triathlete leg shaving


Triathlete leg shaving and whether or not it’s a good idea is a topic that is sure to create a wide variety of view-points and responses.

I would like to share this story with you, because it includes an episode about triathlete leg shaving back in the earliest days of the sport


When I did my first Ironman in 1984 in Kona we didn’t know anything about anything. We learned everything on the fly.It was a day of new experiences for me. It was the first time I ever biked over 50K at one time. It was my first triathlon of any type.

It was the first road bike I ever had and it was a $300 piece of crap by today’s standards.

We had no aero-bars or clip-less pedals and no titanium and I didn’t even have a spare tire because I blew a tire on the wharf before the gun even went off and only had one spare with me.

But most significant of all was the fact that it was my first open water swim. I had spent the better part of a year leaning how to swim from the very beginning. I had no choice. I wanted to do the Ironman and swimming was part of the equation.

triathlete leg shaving

Should guys shave their legs for the big triathlon?

As far as triathlete leg shaving was concerned, I had never even heard of it.

Just the same, going to Kona in 1984 was pretty special because I went with a group of 10 people from Calgary. 7 guys, 3 women, which was pretty remarkable from one city because that year there were only a total of 61 Canadians in the race.

One of the guys that went with us was Chip. He was the biggest guy in Kona that year at well over 200 lbs. He had also been a competitive swimmer at one time.

Soon I was introduced to the subject of triathlete shaving before an Ironman.

The day before the race when we were all sitting around the pool he said “c’mon, we’re going to get shaved.” Of course we had no idea what the Hell he was talking about.

He said he had booked a hair salon in Kona for after they closed for the day.

So six of us guys went to get shaved. Tony the Italian guy said, “There is no f…..g way anyone is touching these arms and this chest with a shaver!”

You had to be there.

It was so freaking funny. For Tony, it was an Italian macho thing. He had this thick ape-like black hair all over. Hell, they would have needed a lawnmower.

So anyway, we go to the salon with three bottles of wine and there are these three gorgeous Hawaiian women with shavers in their hands and I’m sure they all had a glint in their eye. I have some great pictures of that whole episode. It was just hilarious.

triathlete leg shaving

Should’ve used Neet.

They shaved our legs and arms and chests and then Chip said “now go back to your rooms and shave again with a razor and take off that last little bit of stubble and make your skin perfectly smooth.”

So that’s what I did.

The morning of the race when the cannon went off and I dove in, it was the most remarkable feeling I had ever had in the water.

I seemed to almost “slip” thought the water, or maybe “glide” is a better word. Regardless, I remember thinking at the time “now this explains why fish don’t have hair.”

Even though it was my first open water swim and I had a swimming stroke from Hell, I think Chip saved my Ironman that day. I was so nervous about the swim, but because I felt more at home in the water and although it took me 1:38, I survived the swim and went on to become an Ironman that day.

So I thought I would share that story about my very first experience with triathlete leg shaving.

And by the way, Chip went on to create Lulu Lemon and become a gazillionaire. I bet almost every woman in North America over 18 has something in her closet with that squiggly little Lulu symbol on it.

triathlete leg shaving

It’s true. The main reason for shaving your legs is in case this happens.

I see it everywhere I go in the world and it’s great because it’s a regular reminder of that whole amazing Ironman experience over 25 years ago.

So, should you shave your legs? Personally I think it’s a good idea. Sure, the first time it will feel really weird because your whole adult life you have had hair on your legs.

I can tell you one thing. When I go to an Ironman to do a book-signing, it’s the triathletes with hair “on” their legs that stand out like a sore thumb.

I think it’s safe to say that triathlete leg shaving has become a ritual and part of Ironman culture.

If there is even the slightest chance that it makes you feel more like a triathlete, then by all means, do it!

When you are entered in an Ironman, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. If accepting triathlete leg shaving makes you feel better than go for it.

You can use every edge you can get.


Here’s another question you might want an answer to, but were afraid to ask. Well, it’s time to suck it up ironman and break out the Neet!

triathlete leg shaving

Perhaps the best option of all for you guys out there.

Yes, you can try Neet or Nair, or Veet or any other hair eating foam, but I did that once and it really was pretty messy.

For most of my 14 Ironman races I shaved with a package of disposable razors and a can of shaving foam. Except for my very first Ironman, all I had to shave was my legs because other than Kona every race I was in was a wet-suit race.

When I think about it, the girls at the salon in Kona had the right idea. Why not get a pair of barber shears if you intend on shaving your legs on a regular basis? It makes perfect sense.

It’s fast and efficient and all you have to do is shave of that last remaining stubble with a razor.


When I put the subject of triathlete leg shaving out there in a forum, it quickly became the hottest topic of the day.

Here are some of the response to my article question “To Shave Or Not To Shave.”

I like it because it keeps me cooler, but it sure felt weird the first time I shaved my legs.

–It made me feel like I was swimming faster and smoother.

–I made an incredible mess of the bathroom. My wife hated my shaved legs and I will be the hairy guy crossing the Iroman finish line a few months from now.

–You should leave the hair on because it makes you cooler.

–It’s all part of the Ironman experience. I don’t know if it helps, but I think I look damn good and pretty cool.

–I shave my legs because when I get road rash it’s a lot easier to clean.

–I locked myself in the bathroom and and used Nair on my legs. I looked and felt like an idiot. There was foam everywhere. I used every towel in the bathroom. I locked the door because I knew that within 30 seconds my wife would have it all over Youtube.

So there you have it. I hope this gives you some insight into triathlete leg shaving and what others think about it.

And I hope you don’t get nicks all over your legs because sometimes they sting for quite a while.

If you have your own leg-shaving comment enter it in the comment form and I’ll add it to the story.


2 thoughts on “triathlete leg shaving

  1. I discovered a really easy method almost by accident. (I’m a newbie at this and my triathlon team made me shave my legs. I guess that’s the price of admission.) 🙂

    For my beard I use a double-edged safety razor, the kind our grandfathers used before the big companies invented expensive disposable razors. Incidentally, the quality of shave from this kind of “retro” razor really is at least twice as good as any of the 5-blade inventions from the big brands, and the blades can be bought in bulk for as little as 10 cents each. (You have to try different brands of blade, as they differ in sharpness, and it takes some careful practice to develop your technique.)

    For my legs I tried using this blade with my shaving cream and brush in the shower, and it took forever since the hair clogs the blades with every stroke. The next time, however, I simply scraped off the hair from my legs with a downward stroke on dry skin, with no shaving cream. The hair immediately fell off and the blade barely gets clogged. When it fills with hair I simply unscrew the handle slightly and blow out the hair. The shave is effortless and painless, and it’s easy to sweep or vacuum the floor afterwards.

    Important: I would never, ever shave against the grain without shaving cream—with a double-edged safety razor you would hack up your skin. For the “finishing touches” you could use shaving cream and either the same safety razor or a disposable and then carefully go against the grain.

    Maybe my experiments will prove helpful to others too.

    • Thanks for you helpful comment on leg-shaving.

      It’s an important issue for many new triathletes. Shaving is especially beneficial if you are doing a “no wet-suit swim.”

      Gives the feeling of gliding through the water and every advantage helps especially for those new to open water swimming.

      Thanks again,
      IronStruck Ray

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