by Laura McKee
2014 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week - A beard on a man may simply be seen as a common facial accessory; for skin cancer Influencer Jimmy Niggles, it means so much more.
Jimmy (white shirt) with bearded sailors
The 32-year-old is at the 31st running of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week raising awareness of melanoma at by reminding rosy-faced sailors to get a skin check when they return home.
Niggles lost his friend Wes Bonny in 2010 to the deadly disease which kills 1,500 Australians a year, the majority of them men. Bonny was 26 at the time and his death was a shock to his family and friends.
'Wes’ melanoma got missed, they didn’t check him properly. They took it out and it spread to his brain after three months,' Niggles said. 'At his wake in New South Wales, we were sitting around drinking schooners and thought, we have to do something.'
That idea turned into Beard Season, a non-profit movement inviting men to grow their beards, get a skin check and become an ambassador in the fight against melanoma. Why a beard revolution? Because Wes’ melanoma was detected on his neck and beards weren’t the trend at the time. Niggles decided to grow out his whiskers and share Wes’ story with the public.
'Also, I read somewhere that a beard does protect you from the sun, it’s better than 30+ sunscreen,' he said.
He was invited to attend this year’s Audi Hamilton Island Race Week in the Whitsunday Islands where the threat of melanoma is all too real given the sun’s strength.
'I had not been to Hamilton Island before, this opportunity could not have been better. Sun damage comes with the territory of sailing,' the Sydney man said.
Owner of Hamilton Island Bob Oatley’s mother passed away from a melanoma when he was a one year old. 'I had a chat to Bob at the Net-A-Porter event to express my admiration and offer my condolences for his mother. It’s a very close subject for many of us; hopefully we can work together to fix it,' he said.
Jimmy Niggles and John Clinton
At Race Week it’s been Niggles’ mission to cross paths with as many sailors and guests as possible.
'After hundreds of conversations, card exchanges and handshakes, I hope to convince every member of crew, guest and staff to book themselves in for a skin check, and encourage their friends to do the same,' he said.
Niggles is now selling his beard for $1M.