You may have noticed that many surfers not only don’t have beards, but their bodies are almost entirely clean shaven. Many surfers like to be clean shaven because the sensation of gliding through the water with smooth, hairless skin is incredibly satisfying. Also, hair does increase drag by a minuscule amount, which is why competitive athletes are also clean shaven.
However, if you’re just a casual surfer, then is surfing with a beard such a big disadvantage? Not really, no. As long as your beard is not so long that it gets in your way, you can surf with a beard just as well as if you were clean shaven and vice versa. There are some advantages and disadvantages to surfing with a beard that you’ll want to know about to maximize the benefits and minimize the downsides. With all that said, if you want to surf with a beard, then go ahead and do so without worry.
In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of surfing with a beard, as well as provide some tips on how you can take care of your beard if you do decide to surf with one.
Advantages of surfing with a beard
Layering up is a great way to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays and reduce the amount of sunscreen you need to apply each time. Having non-sunscreen UV protection can also help you in case you lose track of time and forget to reapply some more.
Your face is the most susceptible to getting sunburnt because it is exposed all the time. Thankfully, if you have a thick beard, you have a constant source of UV protection on your sensitive face. With that said, you should still reapply sunscreen or surf zinc on your face before you head out, however at least you won’t be totally burnt.
Keeps you warm
Even in tropical or sunny environments, those warm waters won’t be around year long. What seemed like perfect weather to be clean-shaven and shirtless only a couple of weeks ago can quickly become too chilly for comfort.
With a beard, you have some extra insulation on your face to keep you warm. Wear a wetsuit on top of that, and you have a lot more options regarding when and where you can surf without getting cold.
*Assuming you don’t have a big, bushy beard, which requires a great amount of care if you want it to look and feel healthy, having a beard can actually save you time most days.
Instead of worrying about shaving off that stubble every morning, you can free up your start-of-the-day routine by not shaving and heading out to catch those early morning waves.
Do you have a weak jawline? Do you keep getting carded everywhere you go? (When looking 10 years younger than your age backfires on you). Are you tired of looking like you have a babyface? My friend, if possible, consider growing a beard and leaving it on even when you go surfing.
If you think you look good with a beard and feel confident with one on your face, then don’t shave it off on account of surfing. When you feel your best, you will perform your best.
Just like how many surfers and swimmers report that they feel like they are gliding through the water because their hair isn’t slowing them down, studies show that the amount of drag the hair causes is negligible. Rather, most of the benefits are psychological – the feeling that they are performing much better.
We can take this psychological phenomenon and use it to our advantage. Maybe you feel that shaving off your beard makes you a worse surfer because it exposes your weak jawline or something. Let’s flip that. With a beard, you can pretend you’re Poseidon or Aquaman and surf like a god.
The ocean is far from clean. Bacteria that can cause infections are rampant, which is why you shouldn’t surf if you have an open wound or with contact lenses which can trap dirty water against your eyes.
A thick beard can act as a front line of defense against bacteria by keeping allergens out of your nose and mouth. It might also reduce the likelihood of accidentally swallowing water. The less bacteria you’re exposed to, the healthier you will be and you can spend more time surfing instead of laying in bed enviously eyeing your friends as they all head out to surf.
Disadvantages of surfing with a beard
Dry hair, itchy skin
Though beards can offer some protection against the elements, they can also be the cause of irritated and itchy skin. Since beards make it difficult for water to reach the skin underneath, it can get really dirty and result in itchy skin without proper hygiene.
Unfortunately, this is worsened by the ocean saltwater. Since salt absorbs moisture, it can draw the moisture out from your beard and skin, leaving them dehydrated and itchy and can eventually cause flaking.
A thick beard is a great insulator when it’s chilly, but this insulation can backfire if you are surfing in the tropics or when it’s warmer outside. You might find that you are more prone to overheating when the sun is blazing.
Heatstroke is a legitimate concern for surfers since we do not often realize how warm we are due to how quickly water cools us down. The issue is when we are back on land or if we are idling on our surfboard. Yes, a beard can offer UV ray protection, but it can also result in unbearable temperatures on a hot day.
As mentioned, the ocean is full of bacteria – most will do nothing and can be easily rinsed off with fresh water, others might give you a skin rash, and others can lead to a deadly infection. We mentioned that a beard can act as a natural filter of bacteria, and we listed it as a positive, but that’s assuming you are doing a good job of rinsing your beard afterwards.
