Keep your hair on: Surf edition
March 7, 2020 1:01 PM   Subscribe

I would like to learn to surf. I love being in the ocean and swimming. However, a few years ago I started wearing wigs full time due to alopecia. I don't have the kind where I'm bald, but I don't look like Jamie Lee Curtis with my short hair tho. More like the twin brother from Arrested Development. I haven't been in water higher than my knees since I started with wigs.

I'm a white woman and wear human hair wigs.

I do grow it out a bit to keep a natural hairline for the temples and nape so I can pull the wig back into a bun or ponytail. But please trust me, I am not comfortable at all going without my wig nor with just wearing a swim cap. I have been keeping an eye out at the beach and have seen no one of any age wearing a swim cap. Somehow even the old men have nicer hair than me!

From what I can tell, the waterproof adhesives and tapes are meant to be used on skin, not the sparse hair I have. Do you have any experience with these and keeping your wig on no matter the humidity?

Because I grow it out a bit, I can't do the method where a wig cap is "glued down" and then the wig adhesive is applied to that. The hairline on the wig would be too harsh and a sweatband or headband doesn't conceal it like you think it would. I've already tried that just for regular wearing which is why I grow it out now.

I'd really love it if only people who have direct experience with this - either their own or a close friend - could answer. Whenever I talk about wigs and alopecia, I get a lot of advice that is absolutely inapplicable to my situation from people who don't have my level of hair loss. Please no advice on remedies outside of my specific question about how to enjoy the ocean while wearing a wig.
posted by affectionateborg to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have alopecia areata and an autoimmune sun sensitivity, so I wear a swim hat in the pool or at the beach. I'm generally very fashion forward and I've always received compliments on how my hat looks or compliments on how I'm protecting myself from the sun. I also wear a long sleeved rashguard and long black swim pants, and the entire effect is sleek, flattering, and sporty. If you're surfing, it makes sense to wear a rash guard or wet suit, so just pick a hat to compliment the outfit. I generally wear a black hat and leggings with a color blocked or patterned rashguard. Something like this or this. Though I like their hats, most of the swimwear sold by Coolibar is pretty frumpy.

From the hat link, I have the Brighton, Ariel, and Caspian. They're made of a stretchy, nylon swimsuit type material, so you can get a fairly snug fit. I can swim underwater with the Brighton and the Ariel, but I would imagine they would knocked off by strong waves. They're a good option in a normal, lounging pool situation though. The baseball style caps look interesting as well, but they don't offer enough sun protection for me, so I've never tried them. The Caspian is the most secure with the strap and has the smallest brim, so it's attached to the head fairly securely and has less of a drainage/waterfall effect when you emerge from the water. It might give you an extra layer of security if you find a waterproof wig adhesive.

I have a variety of insecurities that affect my enjoyment of the water, so I get where you're coming from and hope you find a solution that feels good!
posted by defreckled at 1:45 PM on March 7, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: A lot more surfers are starting to wear hooded rashguards/ wraps/ caps now due to concerns about melanoma, especially guys with shaved heads and younger people or cold water surfers headed t the tropics for a trip who aren't used to the sun. The younger generation is more conscious of skin cancer so there is really no stigma, I know people who use them every time due to a history of skin cancer and no one comments on it. One of my friends wears a full on "bur-kini" and no one comments on that either other than the odd super hero joke amongst friends. And in colder areas neoprene hoodies are really common, like in Northern CA etc, especially for women. Probably the majority wear them.

I think you could wear a hooded rashguard or stretchy nylon swim bandana or cap and either keep the cap on or stick a beanie/ bandana/ other cap on once you're out of the water and no one would even notice anything out of the ordinary.

As far as style, a lot of serious, long time surfers end up with very short cuts or shave their heads because swimming and duck diving with long hair is a fucking pita and so is trying to get it into a hoody and so is cleaning and managing it for work etc. The long tousled hair thing is more of a media/ young persons/ warm water thing, imho. There are definitely surfers who rock it, especially sponsored surfers who need the look, but short hair is easier.

