I had spent the last three months reading Jack London novels and boning up on the mysteries of the northern lights, while "training" my moustache to curl in the exact manor of 1980's baseball star Rollie Fingers. I thought of Alaska and my mind would immediately race to mountain men, Eskimos, and whalers harpooning giant blubber filled sea mammals. When would I ever have another reason to go to Alaska?
Most of the travel I embark on, I never prepare for it. No hotel, no seasonal attire, and I'll be fucked if I'm about to actually read a travel guide. But this was different. This was the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Anchorage. It only happens once every two years and it's hosted in a different country every time. Who knows how many decades I'd have to wait for it to roll around to American soil again.
I did my homework, studied the categories, looked into the previous winners and reining champions. I played with various pomades, waxes, and even soap charges like a good punk-rocker should know. I had a good bit of confidence after my beard club (the Bristly Chaps of Los Angeles) voted me most likely to bring home a medal. I’d been growing this thing for two years and was dying to give it a glorious send off with a shave the day after the event. I’m sick of flossing my teeth with strands of my own hair, while talking. My girlfriend hates it, and the amusement of finding bits of food in it three days after you’d eaten has lost its charm.
We got there the day before competition. Off the plane, onto a shuttle, and dropped straight into the parade of beards. All of the contenders, former champions, and families of fans trotting through twenty blocks of downtown Anchorage while chanting, hollering and doing walking interviews for various news programs. If you’ve never seen the parade of beards before, imagine St Patrick’s Day without the green. Truly a sight to behold.
The evening went on with hours of pre-judging, beer swilling, and introductions to and from hundreds of crazy old men who didn’t speak English. It culminated in a rock and roll extravaganza by a band comprised of men who are way too proud of the hair on their face, Australia's 'The Beards'. I would say ' The Beards' had developed their style as a cross between Turbonegro and Tenacious-D. Power rock, all about the glory of having facial hair. At one moment in the madness of rocking out, the guitarist stopped the show, in tears, to state to the audience that this was the best night of his life and everything he had ever been working for had come to pass in this one glorious rock show. Yes, playing to a room full of dudes who make a sport out of poor grooming habits, is one band's Woodstock.
In the spring and summer months, up there in the great white north, the sun doesn’t set. You don’t sleep. So when morning came it made no difference to me, it had looked like sunrise for the last twenty-nine hours anyway. I spent way too much time in front of the mirror grooming, twisting, curling, and waxing up this three inch patch of hair on my lip.
Pitted against 60-year-old dudes with names like Günter Rasmussen, and Schani Mitterhauser, I was sure that I had no fucking chance. This was their life. Traveling the globe, styling up their facial pubes and repping it hard. These dudes had it all down to a science. Decades of competitive bearding had given the Germans and Hungarians an identity, given the Russians even more of a reason to be smug, and even got this one British dude on a Wheaties box. Well it made them famous within the sphere of beard-dom anyway.
I was so nervous before the competition I had to pee like every five minutes. And it was in the bathroom where a Gandalf clone leaned over to me and said "I cant wait for this weekend to be over so I can lop about eight inches off this thing" he was referring to his beard, "Every morning I end up pissing all over the bottom half of it". I was too nervous to even be disgusted by the yellowish stains that had turned it into a two-tone chin windsock.
I sat through nine categories of moustaches and sideburns while sweating under spotlights and waiting for my turn in the imperial category. I couldn’t wait to take that long walk down the runway, lean over in front of the judges and be inspected like some Irish setter in Best in Show. Fifty other dudes were in my category. Dudes who hold five-year trophies and dudes who have the genetics and breeding that were evolved specifically over millions of years for premium hair growth.
As I walked across the runway, I noticed that I was sandwiched between a guy who looked like a 1950’s porn actor and a dude in a 1920’s bodybuilder costume. The cool part of it all is that, directly after your category, they have a meeting and announce the winners. You don’t have to wait until the end of the whole event for the results, so it really is like beard Olympics. I guess all of my grooming paid off, they called my name and I won second place, I ran up on stage totally amazed. The thought of beating all these stache veterans was mind blowing
Amongst the congratulations and handshakes, the high fives and happy emails. I got a text from Ragdoll, who must have been watching on the live web-cast, saying, “Wow man, it’s like your lip just won Tampa Am!” I now have to keep this thing on my face for the next two years to go compete in Norway. And I’m totally going. There’s no way I’m going to miss what Norwegian death metal and competitive bearding can cook up together.