Yesterday, On the Loose (OTL), the outdoors club of the Claremont Colleges, announced the cancellation of their annual speedo hike due to concerns regarding body positivity. The event, which had previously been one of OTL’s most popular of the year, involved over one hundred students from the Claremont Colleges hiking up Mount Baldy in speedos.
“By having the Speedo Hike as our official welcome event each year, we unintentionally sent the message that to participate in OTL, you must be fit and comfortable with your body image,” OTL wrote on its Facebook page. “The name ‘Speedo’ itself inherently implies bro-iness. OTL is so much more than just that, but many potentially interested students get turned off to our club each year because of Speedo Hike.”
Clarissa Worcester, a staffer at the Outdoor Education Center, added, “the publicity/legacy surrounding that of the speedo hike is immediately and inextricably ostracizing. Not to mention how it directly excludes individuals with religious dressing practices. No matter what work you do, the ‘speedo hike’ will manifest itself as OTL taking out and funding a group of students that is nearly guaranteed to be almost exclusively outdoor-experienced, fit, and heavily swayed in the direction of outdoor—and otherwise—privilege that OTL is trying to work against.” Worcester added, “OTL’s decision to not put many folks’ organizational effort and time into an event that is widely associated with bodily shaming/exclusion just seems to make a lot of sense.”
Not all students agreed with the decision. “I want to express my profound disappointment in your decision to cancel the speedo hike. This decision is, in my opinion, a mistake that goes decisively against your responsibility as the heads of the club to enable transformative experiences in the outdoors,” wrote Jeremy Snyder, a Pomona student. “OTL should strive to serve as many people from as many backgrounds as possible, but this should be an additive process, not a reductive one. In terms of enabling outdoor experiences, taking the speedo hike off the docket is a net negative. No progress is made by its cancellation. If the hike is cancelled, every individual and group that would have opted not to participate will stay on campus that saturday just the same. The sheer absence of the Speedo Hike will not propel them outdoors, so it is not productive to that end. What does change, however, is that now every person who would have partaken—for whom the speedo hike could have been a fun, challenging, and socially transformative experience as it was for my friends and I—will now spend their saturday on campus as well, sedentary. The decision to cancel the hike has not propelled anybody new outdoors, it has merely erased the chance for students to have a new and singularly memorable experience.”
Samuel Breslow (PO ’18) pointed out that attendees of Speedo Hikes in the past were never forced to don speedos. “I think it’s important to note that wearing a speedo was not a requirement for participation in the speedo hike,” noted Breslow. “I can also speak to it from personal experience: I decided to keep my clothes on (for comfort/in order to lessen the sunburn), and no one ever pressured me in the slightest to take them off.”
“This has been a difficult decision for us to reach. We know lots of our beloved members will be disappointed that Speedo Hike isn’t happening this year,” states OTL’s Facebook page. “In an effort to make the club more inclusive and accessible to everyone, we didn’t want to advertise a trip that our staff felt like wasn’t representational of the full OTL mission and purpose.”