Reader men's summer swimsuit Issue

Almost every strapping example of San Diego masculinity that I approached agreed to be photographed

Chad Murphy: "That's what it's all about out here on the beach, you try to attract the opposite sex."
  • Chad Murphy: "That's what it's all about out here on the beach, you try to attract the opposite sex."
  • Image by Joe Klein

HEY, LADIES! Let's hear it for men! Give a shout-out now to the body masculine! Here's to five o'clock shadows, Adam's apples, square jaws, and rough skin. To testosterone, to the Y chromosome, to the stereotypically "stronger" sex. To lats, six-packs, thighs, hams, calves, tri's, bi's, and pecs. Now, you ask me, the male physicality wasn't built for aesthetics. Those angles and edges, the purely functional proportions: men's bods are too utilitarian, at least for my taste. (I prefer a woman's gentler curves, that smallness, the supple delicacy; that's just me.) But I guess we can all thank God and natural selection that most women see something to like in male height and hairiness, in big hands, broad shoulders, squareness, and heaviness. Which implies that a majority of the population might actually appreciate a men's swimsuit issue.

Gilbert David Diaz: "I'm kind of out of shape right now, but I'm going to start boxing again."

Gilbert David Diaz: "I'm kind of out of shape right now, but I'm going to start boxing again."

For me, personally, men's swimsuits have always been an issue (no pun intended). I recall that the first swimwear I ever bought with my own money was a little racing number, a Speedo. Red, white, and blue. I was 12, maybe 13. And I know that I wore that Band-Aid-sized rag exactly once. I remember this because the ridicule I endured, from my much-cooler-appareled friends, hampered my self-esteem for years.

Nowadays, whenever I occasion to strip down to my swimwear, my own interior monologue pesters me, "Are you standing up straight? Is your stomach tucked in? Are there zits on your back? Is your bulge rearranged for maximum show?" And on and on. Exhaustingly.

Today I own a single pair of long blue trunks, and I don't know who made them. I don't remember where I got them or how much they cost. And I'm not certain, but I think I've been sporting this same faded pair at beaches and pools for longer than nine years.

So you might imagine my surprise when I found many willing messieurs to fill the Reader Men's Swimsuit Issue. Almost every strapping example of San Diego masculinity that I approached agreed to be photographed and to speak with me. Not that I found it particularly easy to become the dispassionate journalist, in this case. Sauntering over to guys at the beach and striking up a conversation isn't generally my idea of a well-spent sunny day. "Excuse me, um, mind if I ask you a few questions about your swimsuit?" Uh-huh, right, buddy, right.

Seriously, the guys I interviewed -- the gentlemen and deadbeats, old fellas and athletes, rapscallions, partiers, students, dudes, and drakes -- were easygoing and surprisingly self-possessed. It takes real confidence to go walking around almost unclothed, and it requires an even more iron assurance to talk about walking around almost unclothed.

Very well then, here's to virility! To machismo and he-men!

Let's have a good look at them.

Gilbert David Diaz

Gilbert David Diaz


GILBERT DAVID DIAZ, 37

  • Birdwell board shorts, dark blue, $40
  • Owns 2 or 3 suits
  • Has boxed professionally (won all four of his pro fights — all knockouts in the first round)
  • Over 100 tattoos
  • Turn-ons: Beautiful women; sick waves
  • Turn-offs: Drunk, littering people

"How I look in a swimsuit could improve. I'm kind of out of shape right now, but I'm going to start boxing again, so I'm trimming up. I've already lost 30 pounds, from 317 to 287. I want to get to the 220 to 240 range. Slim-Fast, baby."

Paul Poffenroth (right)

Paul Poffenroth (right)


PAUL POFFENROTH, 66

  • TYR swimsuit, black with red racing stripes, $30
  • Owns 6 suits
  • Lives most of the year in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • Took up triathlon at 59. Didn't even learn to swim until he was 52. Now he does two to five Ironman triathlons per year. (Fastest time 12 hours 50 minutes)
  • Tattoo with logo of Ironman
  • Turn-ons: Excitement of a race; lively, positive people; good food
  • Turn-offs: Grumpy, gloomy people

"I think I look pretty normal, like any 66-year-old guy in a bathing suit. I swim a lot. I swim, on average, three times a week, sometimes four, and most of my swims are 3000 to 4000 meters -- training for triathlons. I own half a dozen swimsuits. Sometimes at international races we end up trading swimsuits, so I have a Team USA swimsuit; I have a Team South Africa swimsuit. I'm a retired structural engineer. I've never thought about how I look in a swimsuit. When I was younger I was 20 pounds heavier, not in a bad way, but I was certainly a little flabbier than I am now. I probably look better in a swimsuit now than I ever have. And I don't expect to change over the next ten years either. I'm not aging. I look at girls in swimsuits, of course."

