'I don’t just surf, I explore'
Today, a moustache in the line up seems to say “I don’t just surf; I explore." But have surfers always been facial hair farmers? Chris Moran investigates…
“Today’s top pro surfers on the North Shore are looking more like Derek Ho in his heyday,” explained a recent Surfline.com article.
Derek - 1993‘s World Surfing Champion and Hawaii’s first homegrown champion - was as famous for his large, bushy moustache as his fearless performances in huge waves. The article explained that the current crop of ‘Tom Selleck wannabe stashes’, were down to the fact that charity facial hair had reached surfing’s Mecca.
“Movember,” explained the piece, “Has Hit The North Shore.”
It was not - by any means - the first time surfers had experimented with face hair. Back in the 1890s, when Queen Victoria was still on the British throne, surfing's first ever photograph showed a loin-cloth-wearing surfer standing majestically on Waikiki Beach, with the iconic Diamond Head volcano in the background.
Though the picture is grainy, it’s impossible not to see the short - but perfectly groomed - Tutankhamum-esque beard on his chin. Early surfers then, loved a bit of face fuzz.
For some time after - in surfing circles at least - facial hair went underground, re-appearing somewhat bizarrely as the lesser-spotted Hitler 'tache in the 1960s when mis-guided Californian surfers took on Third Reich iconography and labelled themselves ‘surf nazis’. With swastika logos on their boards, spiked-germanic helmets on their heads and the aforementioned offensive lip decoration, they tore around San Diego with menacing glee. Bloody teenagers eh?
In the 1970s - with facial hair so ‘on point’ that even the decade’s pin-up Brooke Shields sported a half-decent ’tache - the surfing world naturally picked up the baton. Gerry Lopez, the undisputed master of Pipeline kept a nose-ferret so famous that it almost singlehandedly landed him the part of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sidekick Subotai in the Conan The Barbarian film franchise.
Jeff Hakman, who later went on to found the surf brand Quiksilver, was so well endowed in the nose tickler department that some thought he was auditioning for a surf-role in The Village People. And Australia’s first soul surfer Nat Young went through so many beards, moustaches and sideburn combinations that rumours still persist that the disguise expert Le Clerc from the BBC sitcom 'Allo 'Allo was based entirely on the outspoken Aussie world champ.
As the 1970s gave way to the 80s, a metaphorical razor swept the once-decorated chins of the world's best surfers. Practically the only 80s surfers to avoid its long-reach were the ‘Bronzed Aussies’ - Mark Warren, Ian ‘Kanga‘ Cairns and Peter Townend - a trio of mulletted, pencil-moustache sporting surfers who resembled a post-sunbed Paul Calf.
Not to be outdone by this strong look, their competitive rival - the Australian Michael Peterson - sported an epic moustache that was virtually always accompanied by a pair of mirrored aviators and the sly grin of a man who had sex, drugs and alcohol at the jingle of his Porsche whaletail keyfob.
At some point in the new millennium, things changed, and a surfer’s facial fuzz started to take on a different meaning. Today, a moustache in the line up seems to say “I don’t just surf; I explore."
And with exponents such as Rob Machado, The Malloy Brothers, Donavon Frankenreiter and the ultimate free-surfer Dave ‘Rasta’ Rastovic keeping the bearded dream alive, it's a statement that's hard to argue with.
So back on the North Shore, how did Surfline think the Movember 'taches of the younger surfers were getting on? According to the piece, Pro surfers “Phil MacDonald and Kai Otton are looking thick and well-groomed,” says Surfline.
“Luke Stedman and C.J. Hobgood are waiting for their peach fuzz to fill in,” continues Surfline, while poor Dane Reynolds is “frantically looking for sponsors as his lip rug comes to fruition.”