By Scott Moersen
Hundreds of naked students rallied in the rain last Wednesday to run, sing, and celebrate the naked form. They came from their dorms and their dinning halls, some wearing only a bathrobe. Most were nude.
The UC Santa Cruz tradition of First Rain has come and gone, but for those who ran this year, the experience is still visible on their faces-a crooked smile, a smooth brow, and a calm eye. One runner shouted out to his fellow exhibitionists, "Don’t be ashamed, be proud! Remove your clothes, be naked!"
The crowd formed at Porter College around 8:20 p.m., despite the fact that the rain did not pick up until closer to 10 p.m. Kresge first-year Carle Ng, who participated in the run, observed a man in a trench coat inciting people to run early, despite the lack of rain.
"He was the guy that got it going, that stood in the quad and yelled at everybody, ‘Five minutes! Ten minutes!’ and then an hour because it wasn’t raining," Ng said.
Students hoped to invite the rain by pounding on bass drums in a rain-dance-type celebration, but according to Kelly Kay, a first-year at Kresge College, it was Queen’s "Bohemian Rhapsody" that ultimately brought the rain.
"The naked run started as everybody started singing Queen, and then it started pouring rain. So the drum circles did nothing but singing Queen did everything," Kay said.
Clothed onlookers lined the Porter Quad to obeserve the spectacle. While most made way for runners and encouraged them with high-fives and cheers, others showed up bearing cameras and camcorders to the dismay of those participating in the event.
There were at least three videos posted on the Internet shot from different places on campus that featuring naked students running, leaping, giving high-fives, and break dancing. One of the videos ends with a naked man rushing the camera and turning it off.
A number of angry students voiced their discontent and said and the Internet videos went against everything the run was about.
"I didn’t like the [recording]," said Jenna Bendett, one of the participators. "I thought they should have been running too."
One student who, like many, wished to remain unnamed, slowed to a jogger’s pace and explained his motivation for the run.
"Because it’s fun, it’s naked, and it’s how we’re supposed to be," said the student, who named himself as Benny Travis and then later as Kevin Winstrom. "Let’s go dance in a naked forest!"
Runners ascended the Porter Meadow and climbed atop the red sculpture known as the Porter Squiggle, while others clustered around and began to chant, "Naked, naked, naked," as the headlights of automobiles and flashes of cameras lit up the meadow. More people arrived and pushed inward as the night went on.
First Rain occurs during the first downpour of the school year, inciting a cross-campus nude run that brings people together in what Sarah, a student at Porter College, described as "a naked, wet community."
UCSC is not the only college who has naked traditions. Yale has a naked run that starts at the first snow, and Berkeley has nude protests and a similar naked run just before finals.
The origins of First Rain remain unclear, though at this point the tradition has become a predictable yearly occurance.
"When I was told about it nobody really explained its history," said Tim Pistotti, a third-year literature student at Porter. Pistotti, who ran barefoot and has a bruised black toe to prove it, feels there is no single philosophy that brings students out for First Rain.
"It makes the run more real to me because there is no history to it, it’s all in the moment," Pistotti said. "If there was a history, or if there was a past, I’m glad it was left behind."
Alex, a Kresge first-year student, saw the run as a chance for a blend of people to come together and let loose.
"Well it’s like it’s just a clash of everyone you know," Alex said. "It’s not just the pretty people. It’s everybody-skinny ones, short ones, tall ones, small ones, big ones."CHP reporter Will Norton-Mosher contributed to this article.