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Few sporting or leisure endeavours have great hair as central to their identity as the riding of waves, few subcultures are so easily recognisable by flamboyant follicular flourishes.
Hence, “He’s got table tennis player hair,” said no one ever.
Perhaps motorcycle gang enthusiasts, presenting with either a flimsy greasy pony, or perhaps bald scalp/handlebar moustache combo – a probable marker of grumbling prostate, anger management issues and links to the illegal narcotics trade – rank a very, very distant second. But still.
As noted author and recent It’s Not The Length Podcast guest Chas Smith once famously wrote, “Surf hair is the crown that adorns the surfer’s head. Hair. Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen… Surf hair. And surf hair is a treasure. Our treasure.”
Chas was of course correct, yet perhaps touch narrow in his field of praise. It’s not just the typical surfer style hair that should be celebrated; great wave rider coiffs come in all shapes and sizes.
You didn’t see semi obscure Santa Cruz air guy and Transworld Surf fave HH coming did you? You were thinking surely Carlos Muñoz circa 2017/ Machado 95-present? Think again.
Homer’s hair always stood out to me as an outlier; a slick, self confident original in a sea of same. With vague straight edge vibes, HH’s Barnet slicked up and back, with Elvis/Mark Lamarr Rockabilly influences. Perhaps most impressive of all, Homer’s hair looks identical when wet; as in control mid-way through a massive backside punt in steamer and boots, as on terra firma.
If I remember rightly from a TWS profile, Homer collected the bodies of dead animals and preserved their skeletons. He’d find a dead skunk, lizard or opossum and get the fleshy and furry bits off in an acid bath, to get down to a nice clean skeleton to put in his collection. Part science, part fairly creepy.
Speaking of which, HH’s look was completed with the tiny soul patch (cultivated strip between bottom lip and chin), possibly facial hair’s most unsettling manifestation, surely heralding a deviant whose prime was nineteen ninety-something.
“It sure helps making friends if you don’t look like a taxation accountant who started going bald whilst revising for his mock A levels…”
Taking in elements of ‘91 Brad Gerlach meets Silent Bob, freesurfer and webisode sensation Graves’ long locks lend him a free spirit vibe, but the kind you actually would want to hang out with – as opposed to the kind of person that writes ‘free spirit’ in their IG bio.
In healthy condition, soft but strong, his locks are like any great relationship. If you’re gonna pay the mortgage by riding river bores in Alaska and breeze through other assorted spontaneous, lo-fi escapades, it sure helps making friends if you don’t look like a taxation accountant who started going bald whilst revising for his mock A levels.
Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew’s teeth may have been fucked up by the flying fists of Fast Eddie for having tried to bust down the wrong door in 1977, but fortunately his hair remained very much intact; slick, strong, full of attitude, a monument to the almost limitless self regard of the keenly preening champion.
Rab’s comb back style is simple but highly effective, and easily replicated by many hair types. Again, it’s a great choice for consistency in by land, by sea situations.
Rab’s inclusion isn’t because he particularly stood out in the 70’s, but because he still maintains with the same do to this day. Currently running as the Labor candidate for Burleigh Heads in the Queensland state elections, he sports the same style, same length, still slicked back as it was in the single fin era. Rabbit’s look longevity is as impressive as his many surf accomplishments. In the Rab school, new looks are for the whimsical, the weak. Pick a style and stick with it till baldness or the box, whichever comes first, sunshine.
“His hair remained very much intact… a monument to the almost limitless self regard of the keenly preening champion”
It’s impossible to leave Button’s late 70’s afro from this list, surely one of surfing’s strongest and most recognisable do’s of all time. While the likes of Larry Bertlemann or even Owl Chapman and Michael Ho sported similar, impressive looks around the same time, Button’s iconic afro peace sign paddle out shot is one of the defines images of the era.
If you’re gonna be pioneering hot dog, skate style surfing complete with radical carving 360’s and switch stance stop turns on narrow single fins, doing it with one of the most iconic looks in surfing history only adds to the appeal.
The Munga Barry mullet remains a thing of pure beauty to this day, chiefly because of its subtlety. Sure, you could point to Mikey Wright’s much more rambunctious, radical contemporary take on the mullet, but I certainly won’t. Alas, Mikey’s whiffs of the curse of the Millennial; the semi-ironic, the self-aware. Like so much today, like the WL Instagram and its bi-weekly Josie Prendergast posts, it’s ‘curated’. The beauty of Munga is the purity of the intent; he didn’t think he was making a statement, he wasn’t trying to stand out. To him, that’s just what proper bloke hair bloody looked like mate: slightly longer at the back than sides or top, the look completed with a thin chain and Bad Billy’s singlet.