Surfers come in all shapes and sizes with their unique styles. It is cliche to think that surfers have long hair, and this cliche exists for a reason. However, not all surfers look the same.
As the popularity of surfing grows around the world, it has become common to see people from all walks of life spending time in the ocean. From postmen to CEOs and bankers, there is a place for everyone.
Just as some surfers have long hair, so do some surfers who have beards. Although it is not as common to see surfers with large beards, this is generally unrelated to surfing and is a personal preference.
Throughout this article, we will discuss how wearing a beard could affect you while surfing, how to care for your beard as a surfer, and take a small glance at some of the world’s best-known bearded surfers.
Is It Common for Surfers to Have Beards?
It is neither common nor uncommon to see surfers with beards. This is because, unlike long hair and surfing, beards have no relation to the sport, neither from a cultural point of view nor from a practical side.
As you will often see surfers who are bald, so will you find surfers with facial hair.
As beards are not particularly part of the surfing image, there seem to be fewer bearded surfers than those with long blonde hair and a clean shave.
Although there are not many bearded surfers, especially in the professional surfing world, a few bearded legends stand out proudly.
Born in 1990, this Brazilian surfer is a perfect example of how a beard does not need to affect you in the water.
After winning the 2013 Vans U.S Open, Alejo has gone on to place among the top competitors in the men’s qualifying series year after year.
Although Alejo does not have the biggest and best-groomed beard, he is still a shining example of a top-class surfer who happily wears his beard and is not held back by it at all.
The Malloy Brothers
Keith, Chris, and Dan Malloy, commonly known as the Malloy brothers, are legends in the surfing world.
All three brothers have surfed professionally, but unlike many pros, they have not put the rest of their lifestyles to the back.
These inspirational brothers are a prime example of how a trail-blazing outback lifestyle can mix with a professional surf career.
Although they cut their beards from time to time, Dan, Chris, and Keith are, without a doubt, poster boys for bearded surfers around the world.
Dan – The Ice Beard
Imagine surfing the waves of Lake Superior in the icy colds of Michigan winter. Not many people are brave (or crazy) enough to face the freezing waters, but Daniel Schetter, commonly known as “Surfer Dan,” has become somewhat of a local legend.
Not only is Dan famous for his mind-blowing ice beard that forms after hours playing in the lake’s cold waters, but he has been known to support the community and even stave multiple people from drowning in the lake.
He may not be a pro surfer, but surfer Dan remains one of the most iconic members of the surfing world.
The Benefits of Having a Beard
Although beards do not play a major role in the surfing world, there still remain a handful of advantages that you could receive from having a beard while surfing.
1. Beards Warm You Up
Hair is an insulator; this is true for the hair on our head, the hair on our arms, as well as our beards.
Wearing a beard can help keep you warm while surfing in cold water or when surfing in an icy breeze.
Although your beard will still become wet and therefore not work as well as an insulated hood, it will still provide some protection from the elements.
One perfect example of this is Surfer Dan, the well-known ice surfer mentioned above.
2. Protect You From the Sun
Working in a similar way to a hat or sunscreen, facial hair creates a protective barrier between your face and the harmful UV rays of the sun.
Overexposure to sunlight is a leading cause of melanoma (a form of skin cancer). As a surfer, you likely spend hours in the direct sun each week.
Not only is the sunlight coming from above a problem, but while surfing, UV rays bounce off of the reflective surface of the ocean, which means the sunlight hits you from all angles.
As a hat protects you from above, so does your beard protect you from below.
The hairs of your beard will help block a large amount of these UV rays, which will, in turn, leave you with healthier, smoother, and less weathered skin.
3. Surfing Style
Beards do not create much of an image in the surfing world. However, a few cliches can be related to surfers that have facial hair (particularly those with long beards).
When you look at a surfer with a long bushy or mattered beard, there is a good chance that the first thing that comes to mind is that they are an old school surfer, most likely the type to cruise along with a smooth wave on a longboard as opposed to hitting a lip with speed and making some air.
Although this is of course not always true, wearing a big beard as a surfer could give you a laid back look, make you seem as though you have been surfing your entire life, and perhaps gain you some respect in the water (providing you follow all the surfing etiquette).
4. Can Make You Famous When Surfing
It is not every day that our hair or dress style makes us famous in an extreme sports world such as surfing.
However, in certain cases, such as Ice Surfer Dan, this can be different.
As Kelly Slater’s bald head gave the surfing community a lot to talk about, so has Surfer Dan’s famous ice beard.
This is not to say that having a beard will make you famous because it is not enough, but making a name for yourself while you have an iconic image may take your popularity further.
What Are the Downsides of Having a Beard as a Surfer?
As with everything, when there are advantages, there are also disadvantages. There may not be many, and they are simple to overcome, but it is still worth being aware of how a beard could negatively affect you as a surfer.
1. Itchy Skin
Although beards can protect you from the elements, they can also be the source of itchy and irritated skin.
Because beards make it difficult for us to get to the skin beneath, there is a strong chance that you will experience an itchy face.
This is made worse with the combination of salt in the ocean.
Salt is hydrophilic, which means that it attracts moisture away from other surfaces and towards itself.
When salt is left in your hair or skin, it will begin to draw out the water from the surrounding areas, which will eventually leave your skin feeling dehydrated, itchy, and eventually start to flake.
2. Beards Can Make You Too Warm
Just as a nice thick beard will help keep you warmer in colder conditions, this insulation could make surfing in the tropics an uncomfortable task.
If the water you are surfing in or the climate around you is particularly hot, you may quickly find yourself overheating.