Mike Westlake

Mike Westlake


MIKE WESTLAKE, 44

  • Billabong board shorts, blue with white flowers, $25 (had them five years)
  • Owns 20 suits
  • No tattoos
  • Turn-ons: Girl in bathing suit, rolling down the boardwalk
  • Turn-offs: Fat guy in Speedo, rolling down the boardwalk

"You know, I really don't care how I look in a bathing suit. As long as it's comfortable, that's all that matters. A suit's comfortable if it doesn't fall off, doesn't pinch, doesn't bunch. Also, you want a suit that can protect you from getting board rash if you're a surfer, and you want a suit where the sand isn't so much of an issue if you're playing volleyball. I'd rather be in a bathing suit than a suit. But I'm a city planner, so I wear a suit to work all day. If I could wear a bathing suit instead, then I'd be happy. When I was young, I had a lot of swimsuits with nautical themes or sailor themes. I was a chubby kid. I've always had at least 15 or 20 swimsuits at a time. I've always spent a lot of time at the beach. How do I think I'll look in a swimsuit ten years from now? Not as good. Not as good."

Scottie Harter

Scottie Harter

SCOTTIE HARTER, 23

  • Rusty board shorts, red and gold "Olde Rusty 40 oz." beer-can logos, $50 (but got 'em free because he knows people) (had them for two years)
  • Owns 20 suits
  • Fish tattoo
  • Turn-ons: Hot bitches, San Diego beaches, sunsets, beers with your buddies
  • Turn-offs: People who come out here from Arizona and litter on our beaches

How do you think you look in a swimsuit?

S.H.: Pretty fuckin' sexy.

How do you feel in a swimsuit?

S.H.: Pretty fuckin' sexy.

How do you expect to look in a swimsuit in ten years?

S.H.: Like a fuckin' pile o' shit.

Is that what you're aiming toward?

S.H.: After ten more beers and ten more years, I'll be lookin' exactly like that.

Ten beers in ten years? What, you only get a beer a year?

S.H.: No, man. Ten beers a day for ten years.

The Flash

The Flash

"FLASH," 59

  • White Chippendale thong (the shrinkable type), $30, brand-new (pastoral Illinois scene painted on buttocks)
  • Owns 15 to 20 suits
  • Been roller-skating almost naked on boardwalk for ten years
  • One tattoo: "Mac Meda Destruction Company"
  • Turn-ons: Good smiles
  • Turn-offs: Pit bulls and bad people

"Roller-skating in a swimsuit is like freedom, pure freedom. I guess it offends some people, and it might make some people jealous, but most folks smile, they think it's funny, and I like to wear costumes and to entertain people. I feel more comfortable this way, in a thong or a swimsuit of some sort, than I do in regular clothes. In clothes, I'm not in my element, but once I'm out here, skating and making people smile, then I'm in my element. It's all in good fun. When I started skating out here about ten years ago, my first suit was a Speedo, and I cut holes in it to make a thong. It just felt more comfortable that way. And then I started painting my butt to personalize the suits better. I use mirrors for painting, and plus I'm ambidextrous, so that helps. I think my favorite suit now is one that I got in Hawaii with palm trees and a sunset on it, but I haven't really worn it out yet. I'll probably only skate out here for another year or so. It depends how bad my body deteriorates. I listen to people's comments. I think, in general, people in swimsuits can look pretty scary, but I admire people who wear what they want to wear and do what they want to do. But when it gets to the point that more people run in fear than smile at me, then it might be time to hang up my skates."

Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy

MIKE MURPHY, 27

  • O'Neill swim trunks, black, $45
  • Owns 2 suits
  • Three tattoos: Tribal design, tribal dragon, and eagle on the world
  • Turn-ons: Curvy women, flat stomachs with definition
  • Turn-offs: Love handles, girls who are too curvy for their tiny swimsuits

"When I drink a lot of beer, I can look a little chunky in a swimsuit, but then when I get in shape I can look pretty decent at times too. How I feel in a swimsuit probably depends on how I think I look. If I think I look good, then I feel great -- yeah, I'll walk around with my shirt off. Otherwise, I'll keep my shirt on. Actually, my life's changed quite a bit. Up until about 7th grade I was fine, you know, skinny. But then from 7th grade to about 12th grade I got fat, put on a bunch of weight. And then I lost about 60 pounds, so I only weigh about 180 right now, which is a much better weight for me. I'm interested in staying healthy, so I don't expect my body to go out of shape again. Actually, there are a lot of chubby people in swimsuits, a lot of overweight people and slightly overweight people. That's cool, though. You know, whatever."

Dave Knoblock

Dave Knoblock

DAVE KNOBLOCK, 27

  • EMS swim trunks, navy blue, $20 (hand-me-down from college buddy)
  • Owns 3 suits, no board shorts, no Speedos
  • No tattoos
  • Turn-ons: The small of the back of a woman
  • Turn-offs: Girls with big bellies

"How do I look in a swimsuit? Dead sexy. [Laughs] No. You want to know the truth? Probably not that attractive at all. But that's all right. As long as I'm comfortable. If I'm toned up I feel real good in a swimsuit; if I'm not toned up, I could feel better. But the last time I was toned up was probably about five years ago. All I need in a swimsuit is for it to cover up my butt, because I have a pretty big butt. As long as it doesn't fall off when I dive into the ocean. I used to look damn good in a swimsuit, but in ten years, I don't know. I'll probably be a lot fatter and a lot hairier."

Nick Dornsife (left)

Nick Dornsife (left)

NICK DORNSIFE, 21

  • Billabong board shorts, black with white flowers, $25 (had them four years)
  • Owns 3 suits
  • No tattoos
  • Turn-ons: The girls in San Diego
  • Turn-offs: Places where the girls don't stay in shape

"I guess I look all right in a bathing suit. I feel pretty confident. I like to go for runs on the beach and stuff. Or splash around in the water and dive for Frisbees. Hopefully, I'll be able to stay in shape for a long time. I like to work out. And I'm trying to get into the Navy SEALs right now, so hopefully that'll work out and keep me in great shape."

Stephan Roundtree

Stephan Roundtree

STEPHAN ROUNDTREE, 41

  • Nike swim trunks, black, $25
  • Owns 7 or 8 suits
  • No tattoos
  • Turn-ons: Sports, fitness
  • Turn-offs: Lack of time to do sports

"I always feel good in my bathing suits, as long as I'm not overweight. And as long as I'm in shorts, I'm always working out, so that's good. I run, cycle, swim. Ten years ago, I couldn't even wear a swimsuit. I mean, I lost about 100 pounds. Now I just try to stay within 20 percent of my optimum body weight. My impression of swimsuits in general is, I think color is still not used properly in most swimwear. Like bright oranges and yellows -- you know, tropical colors -- you don't see them as much in men's stuff. What I'd like to be wearing right now is a bright orange and blue, but then I'd hit the water and the colors would fade. Especially in a swimming pool, the colors fade. So the way the textures hold the colors in swimsuits is no good. I'm a product development engineer, so I think a lot about what can make various products better."

Aaron Steckler

Aaron Steckler

AARON STECKLER, 25

  • Quiksilver board shorts, olive green with white designs, $25
  • Owns 5 or 6 suits
  • No tattoos
  • Turn-ons: Intellect, wit, sense of humor
  • Turn-offs: Arrogance, snobbiness, pretension

"I feel all right in a swimsuit, pretty confident. I think I look all right. I work out about five times a week. I used to be skinny and pale. But now I'm going to keep hitting the gym, and I should be able to keep looking better and better than I do now. I actually live in South Dakota. It's very cold and very desolate. We have about six weeks to two months of summer. But I swim in lakes and pools and stuff, and I try to vacation as much as possible. I like the women out here in San Diego, for the most part. They're in a whole lot better shape than the ones back home."

