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At volleyball tourney, players have fun in the buff

It feels so natural to Steve Schmitt.

The hot sun beating down on him.

The sting of the leather volleyball ricocheting off his coupled hands.

The feel of sand between his toes.

And the light breeze against his bare bottom.

Bare bottom?

Yes. Bare.

The way Schmitt tells it, volleyball and nudity make a perfect combination.

"Volleyball and nudity go hand-in-hand," said the 32-year-old resident of Paradise Lakes, a central Pasco County nudist community. "It just feels natural."

Last weekend at the Fifth Annual Paradise Lakes Volleyball Tournament, 56 players competed in three categories in teams of four. Winners' shares ranged up to $250.

Nudity wasn't the rule, just an option. It was one exercised by most of the players.

Not all, however. Some wore modest beach attire throughout the two-day tournament. Some men and women kept T-shirts and tank tops on to block the hot afternoon sun, but remained bottomless throughout the tourney.

The scene was a lazy afternoon at the Paradise Lakes' three sand volleyball courts. Players and residents relaxed near the courts and pool, taking a break from sunbathing to get in a quick game of volleyball.

"Volleyball is just a great sport," said Dan Klingeisen, 34, a resident of Paradise Lakes who with Schmitt helped organize the tourney.

"Anybody can play it. You don't need a lot of special equipment. You don't even need to be an athlete. We divided the tournament by skill levels, so everyone has a chance to have some fun."

Klingeisen moved to Land O'Lakes from Wisconsin a few years ago. Volleyball is popular there, but the colder weather wasn't, well, appropriate for nudists.

"It's tough to be naked out there," he said. "Your time is limited."

He much prefers the friendly confines of Paradise Lakes. Though this is one of the club's major tournaments, Klingeisen said the club sponsors volleyball tournaments every week open to both serious and recreational players.

Clothing optional, of course.

"Hey, everyone out here's just having a good time," he said. "What more could you want?"