Heatstroke is a real danger for surfers as we often do not realize how warm we are becoming (because we lose heat faster in water than on land).
This, however, does not mean that we are not over-exposed. Yes, a beard will help protect you from UV rays, but it may also overheat you when temperatures are already high.
3. Beards Could Trap Bacteria
The ocean is full of bacteria; this bacteria can affect you in ways from doing absolutely nothing, giving you a slight itch on your skin, or become life-threatening.
Although most of the bacteria in the ocean can simply be washed off with fresh water after each surf, having long hair or a big beard may make this harder.
If you do not remove all of the saltwater and bacteria from your beard, there is a chance that it could make its way to the base of your beard and cause some infection.
Although unlikely, it is always best to make sure that you thoroughly rinse out your beard after leaving the ocean.
Does the Type of Beard Affect Surfing?
The type of beard you have will not have much of an effect on your surfing unless it is particularly long or bushy.
Extremely long beards could get in the way while you paddle or as you try to pop up.
Imagine putting your hands on your board as you are ready to explode, only to pop up and realize your hand is on your beard.
This could be quite a painful situation as your head is jolted back to the board by the hair on your face.
Not only will this hurt, but you will likely end up wiping out and being crushed by the wave you were about to ride.
Similarly, long and bushy beards may make it difficult to fit a hood on your head. This is, of course, only relevant in colder conditions when a hood is required, but it is worth keeping in mind.
How Does Surfing Affect Your Beard?
As your beard is simply hair, the effects of surfing and the ocean water on your beard are much the same as the effects on the hair on your head.
When looking at surfers’ long surfer hair, three characteristics stand out: The hair is a light color, curly, and looks dry.
1. Sun Lightens Beard Color
The sun is known to break down melanin in our hair. Melanin is the pigment responsible for hair color.
As the sun breaks down the melanin in our hair or beard, the hair begins to turn a lighter color.
As our hair is dead, the hairs that have been breached will remain this color until they fall out or have been cut off.
2. Salt Water Makes Hair Wavy
If you are looking to grow a perfectly straight beard, then surfing in salty water may add to the challenge.
Without getting too technical, within our hair, there are amino acids known as cysteine. This amino acid can bond with other cysteine acids and curl up your hair.
As salt dehydrates and “shortens” our hair, these amino acids become close enough to form a bond.
This is more common if you already have curly hair but may make your beard knotted or wavier than you would like.
3. The Ocean Dries Out Hair
As mentioned before, because of the properties of salt, spending time in the ocean can leave you with dry straw-like hair.
This is easily overcome by rinsing it with fresh water each time you leave the ocean, but if not cared for, it will cause your beard to become “sticky” and itchy as the water evaporates and the salt is left behind.
4. The Ocean Adds Minerals to Hair
The ocean, apart from the bacteria, can be great for our skin and hair. The ocean is full of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and selenium, all of which play a role in healthy hair.
Spending time in the ocean will allow your hair and skin to absorb these minerals, which will promote faster growth, stronger hair follicles, and a shinier look.
Do Surfers Need to Take Special Care of Their Beards?
If you want to have a beard that everyone will remember, then you should consider taking special care of your beard when you are a surfer.
Caring for your beard is the only way it will look groomed, clean, and healthy.
That being said, if you do not care all that much about the appearance of your beard and simply like having facial hair, then there is no need for you to take special care of your beard as a surfer.
6 Tips for Bearded Surfers
1. Coat Your Beard in Natural Oil
Coating your beard in a natural oil such as coconut or olive oil will help keep the salt water off of your facial hair.
Doing this will reduce the amount of moisture that is lost from your beard while you spend time in the ocean.
2. Wet Your Beard Before Surfing
If you do not want to put oil in your beard, then an alternative option is to wet your beard with fresh water before entering the ocean.
This is not as effective as using oil, but it will add moisture to your beard and therefore reduce how much it dries out while surfing.
3. Rinse Your Beard After Surfing
As mentioned before, you should always rinse with fresh water after surfing. Doing this will remove any salt and bacteria that have come with you from your time in the sea.
You should never skip this step, as leaving salt in your beard will lead to dry skin and straw-like facial hair.
4. Avoid Over Washing
As the main concern to our hair from the ocean is how it dries it out, it is best to avoid over-washing your beard with soap and shampoo if you spend a lot of time in the sea.
Saltwater strips our hair of its natural oils, so removing extra oil by means of soap could dry your beard out to the point of damaging it.
5. Brush Your Beard After Surfing
When leaving the ocean, it is a good idea to brush your beard. This could be as simple as running your fingers through it to loosen any clumps or as thorough as using a comb or brush.
If your beard dries before all the salt is removed, then it could become mattered, tangled, and look all bunched up.
Brushing your beard will also help loosen any salt that has become trapped.
6. Use a Beard Oil
There are numerous products on the market designed for beard care. One of such products is beard oil.
Beard oil will help keep your beard soft, add necessary minerals, and keep your facial hair full of moisture and healthy.
Should I Shave Before Surfing?
The way you choose to look, what you wear, and the hairstyle you choose is entirely up to you and should not be determined by others.
As having a beard does not make much of a difference to surfing, there is no reason why you should need to shave before hitting the waves.
Do what is most comfortable and practical for you, beard or no beard. It is your choice.
Although beards are not the most common thing to see on a surfer, many surfers in the world have them.
Beards do not largely affect surfing, so there is no reason why you should or shouldn’t have one.
As long as you are comfortable with the way you look, then that is all that matters.
Hit the waves with a clean shave, or dive into the ocean with a beard like Surfer Dan. It doesn’t matter to other surfers as long as it doesn’t matter to you.