Zack Conyers

Zack Conyers

ZACK CONYERS, 17

  • No Boundaries board shorts, blue with black flames, $15
  • Owns 2 suits
  • No tattoos yet (wants praying hands on his back; waiting for 18th birthday)
  • Turn-ons: Blondes
  • Turn-offs: Sluts

"I love the water, so I'm normally in my bathing suit out by the pool or at the beach. I just like to be in the water. My first bathing suit had Mickey Mouse on it. My dad's got the big beer belly, the spare tire hanging over his swimsuit, so I don't ever want to look like him. I'm going to run, exercise, and keep in shape like I always do. My sister says I look okay in a bathing suit, and if she wasn't my sister, she'd probably try to date me. Last month, some girl walks by me and was trying to hit on me, and I was, like, nice, yeah, hey, what's up. But when you're young, you know, you can't do anything until you're older, so... But when I turn 18, it's all on, it's like, over. Man, some of these girls are just, like, oh my God. Too old for me right now, but it doesn't hurt to look."

Mark Van Keuren

Mark Van Keuren

MARK VAN KEUREN, 23

  • DTIO swimsuit, gray with black stripe and white netting, $5 (at the $5 store)
  • Owns 3 suits
  • No tattoos
  • Turn-ons: A good ass
  • Turn-offs: Flabby boobs, snobbiness

"As long as my body's fit, I feel good in a swimsuit. Right now, I feel confident and good. Could be a little better, but, you know. I think I look pretty decent; I'm not going to say I look the best, but I think I can hang. I'm down to about 200 pounds now from 220 a few years ago, so I know I look better. Now I work out, I eat better, and I always hit the gym every day, so hopefully I'll look even better a few years from now. I'm a native of San Diego. I've seen a lot of people in swimsuits over the years. And my impression is, if somebody's got it, then they should show it, and if they don't got it, then they should cover it up."

Evan Abell

Evan Abell

EVAN ABELL, 24

  • Wings board shorts, black with blue flowers, $24
  • Owns 5 suits
  • Eleven tattoos, including Playboy bunny, woman through a keyhole, winged skull, etc.
  • Turn-ons: Attitude
  • Turn-offs: Liars

How do you feel in a swimsuit?

E.A.: Fine. Comfortable.

How do you think you look in a swimsuit?

E.A.: I don't really care. It doesn't matter to me.

You ever look at other folks in swimsuits? What do you think of them?

E.A.: I don't give a shit.

So what do you think about a swimsuit issue?

E.A.: Whatever. Doesn't matter.

But you're going to be in it. How does that strike you?

E.A.: Whatever. I don't care.

Jim Valdiez

Jim Valdiez

JIM VALDIEZ, 40

  • Kirra board shorts, black with orange flowers, $40
  • Owns 4 suits
  • Two tattoos: Waves, cross with flowers
  • Turn-ons: Skin
  • Turn-offs: Attitude

"I don't mind sitting in a swimsuit or even in shorts with no shirt on. I feel pretty natural; I feel pretty comfortable. I think I look decent: I have a little bit darker skin, so I think I can fit into the San Diego lifestyle pretty easily. I was born and raised in San Diego. I think maybe 20 years ago, I looked probably a little more fit. But I stay in shape now by working out a little bit and surfing, and I think I'll still look good for a lot more years. I work right across from the beach, so we go surfing at lunch and after work, and stuff like that. I think you see so many people who look great here. I think that's kind of why we live here in San Diego: the beauty of it, the people looking good."

Nathan Miller

Nathan Miller

NATHAN MILLER, 20

  • Nameless orange swimsuit with white stripe, $15
  • Owns 2 suits
  • No tattoos
  • Turn-ons: Fun, outgoing women
  • Turn-offs: Lazy, whiny girls

"I'm from Minnesota, working off my winter belly here, but I still feel all right in a swimsuit. I used to be pretty scrawny, but five or ten years from now, I think I'll look even better in a swimsuit because I'll be out of school and I'll have more time to work out and be more active. I'm a commercial arts student now, but I want to do fine art and have my own shop someday. I don't think I'll move out here, though; I'll probably stay in Minnesota. This is my first time out west. It's okay. I don't know. I guess the San Diego girls are better than the ones I see in Minnesota, maybe because of the lifestyle and stuff, because it's sunny 365 days out of the year, or so I've heard."