If you do not have an adequate cleaning regimen, then essentially your beard will be full of bacteria that could eventually make their way to the base of the beard, resulting in a nasty infection. The longer and thicker your beard is, the more effort you will need to put in to clean all of the bacteria out of it.
Hopefully you are doing a thorough job of rinsing not just your surfing gear with freshwater, but the rest of your body as well. We go over in great detail how you can take great care of your beard below.
One of the positives we listed above – that a beard can save you time in the mornings – has a counterpoint: the longer your beard is, the more time you will have to spend maintaining it. Our initial point is still true in the short term – that for a few days or even a couple of weeks, you don’t really have to trim or manage your beard.
However, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. As your beard begins to grow, you need to start spending more and more time on it until it not only doesn’t save you time, but it might be more hassle than it’s worth. Either you need to actually put in some work to maintain it (more on that below) or you’re going to have to shave it all off and start again.
People have this misconception that a guy with long hair (beard hair in this case) is a lazy bum who doesn’t want to go to the barbershop. As anyone who’s ever had long hair can attest to (beards or otherwise), if you want to look good, it takes a lot of effort to keep it washed, neatly trimmed, and overall presentable. You might be okay with this extra effort, but you also might not be, which is why it’s also listed as a downside.
How to take care of your beard as a surfer
If you thought that you could just let your beard grow freely without any maintenance, unfortunately you’re mistaken. Without proper hair care, your beard will resemble a bird’s nest and make you look like a hobo rather than a well-groomed gentleman.
The issue is that the saltwater can strip your hair of its natural oils and dry them out. In order to keep your beard in tip-top shape as a surfer, follow the tips outlined below.
Coat your beard with oil
You can use one of the many beard oil products on the market, or you can use natural oils such as coconut or olive oil to provide a layer of protection against the saltwater.
Having a coat of oil on your beard reduces the amount of moisture that saltwater can remove from your beard as you’re riding the waves.
Moisturize your beard before and after surfing
If you do not wish to use beard oil, then an even easier alternative is to simply moisturize your beard using freshwater prior to surfing. Doing so will allow your beard to become saturated with freshwater so that it will not absorb as much saltwater. It will also prevent your beard from drying out as much afterwards.
After your surfing session, you must rinse your beard with freshwater again to remove saltwater from your skin and beard. This should remove most of the sea bacteria that was trapped in your beard and replenishes the moisture that you lost to the saltwater. You can do a much more thorough wash once you’re back home or at the hotel.
Be careful that you do not over wash your beard with too much product. Rinsing with freshwater is fine, however the issue is when you use too much shampoo and conditioner. These hair products will not only remove salt and bacteria from your hair, but also its natural oils.
The saltwater will strip your hair of its natural oils and even the beard oil you applied after some time. Thus, removing even more oil from over-washing your beard can cause it to dry out which is what we are trying to prevent.
Brush your beard after surfing
After you leave the ocean, you should immediately begin to brush your beard. If you don’t have a comb on hand, you can at least run your fingers through your beard while it’s still moist. Not doing this step and allowing your beard to dry will cause it to clump up and become matted.
This is when you start to get the bird’s nest or hobo look – when your beard becomes a tangled, dried up mess that will give you a headache to fix. Brushing your beard can also loosen up any salt that has gotten trapped inside.
Apply a coat of oil after washing
After you finish washing your beard, you would have washed off all the natural oils in your hair. By the time another coat of oil is naturally produced, your beard would have already dried out too much. That is why you should apply a coat of beard oil to moisturize and protect your hair when it’s at its most vulnerable.
In addition to moisturizing and protecting your beard, it also softens it and adds necessary nutrients to the hair follicles. In general, using beard oil is a good thing. However, once again, don’t overdo it because it could cause your skin to stop producing natural oils, resulting in an overall drier beard unless you’re frequently coating it with beard oil.
Should I shave before surfing?
If it isn’t clear by now, you can surf with a beard, you can also surf without one; it doesn’t really matter as long as you’re taking care of yourself.
There are pros and cons to surfing with a beard. The best thing you can do is to try to maximize the advantages of having a beard (filters bacteria, provides UV protection, warmth, etc.) while minimizing its disadvantages.
Although most surfers are clean shaven (and we’re not only talking about beards here), you can still spot the occasional surfer sporting a glorious beard.
If you want to shave before surfing, don’t do it for any arbitrary reason such as feeling pressured to do it because few surfers have beards. As long as you are moisturizing it, have good hygiene, and are keeping it groomed, then you can surf with a beard all you want.