Naked Running Pioneer Wants You to Strip, Do Bay to Breakers

Jim Herd
Well, U got R attention...
The people who continued Ed Van Sicklin's work had some pretty big shoes to fill. But, fortunately for them, that's all they had to fill. That's because he's the Godfather of Naked Runners at the Bay to Breakers, the man most responsible for changing the ethos of the 99-year-old San Francisco footrace from "My God! There's a naked person!" to "Criminy! Hordes of jiggling genitals!"

"It was a total lark. It was one of those things where you get a hair up your ass to do something and don't let yourself back down," he says of his decision to "streak" the B2B 20-odd years ago.

"So there are thousands of people in this mob and the gun goes off -- bang! -- and I strip off my clothes. And nothing moves," recalls a laughing Van Sicklin, tracked down at his Oakland auto mechanic shop. "You stand there and stand there and the people around you draw back. And I stumbled after the first mile or so, and there's my big ass sticking up in the air. But [nudity] keeps you running, let's put it that way."

Ed Van Sicklin.jpg
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Ed Van Sicklin, clothed
Van Sicklin gathered enough exhibitionist running enthusiasts to form "nudipedes" in 1993; the organization he co-founded, Bare To Breakers, carries on in his absence (Van Sicklin quit running -- naked or clothed -- after a heart attack in 1997. He is still listed as "Fearless Leader" on Bare To Breakers' Web site).

The inaugural nude contingent literally ran into problems. While there were no laws against nudity on the streets of San Francisco, those hoping to parade au naturel in Golden Gate Park require permits. So when the "nudipedes" hit the park, the cops moved in.

Van Sicklin et al. may not have had pockets, but they did have a lawyer. SF Weekly tracked him down in Ramah, N.M., where's he's lived and worked for the past 14 years. Obviously, he remembered this case ("nudipedes" don't come up in the legal canon all too often).

"I can't recall the name of the judge we went in front of, but he dismissed all the charges," said the lawyer.

By the way, that lawyer's name: Will Stripp. Yes, Will Stripp represented the nudists. When asked if he was chosen for his legal acumen or name, Stripp answered honestly: "I think it was both."

Van Sicklin's days of whizzing through San Francisco sans apparel are through. But when asked any advice for would-be nude runners, he responded enthusiastically. "Oh God, absolutely do it," he said without hesitation. "Absolutely -- and get like-minded people if you can."
 
Photo of nude runner   |   Jim Herd

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