Chad Murphy

Chad Murphy

CHAD MURPHY, 21

  • Abercrombie & Fitch board shorts, blue with red flowers, $50
  • Owns 2 suits
  • No tattoos
  • Turn-ons: Dark skin and nice asses
  • Turn-offs: Pale skin and cottage cheese

"I feel comfortable in a swimsuit. It's better than being constricted in clothing; I like it. That's why I live on the beach. I try to go to the gym to be more appealing; that's what it's all about out here on the beach, you try to attract the opposite sex. I like the tanned ladies in bright swimsuits or nice, white swimsuits. There's lots of ladies out here today; it's a great, great day. It's just amazing here. That's why I came here from Washington state. To go to school and to go to the beach."

Chris Amantea

Chris Amantea

CHRIS AMANTEA, 23

  • Rusty board shorts, red, black, and white with curved lines, $45
  • Owns 2 suits
  • No tattoos
  • Turn-ons: Hot women on the beach
  • Turn-offs: Too many guys on the beach

"I feel very sexy, very sexy, very free — you know, when you get the ocean breeze up under your shorts, it's very uplifting. But I think I look even sexier than I feel. I mean, girls hit on me all the time. It gets kind of uncomfortable, you know, but I deal with it. You gotta do what you gotta do. No. I'm just kidding. I'm just playing with you. I've always felt good in a swimsuit. I probably used to look better in one, but now I feel better, more confident. And I guess ten years from now, I'll probably look pretty disgusting, but it's all right. By that time I'll have so much money it won't matter. So. We'll see. I'm applying to med school right now, so hopefully I'll just become a millionaire, and then I can come out here when I'm 90 in my Speedo and pick up all these hot girls. I won't be able to get an erection by that age, but that's why Viagra's here, you know."

Allen Owen

Allen Owen

ALLEN OWEN, 47

  • No Boundaries swimsuit, black with blue skulls, $35
  • Owns 3 suits
  • No tattoos
  • Turn-ons: Women and scenery
  • Turn-offs: Garbage on the beach

"I feel really good in a swimsuit. I could look better. I used to look a little better, more in shape. But then, you know, kids, job, the passage of time. My impression when I look at other folks in swimsuits is that I need to work out more. Most of the folks out here look good, but some of them shouldn't be in a swimsuit to begin with. But I do a lot of walking and a little weight training. I'm in pretty good shape, I guess. I hope I still feel good in a swimsuit for a long time. I like to go to the beach quite often."

Billy Brenden

Billy Brenden

BILLY BRENDEN, 25

  • Rip Curl board shorts, white with blue lines and tan swirls, $45
  • Owns 2 suits
  • Two tattoos: "B" and "SNF" (for Skate 'N Fight, a Minnesota skate crew)
  • Turn-ons: Good personality and people who are funny
  • Turn-offs: People who are too uptight

"I never really thought about how I look in a swimsuit. All right, I guess. Fine. Cool. Comfortable. Chilling. I don't even think much about other folks in swimsuits. I mean, I guess it kind of goes through my head and stuff, but I don't really pay any attention to it. Unless you see something...funny. You know, like some old fat lady with a thong on, like, bending over. If you can't laugh at that, then... But other than that, you know, you see women walking around in swimsuits, it's just nature. Whatever. It's fine."

Scott Sporleder (left), Eric Karnes (right)

Scott Sporleder (left), Eric Karnes (right)

ERIC KARNES, 20

  • Planet Earth board shorts, green with white stripes, $20
  • Owns 4 or 5 suits
  • No tattoos
  • Turn-ons: Fun girls, girls that can chill, good bodies
  • Turn-offs: Bad attitudes

"I just like to hang out out here and take in some sun. Everyone looks pretty decent out here by the beach. I guess I look decent in a swimsuit. Comparable. I think I used to look better than I do now. College has kind of done me in. I'll probably keep putting on a few more pounds. I played water polo in high school, so I used to wear a Speedo, but I'd never wear one of those around now."

SCOTT SPORLEDER, 21

  • Volcom board shorts, tan, $40
  • Owns 4 or 5 suits
  • No tattoos
  • Turn-ons: Girls who enjoy the beach
  • Turn-offs: Stuck-up girls

"I feel pretty good in a swimsuit. Could be a little bit better if I went to the gym or something, but I'll be looking better in the late summer when I'm tanner. I think ten years from now I probably won't look too hot in a bathing suit. Hopefully I'll stay away from the beers, but we'll see. Time will tell. I think, in general, the people in San Diego look pretty good in bathing suits. Along the boardwalk you see a lot of good girls coming down."

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