Holy fucking shit! This weekend of competitive bearding was absolutely incredible. Why I haven’t been going to these events all my life is an absolute mystery. I can only describe the 2012 West Coast Beard and Mustache Championship as epic. The people, the beards, the venue, the city were all incredible.
I don’t know what all competitions are like as I have only attended this one in Portland, but even if they are only a tenth as good as this event they are awesome. For those that haven’t been following this blog, I covered a bit about the Championship here and here.
My wife and I, along with our friends Justin and Jennie headed down to Portland Friday afternoon. We battled through rain, freezing rain, slick roads, snow, road closures, and overturned trucks to get down to Portland. We arrived at the Mark Spencer Hotel at 1am and with a second wind hit the streets for an introductory night out. The Mark Spencer Hotel is right in the heart of the area and it is within walking distance to the Crystal Ballroom, several bars and restaurants, and great shopping.
We started off at the gay bar Scandals not knowing it was a gay bar (my friend thought it was Sandals). After learning it was a gay bar we decided to stick around because the crowd was friendly, staff was nice, and it was pretty chill there. We stayed there until the bar closed which was 2am and then looked for some midnight munchies. We headed next door to The Roxy, but the staff was dickish so we just decided to go to bed.
The Day of the Competition
Saturday was when all the fun began. It started off by grabbing breakfast in the hotel and seeing Aarne Bielefeldt there with his wife Rita. Turns out a bunch of cast members from the show Whisker Wars were staying in the Mark Spencer and the crew was in our hotel filming Aarne get ready for the competition. After breakfast we did a bit of shopping and lunch, then we decided to head back to the room and get suited up.
I decided on wearing my Hugo Boss suit with my new pink tie that the wife got me for Christmas. I had a cool multicolored set of socks that matched the suit. Well, when you rush out to embark on a 7 hour trip you tend to forget things – and I left my suit packed up at home. Fuck. Oh well, I guess the casual strategy with an ironic tie is now the way to go.
After “getting ready” we head to the elevator to embark our short journey to the event. When the elevator opens Austinite Allen Demling is standing and heading over to the event as well. On our walk over to the Crystal Ballroom we chat a bit about Austin, politics, and beard strategy. Allen is a super nice guy – actually all the bearded competitors I ran into were super awesome.
Once arriving at the event, I was in a bearded heaven. Having facial hair was the new normal, and anyone who was child-faced stood out like a sore thumb. It was also confirmed when I arrived that I had absolutely no shot at winning anything. These beards are some of the best beards in America. Guys with 5 month beards were making my 8 month beard look like child’s play.
I headed up to the contestants room with my wife and was pleased that it included a bar with a fine beverage selection. After grabbing a beer I started chatting with many of the other contestants. Many were from Portland, but some came from as far away as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and of course Texas. They came from all walks of life, including engineers, acoustics, film makers, researchers, medical, creative and even a student studying to become and ordained minister. The costumes went from the mundane (like mine) to comical (like the gnome or retro body builder). Bearded photographer Travis Haight had a small little studio setup to take photos of the contestants and non-bearded photographer Sol Neelman was there doing a piece for Wired magazine for “weird sports.” Sol also took the above photo and is kind enough to let me use it for this article. Please check out his website.
After a few delays, a few beers, my heat was up – actually I was part of the first heat. They herded us competitors and lined us up for our beard performance. My category was the largest category and had 43 of the 160+ competitors. Since my beard was weaker than most of the other guys I decided to focus on an over-the-top show and tried to draw the judges attention to my better than average mustache.
When my number was called I strutted onto stage did a bit of dancing to watch a crowd quickly grow quiet after not being awed by my beard. Lest we not fear, my pump-up-the-crowd arm waving strategy got them back to cheering! I then walked over to the judges table – pointed at my kick ass stache and moved back to the line.
After our group went all the way through we went back down to hang out with the other competitors. There were about 10 – 15 different categories and really some kick ass beards. I could try to describe them, but photos will do the best. My friend, Justin, took quite a few photos and after he processes those we will upload them to the website to share with the world.
My category was narrowed down to the top 10 beards out of the 44 and I wasn’t even top 25%! That’s how great these beards were, or maybe I just had a really bad strategy – damn me forgetting my suit. While being tall is an advantage in a lot of competitive sports, I think the short beardsman has a distinctive advantage. The same length beard will look a lot better on a shorter man than it will a 6’5″ guy. I suppose I will need to grow the beard to 3′. At my current rate that will probably be another 5 years. You other bearded guys better keep an eye out for me in 2017.
I can confidently say that bearded competitors are far superior human beings. Between the diversity of backgrounds, acceptance of others, and good nature personalities there is not much to dislike of bearded men. I encourage any bearded guy or girl out there to find the closest beard competition and enter it. For small amount of money you can have the time of your life.
Be sure to come back over the coming days and see our photos from the event. Cheers and happy bearding!