The stereotypical surfer is perceived as being blonde haired. Doesn’t matter what their gender is people think of surfers as having blond hair. If you’re watching a movie or TV show about surfers they’ll probably have blond or blondish hair. Ask some kids to draw a surfer and they’re likely to give the surfer blond hair. People assume that most surfers are blonde. Obviously not all surfers in the entire world have blonde hair, but many of them do. In fact – I personally am a blonde haired surfer.
So why are so many surfers blonde? Surfers have blonde (or lighter colored) hair, because the sun bleaches their hair to make it lighter. In addition, the salt water from the ocean affects their hair to make their hair lighter. Surfers get blonde streaks or light hair the more time they spend surfing outside in the sun and salt water.
The Sun and Surfer Hair
While surfers are sitting on their surfboards in the sunlight, the sun’s rays bleaches the melanin found in hair. Melanin is a pigment that determines your hair color.
Depending on the type and amount of melanin will determine a person’s hair color. If you have a lot of one type of melanin you’ll have black or brown hair. If you have a lot of another type of melanin you’ll have red hair or blond hair. Everyone has melanin in their hair.
As the sun’s rays hit a surfer’s hair it bleaches the melanin causing it to lighten up. The longer a surfer is outside in the sunlight the more extreme their hair will lighten.
Usually surfers have blonder (lighter) hair in the summertime, because of two reasons. The first is the sun is out longer which increases exposure. Secondly, surfers are more apt to get in the water during the summer months, because the weather is better.
Depending on where you surf there might not be a great swell in the summer, but when it’s really nice out you can’t help to go out for a paddle. You might not get the best waves, but you will get lighter hair.
My natural hair color is brownish-blonde. Some have described my hair as being a dirty blonde. During the times of my life where I have spent a lot of time surfing I’ll become super blond. The brown goes away, and I’ll have a head full of blond hair. Sometimes there’ll be some brown areas underneath, but the blond streaks will take over. In the winter months, my hair will go back to its natural color as I don’t surf as much in the cold winter.
The Ocean’s Role in Surfer Hair
The sun isn’t the only one responsible for giving surfers their blond hair. The salt water in the ocean can also aid in lightening up a surfer’s natural hair color. Salt water affects keratin in a person’s hair which makes their hair lighter.
This is why different hair stylists will recommend people to put saltwater in their hair as a natural way to get their hair to lighten. It’s one way to lighten hair.
Surfers are constantly in the salty ocean as they’re catching waves, paddling out to the set, and just paddling around. The salt water gets in their hair and dries over and over again. Over time the salt water will slowly lighten their hair.
Not all Surfers are Blondes
Hollywood can convince people who don’t live by the beach that all surfers are blonde, but it’s not the case. Surfers come in all hair colors. Regardless of their hair color, the sun and salt water will affect anyone’s hair. The more a surfer spends time surfing in the sunshine the more intense their hair will lighten. Even surfers with dark hair will notice their hair lighten over time. Surfers with black hair who spend hours surfing will notice light streaks in their hair too.
Blond haired surfers can get streaks of blond in their hair or even see most of their hair get nearly white.
I’ve heard stories of surfers going on surf trips for a week or two and coming back with a completely different shade of hair. It’s surprising how much surfing can affect your hair color.
Tip to Prevent Your Hair from Lightening while Surfing
If you’re hoping to surf and not have your hair lighten up there’s at least one thing you can do. By wearing a hat or hoodie while surfing you can help reduce the amount your hair is affected. This won’t be able to completely protect your hair from the salt water, but it will reduce the amount of sunlight on your head.
Famous Blond Haired Surfers
Patrick Swayze – In the classic movie Point Break famous actor Patrick Swayze plays a blond haired surfer. He’s your typical surfer caricature living life on the edge, partying hard, and blond haired. Is he a realistic portrayal of a surfer? No. Is he what most people imagine surfers to be like? Yes.
Bethany Hamilton – She’s a professional surfer who lost her arm to a shark attack in 2003. She hasn’t let the loss of her left arm stop her as she continues to surf and dominate competitions. Bethany has naturally blond hair that is only made more blonde by the sun and ocean water.
Laird Hamilton – He’s one of the biggest names in the surf world, because he rides the biggest waves in the world. You can see him in action in the video Riding Giants that documents big wave surfers. Laird’s always had blond hair, but you can see the streaks in it that are extra blond from all the time he’s spent outside surfing.
Blonde Surfer Hair is a Popular Style
It’s funny, because surfer hair occasionally becomes a trending hair style. Surfers just do what they love and get the look, and non-surfers spend money for hair stylists to get them the look. I remember one guy asking my in college how I got my hair to look the way it did. I told him it only took a year of surfing in San Diego to make it happen.
You can find all kinds of tips and tricks that hair stylists give to those who want the surfer hair style. They’ll recommend putting lemon juice in your hair or getting highlights.
Can only blonde haired people surf? Hahaha. Anyone can surf if they’re willing to put in the time to practice and learn. You can have any hair color and surf if you’re willing to give it a shot. In fact, arguably the most popular surfer in the world is Kelly Slater and he is bald.
Can surfing cause my hair damage? Anytime you spend extended periods of time outside in the sun you’re risking having your hair get damaged. UVA and UVB rays will damage the cuticle (outside covering of a hair strand) which can lead to dry, frizzy, and brittle hair. So yes, surfing can cause your hair to get damaged.
Can girls get surfer hair? Yup, any person with hair can see their hair lighten over time as they spend time in the sunshine and salty ocean. Doesn’t matter what their gender is.
Do surfers bleach their hair? No, they don’t intentionally bleach their hair. They’re not using products or going to the salon to get the bleached blonde surfer look. They’re just spending a lot of time surfing, and the sun and salt do the rest.