I wouldn't risk an expensive wig in the surf, it would be a huge bummer to lose it.
posted by fshgrl at 2:23 PM on March 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

There is no question that sea water is going to thrash your wig completely -- and if you're wearing human hair wigs, you're going to destroy them. I'm weighing in here because for 5.5 years my bestie was in full-time cancer treatment that left her bald and partially bald. We did numerous swim-related living and travel together, both in pools and the ocean, and her solution was to wear a tight swim cap with a hat on top. Sometimes the hat was more sports-like, and other times it was a beautiful sun hat that looked less athletic.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:45 PM on March 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

As someone who surfs and has very thin hair (not that I'm self conscious about, but such that I will get a scalp sunburn after 20 minutes if it's not covered), I often wear a buff on my head while surfing. I've seen other women do it too. I sometimes clip it into my hair with hairclips for extra hold which you probably can't do, but even so, I think if it's nice and tight it will only come off if you are dumped by a big wave, and it's also big and floaty enough that you'd probably find it again.
posted by lollusc at 2:47 PM on March 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks folks! I did not know about surf hats and they seem super cool and useful even for hairy folks! I’m not sure how I didn’t see anyone wearing them. I’ll look more next time.

I could wear one over a synthetic wig I didn’t care about. My remaining hair /patchy scalp visible through the back/nape of that would just make me look as though I were ill.

I guess I don’t really know what I’d do when not in the water. I could go back to the car and pop my hair on I guess.

I’m incredibly sensitive about this although it sounds like I’m probably gonna have to get over it if I want to enjoy in-the-water beach time. That’s a different question for another week.
posted by affectionateborg at 3:19 PM on March 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

You don't say where you want to learn to surf so I can only address a specific situation. I live in a surf town in Northern CA, and while I don't surf, many of my local friends do and my husband has surfed here for 25+ years - and still goes out 5 days a week. The water here, even in summer, can be cold so it is very common for people to wear surf hoods and no one would look twice at you. The women who I've seen wearing them seem to have their hair pulled back in a bun underneath. It might be odd to take the dry-land part of the lesson wearing the hoodie but you could probably have a synthetic wig on, attached tightly, and then pull it back and tuck it under the hood when you wanted to go into the water. Sea water and the sand you'll inevitably get into your hair would destroy any high-end wig I'd imagine.

For navigating the "changing back out" part, toss a cap on top and a regular hoodie hood on after you get dried off and you'd look like half the women I see at the spots. Also, with so many people basically trying to get changed butt-ass-naked under a precariously wrapped towel what's on your HEAD is the thing people would be looking at the least. You are going to be less embarrassed about your hair than the guy in your class who inevitably drops the towel and kooks out in front of everyone. And once you get through the initial lesson I expect you'll better understand the navigation needs you personally will have for your hair.

But again, where we are here people go down, surf, change and go home. It's not so much a TV-and-movie version of hanging around on a sandy beach, then grabbing your board for a couple of waves, then going back to lounging on a towel. That might require different tactics.
posted by marylynn at 4:29 PM on March 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ah yes i should have said where I’ll be... Central America where the year round water and air temp is warm to hot. It was the warmest water I’ve ever been when at the beach across several countries.

In the interim since I’ve posted I’ve come across something called the Freedom Wig. I’d have to keep my head shaved but all accounts say the wearers were able to resume their high intensity competitive and water sport activities. Link for an agent in Canada but they gave agents all over in case anyone comes across this (not sure how I missed this previously)

Fairly high initial cost but peace of mind and confidence may be worth it.

I’d be able to get one before my move even with the waiting period. I prefer to shave my head anyways as this scraggly thing I’ve got going annoys me. ;-)

The surf hat with the neck flap seems the most practical for anyone at all to not get neckburn but also would give me more coverage out of the water to feel less exposed until I could change. Fshgrl posted this link.
posted by affectionateborg at 5:16 PM on March 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

I’ve been surfing for 60 years and have the skin cancers to prove it. If you’re nearly bald like me or have thin hair, you should definitely wear a hat in Central America. The sun is strong in the tropics. Here in FL, I always wear one. I’ve only had a hat ripped off my head once (in a 10-12’ reef break in Indonesia). A lot of women surfers above 50 wear their hair short; most of us old farts wear hats for sun protection of the scalp and face, along with long-sleeved rashies and copious sunscreen.
posted by sudogeek at 7:52 PM on March 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes I don’t plan on going without head protection. That is the entire point of this question...I don’t want to go out with just thinning hair. My last post literally points out the hat someone else suggested that I will get.
posted by affectionateborg at 5:08 AM on March 8, 2020

I feel you on this question! I have very sparse hair and wear wigs anytime I leave the house. The only time when I don't is if it's over 95 degrees and I'll be outside a bunch - I wear a floppy hat that covers almost my entire scalp.
posted by heathrowga at 10:57 AM on March 8, 2020

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