True Hair Boaters

Our dubious salute to the sport's best hair—and search for our top reader nominees

This story originally ran in the “At Random” section of the May 2011 issue of Canoe & Kayak, now available on newsstands. Call it a coincidence, but since Ben Marr’s selection as our 2011 pick, he has continued his hot streak, currently in second place overall after three (of six) stages at Quebec’s Whitewater Grand Prix. Watch Marr going huge (black composite playboat) in the contest’s latest video installment. — Eds.

THERE’S A SELECT BREED OF PADDLER OUT THERE. The few, the very proud, who wear their helmets high for one simple reason: to protect their hair. Then there’s the rest, who eschew personal grooming on the water, letting their hair down (and out), and facial follicles slip well beyond five o’clock shadow, past 10:30 crustache and into the darkness of beard-dom. Fearing the razor ourselves, we salute those talented paddlers who red-line the shag-o-meter.  — Dave Shively

There’s no fiercer mullet than the party-in-the-back plumage flowing from the helmet of this talented 24-year-old playboater. Commitment level: medium. Requires some pre-growth, but, fortunately, Marr lives in the mullet stronghold of Ontario. The Marrmullet appears sporadically during early spring Ottawa River “Stakeouts” at the Gladiator wave, but is as fleeting as Marr’s massive tricks on this fickle, flood-stage giant.
As far as commitment level goes, we’ll take Tom Bergh‘s moustache. The Maine Island Kayak Co. founder and 5-star rock garden guru has had his salty upper lip trademark since 1970. “I’ll put my fingers over it sometimes and tell my kids, ‘Okay, I’m going to cut it,’” says Bergh, 60. ‘They scream, ‘Noooo! You’ll look weird.’”
Can’t forget about Dubside either. When it comes to dread commitment, few paddlers rival the matted crown-plus-beard of the unconventional commando king. This (occasional) Lake Stevens, Wash., resident steers clear of technological trappings and keeps the ‘do in prime condition at traditional sea kayak gatherings or anywhere with a good Qajaasaarneq (Greenland rope gymnastics) setup, sans shower.
Sometimes it’s more about freedom than commitment. Leaving the job (and the razor) behind is one of the best parts of escaping the grind of civilized life. However, only one man has ever escaped the ordinary with 99 consecutive days at sea in a kayak. So big-time props to Aleksander Doba, whose facial growth puts any non-ZZ Top frontman to shame.
We have to throw our SUP brethren some love too. Why not start with Brian “Mr. Action” Talma? Though representing the small island nation of Barbados, Talma, 45, paddles as huge as his windblown dread-splosion, notching a 16.5-hour island circumnavigation this summer and shredding record double over-head Hurricane Igor swell this fall. He proves that real men don’t cut their hair: “I haven’t cut my hair in almost 28 years-long time! It cut itself… Action!”
And the Euros? Holla at Jakub Nemec. The hard-charging Czech creekboater had a big year touring North America, claiming some, ahem, hairy first descents (Tapestry Falls, B.C.) while photographs of his signature white dreads flowing beneath his helmet popped up in magazines and online galleries everywhere (C&K Whitewater 2010.)
We have only one question for Jon Bowermaster, the 56-year-old writer-paddler behind the 10-year Oceans 8 project of globetrotting sea kayak expeditions: How can a sea kayaker possess such perfectly coiffed hair?



GOT A BETTER NOMINEE?
Perhaps a vintage Bob Foote ponytail shot? Go to facebook.com/canoeandkayak, give us “Like” and post your pic. The winner, announced on MONDAY, earns a new Gerber River Shorty to lash to your PFD, or unleash on your locks.

Gerber River Shorty

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