To Beard, or Not to Beard?

ForeverSwimForeverSwim Charter Member
edited April 2012 in General Discussion
Wanted to throw out a discussion on everyone's thoughts on growing facial hair while participating in open water swimming; specifically how much this might slow a swimmer! We've all seen images of clean-shaven channel swimmers ("makes the grease cling better") and we've also seen pictures of some pretty awesome beards (a.k.a "Beardsmen", or "The Bearded Wonders"). I've heard some rumors it might slow a swimmer a few seconds per 100m, which would amount to some serious time over a long channel swim! Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A.



  • IronMikeIronMike Bishkek, KyrgyzstanCharter Member
    Rob D should post in this thread. But I can tell you that I can hardly wait to be able to grow my beard (I'm retiring from the military soon). I don't care how much it slows me (never going to be in the medals anyway). The one good reason for growing I heard from Rob was the protection of the face from jellyfish. Again, doesn't matter to me. Just really hate shaving...
  • AquaRobAquaRob Humboldt Bay, CACharter Member
    You guys may have noticed I'm all about an open water beard. Some reasons for this are more practical than others...
    • For starters I think they're rad and like my buddy @ironmike I just hate shaving my face :)

    • It looks bad ass in GoPro surfing pictures... just sayin'


    • Having a beard that's long enough to not be coarse and stubbly along the jawline cuts down on chaffing for me. I've scraped plenty of skin off via fresh stubble before when I just had a goatee.

    • If you spend enough time at sea a beard is required, thems the rules

    • Having an absurdly large beard like I have right now (7-8 inches in the long spots) is pretty good facial protection from stinging things. With a cap and goggles on basically just my nose and part of my cheeks are left defenseless. My beard also guards the front and sides of my neck.

    • Other sea creatures fear and respect the adventure beard

    • I can't really speak to the speed thing... I'm not too too concerned with speed, I'm a little more experiential in my adventuring... but I wonder if it really drags that much considering that it flows largely behind the shadow of your head while swimming. Maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part though :)
  • RickSRickS Member
    Big beard booster too. Don't care about the drag. I'm not going to break any records by shaving it off. Also shaving is no fun.
  • ForeverSwimForeverSwim Charter Member
    @aquarob - Yes sir, this thread is by far designed for your attention! I brought it up, as I remember @jenschumacher and I having a discussion about it one time after she saw the solid goatee I rocked while in Hawaii. I've been letting mine grow (although nowhere near your quality) so far this year, and I've been enjoying the random comments I get at work, such as, "Doesn't that slow you down?"

    ...just thought I'd see if any "swim scientists" out there ever did any research! Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A.

  • bobswimsbobswims Charter Member
    For the last few years I have shaved right before the biggest swim of the season.
  • bobswimsbobswims Charter Member
    I forgot to mention, I haven't had a beard for decades.
  • mrfinbarrmrfinbarr Charter Member
    It certaintly helps to have a light beard because you don't get stubble rub on your shoulders
  • AquaRobAquaRob Humboldt Bay, CACharter Member
    I wish I could get a little more scientific for you but my pool racing results are complicated with speedsuit times and whatnot, but that's the most controlled environment I've got... anyways here goes...

    In looking at my 50 free times at the CalTech Pentathlon from 2009 to 2011 it looks like the beard has a negligible effect when you figure the boost from my techsuit in '09 and '10

    2009 - 25.9 speedsuit + goatee

    2010 - 25.49 speedsuit + large goatee

    2011 - 26.51 jammer + full on adventure beard

    If we want an open water swim to track (which is an amazingly inconsistent thing to track) here's what my four rounds of Naples Island Swims look like:

    2008 - 40:48 jammer + goatee w/ no mustache, also worth noting my first open water and masters race ever!

    2009 - 33:07 b70 and short goatee

    2010 - 30:38 b70 and full adventure beard

    2011 - 35:07 - drag suit and much longer adventure beard

    Draw whatever conclusions you would like from my obviously bulletproof scientific data :)
  • CliffCliff Member
    edited April 2012
    I'm growing back my seasonal adventure beard! In my case, it's helped prevent chafing of the face and shoulders on long swims. As an added bonus, it makes me look 20 years older - just ask my mom!
  • david_barradavid_barra Charter Member
    My rules are: Never shave more than 2x/month. Never use anything sharper than a rusty steak knife

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    Clearly this topic calls for some historical analysis.

    Ted Erikson sporting his patented "Freshwater Adventure Goatee" before a 1961 Lake Michigan race:

    Abo-Heif, clean-shaven in 1969:

    [Pics from Wind, Waves, & Sunburn.]
  • ChickenOSeaChickenOSea Charter Member
    edited April 2012
    I won my age group in Key West a few years ago with this baby. No B70 though.
  • I won my age group in Key West a few years ago with this baby. No B70 though.

    Dear God... It looks like you are competing in the female swimmer's version of the sport of "ferrett legging." (Google that if you want to see a sport crazier than marathon swimming.) Pass the eye bleach, please.

    I had a goatee for years but shaved it because it seemed that the moustache part was channeling water into my mouth if it got longer than stubble. I admit that I can't grow a good adventure beard and am jealous.


    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • AquaRobAquaRob Humboldt Bay, CACharter Member
    @Leonard_Jansen mustaches are tricky...

    in that first naples island picture mine was shaved because I was convinced it was trying to drown me while backstroking. A full, but not too long, 'stache doesn't give me too much trouble in the water. I don't really notice it much.

    A few months back I started letting my 'stache go to see what would happen and sometimes it's a problem and will run water straight into my mouth which is no fun. Here's what it looks like as of last night while swimming though light chop...


    I seem to be at a length right now where it's long enough to channel it past my mouth. My goal is to grow it long enough that I can braid my mustache into my beard to skip these problems completely.
  • ForeverSwimForeverSwim Charter Member
    @aquarob - So, which one are you going for? Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A.

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer Admin
    edited June 2

    One of the downsides of a blog is some of the unsolicited advertising crap companies send you.

    I just received another unwanted Press Release. Maybe I should get them to send it to @ForeverSwim & @AquaRob instead. Here are the (entirely serious) images of the Beard Cap.

    image * image

    I will not be doing a review of this.

  • @loneswimmer - At least be thankful that it isn't a fur-lined jock strap that they are promoting.


    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin

    How do you even get beard chafing in a wetsuit?

  • @leonard_jansen At least we can all see the utility of a fur-lined jockstrap. Mmmm, snug.

  • HelbeHelbe Member

    evmo said: How do you even get beard chafing in a wetsuit?

    Good point evmo, but perhaps it is more intended to keep the adventure beard tucked away, tidy and away from the icky critters that can entangle in the beard. I suspect the model is not a real swimmer - no goggles.

    I've seen some serious shoulder burns which look very sore and unpleasant, but usually acquired on a long swim under channel rules. The question is: Will MSF be revising their rules to allow for use of the beard cap to save the poor fellas who cannot grow adventure beards.

  • NiekNiek Heiloo, NetherlandsMember

    Helbe said: The question is: Will MSF be revising their rules to allow for use of the beard cap to save the poor fellas who cannot grow adventure beards.

    Only for women with facial hair problems. - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!

  • Cole_GCole_G Philadelphia, PAMember

    I just recently had a friend ask me if I wore a "chin cap" because they noticed I kept my beard through SCAR. I am glad to see that it is a legitimate option now haha

    I have found that having a short beard like I have now (~1cm at the longest point) helps prevent any shoulder chaffing I have had in the past when clean shaven. I haven't noticed any difference in my speed since growing it.

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