he dove into the sand he was back up again, unscathed and back into his performance, to a LOUD uproar of cheering! Tonight’s hero!
The sense of community is one my favourite things about the culture at Littles. Anyone can participate in the drum circle. Bongoes, Flutes, Didgeridoos, Chimes, Cymbals, Bells, Chanting, anything goes. It was an all-inclusive group effort, which meant that no two jam sessions were ever the same. We all joined in at one point or another, able to let our indiviuality shine. Diversity is happily welcomed, not shunned as in our modern homogenized society. Week after week you see familiar faces, you might not even know their names but it doesn’t matter. You know a part of them that only our tribe knows. I’ve had some of the best drunken frisbee games on that beach; people would put their heart and soul into catching impossible throws and even the dogs at the beach joined in (but truth be told, they were always crap at the throwing part). People could come together and cross paths at this place, with the freedom to be anyone they wanted to be. Status means nothing here, no one will be impressed with the kind of car your drive, or the job you have, or how much money you have in the bank. The members of our tribe are all equals.
People might be getting drunk and doing drugs, but it’s not the focal point of this experience. One week, I brought some bubble solution and a few wands. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by at least a dozen children. They absolutely loved it and it was such a treat to interact with kids on their level. There was always so much happening and many people brought their children to join in as, despite what some people might think, it really was a family-friendly environment. I never saw any perverted or devious behavoir there. It was a pure celebration of life. A place where people can have a new kind of experience together. Society conditions us to think that nudity is something to be ashamed of but children don’t understand the concept of nudity, until society teaches them that it’s wrong. The children that came to Little Beach with their families, I always felt so happy for them for being able to come to a place of magic and wonder at such a young age, and being able to share this lifestyle and experience with their family. The diversity at Little Beach creates an atmosphere of tolerance. What a wonderful thing for children to be subjected to at a young age!
This party has been going on for more than 20 years and the beach is absolutely charged with the positive energy of so many people collectively enjoying the moment. A place where people find themselves and each other. A chance to let down the walls we build up, and just be present. Even the shape of the beach lends a hand in the festivies. The beach faces west, which allows for sunsets year round. And from November to March, humback whales are seen breaching just off shore adding an element of surrealism to the place. The cove had just the right grade underwater to produce the perfect waves, and the sand was largely free of rocks or any other obstacles that could cause injury. One side of the beach was great for surfing if the swell was right and there would inevitably be one naked surfer carving the swell. The other side of the beach typically had smaller waves and was often great for boogie boarding, body surfing, or riding inflatable pool toys in the shape of a killer whale.
Trust me; those things will catch a wave quite easily and always get a good laugh out of spectators. You would always see people coming up with inventive and resourceful ways to catch a wave. My friend Worm had a Mac Donalds red plastic food tray that he had modified to be strapped around his forearm. That, coupled with a pair of short fins allowed him a new way to catch a wave. Behind the beach, Red Hill protects us from the outside world, and the hill that you cross upon entering the beach truly made this our own little private heavenly pocket.
If you go to Little Beach on any other day of the week, it’s just another beach. What makes Little Beach so special? It’s the people, the community. It’s how we organically create our own world together. I often reflect on how I felt when I first heard about Little Beach. How nervous and uneasy I was. How, if I had let those feelings get the best of me, I would have missed out on so much; so many stories, so many friends, so many sunsets. And as it’s the community aspect that really shines, here are a few words from the people of that wonderful tribe:
Tinaleeroth: What are 5 of your favourite things about Little Beach?
Devra: My top 1 is the sunsets, it’s one of the first things i think about when thinking about little beach. That place has some of the most perfect sunsets and maybe because you watching it with so many other people who are just as awed by it, it makes it that much better. The second would be the people, I think there is something about taking off you clothes and running around with a bunch of strangers that makes people really nice, kinda like taking your clothes off, takes your boundaries down. Or maybe it had nothing to do with the clothes. Three would be swimming in the waves close to sunset with the drum circle playing on the beach. I just remember going up and down in the waves, with every once and awhile getting a glimpse of the sun through the waves with the sound of the drum circle playing the whole time. Just loved it. Four, is fire dancing. Not every time, but a lot of the time, I saw some great shows. The circle was always so intimate, so when watching someone fire dance I was always able to get a great “seat” with all my friends/family. My fifth fav, happens at the end of the night when it was time to leave. Everyone would be packing up their gear, someone would be looking for their one lost slipper and everyone would follow each other off the beach and climb over the bluff and there would always be a group of volunteers that would have torches to help everyone see. You always felt part of it all, so much feeling of community. I really love that place, it always will have a place in my heart.
Thomas: NUDITY NUDITY NUDITY, but that counts as #1. DRUMS & MORE DRUMMS!! THE BOMB! SINGING & DANCING!! UNITY of The SOULS. FIREs FIRE PANTS ON FIRE!HOW DO YOU SpElL GaNja MaN? … MaryJane Joints the Doobies, all night BONGIT!!
Worm: Scenery and sunset. Awesome body surfing without having to worry about a broken back. Uuuuuuuuuuuuh … you can be naked. Great snorkelling. Unwanted erections!
Johnny A: The swimming, the laying out, the seclusion, the view, the people watching.
Tinaleeroth: What makes Little Beach unique:?
KaRin: The 1st thing that comes to mind is the freedom of people coming together from all over not afraid to bare it all, literally! Without societies, or restrictions, I’ve seen skinny, overweight, old, frolic naked together playing in the waves like they were kids again! Warms my heart!
Ray: The unique thing about “Little Beach” is that you’re escaping to a paradise, within a paradise. It’s a place that not many tourists ever witness. Time seems to stop and you get lost in the dancing and mingling of fellow islanders. You can rock out in the latest swim fashion wear or just go in your Birthday suit. (No shirt, no shoes, no problem.) There are no authorities to ruin your party and the spirit of Aloha reigns Supreme here within the fire dancing and pounding of the islander’s drums. This is one experience you will not want to miss on the Lover’s Isle. Enjoy Maui y’all. ALOHA!
Spike: Body surfing naked!
Chad: The pharmacopia of good edible brownies, cookies and rice crispy treats. You’re guaranteed to be approached and allowed an amazingly relaxed day with a full on body buzz.
Sean: First…I remember the first time we went there, I felt like we stumbled on a secret society. I loved how people were so FREE, open, different, and welcoming. It also exposed some kind of fear in me, or more like something I needed to LET GO of. There was a sense of others really LETTING go, especially with the naked people hahahahaha! It also helped wake up a “hippie free love” part of me. I remember just being in a place of love, near new good friends that would last WAY past this moment. We watched the sunset with everyone REALLY appreciating it and a sense of worship and gratitude to be a part of this moment. And the fire dancers are carrying on a Hawaiian tradition and breathing new life into all of us.
I’d like to thank all the folks I’ve shared a day with, and to all the contributors. This piece of writing is dedicated to Danny Doran Shaya. I hope to see you all in that place, on that beach, in this life or the next.
“Life is not tried, it’s just merely survived, if you’re standing outside the fire” – Garth Brooks