Bodyweight Badassery Meets the Sideshow at the Seashore

by Danny Kavadlo on September 19, 2017

Al Danny Kavadlo Coney Island

A few nights ago, as summer was coming to a close, my son and I went to the beach one last time this season. We sat on the sand and looked into the sky. Slowly, I closed my eyes and reflected on the rapidly dwindling summer days of 2017. Times come and times go. All we are left with is our memories. And there is one summer memory stands above all as the freakiest!

This past Labor Day weekend, my brother Al Kavadlo and I had the tremendous honor of serving on a panel of judges at the 10th Annual Coney Island Beard and Moustache Contest. It was our job to see which whiskers reign supreme in New York City and beyond. But there’s more: We were enlisted not only as judges… but also as performers!

The contest took place at the Coney Island Sideshow, home to circus showmen and human oddities throughout history. Hosted by performing strongman Adam Realman and “Handsome” Dick Manitoba (from legendary punk band The Dictators), the night was a celebration of classic New York, wacky and wild, in all its glory. The energy was infectious.

Adam Realman and Dick Manitoba

About halfway through the show, we had already viewed the hirsute contestants of several categories, including “Man or Beast” (best natural beard) and “Coney Island Curl” (best styled moustache). Now it was time for our act.

I can’t express what a remarkable experience it was to perform our bodyweight strongman act on this legendary stage. It warmed our hearts to be part of such a special history. From the sideshow performers of yesteryear, to modern day bodybuilders, to the pro-wrestlers we all admired as kids, there’s nothing like a strongman show!

In fact, as a kid growing up in South Brooklyn, it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to one day take the stage at the hallowed freakshow. Now I had my chance!

Al and Danny Kavadlo Partner Front Lever

We really wanted to do something special for the show, so we made it a point to feature only partner calisthenics in our act. Al and I demonstrated our signature partner front lever from the cover of Street Workout and the two-man human flag from Convict Conditioning 2. I even stood upon his back bridge as seen in Pushing The Limits. Most of the exercises we performed are detailed in our book Get Strong.

It was also a great thrill to serve as an ambassador of sorts, introducing the word of progressive calisthenics to a whole, new audience. The posse’s getting bigger!

Like the summer itself, our set seemed to fly by. Back to the facial hair! Soon, we were onto judge the “Dog and Pony” (best partial beard/chops) and “Carny Trash” (worst in show) awards. Bring it on!

Of course, the night ended with the coveted Brass Ring (best in show) and several other fantastic performances. Congratulations to all the winners and competitors of this amazing competition! The facial hair game is STRONG in Brooklyn!

Coney Island Beard and Moustache group photo

But for me, even more than the facial hair, keeping the strongman dream alive—bodyweight style—in Coney Island, Brooklyn is what made this night magic. Truly, this is one summer memory I want to hold onto. Fugeddaboutit!

Photos: Eliza Rinn and Norman Blake


Danny Kavadlo is one of the world’s leading authorities on calisthenics, nutrition and personal training. He is the author of several best-selling Dragon Door titles including GET STRONG and STRENGTH RULES. Danny has been featured in the New York Times, Men’s Fitness, and the Huffington Post. He is a regular contributor to Bodybuilding .com and TRAIN magazine. When not working one-on-one with clients in his native New York City, Danny travels the world as a Master Instructor in Dragon Door’s internationally acclaimed Progressive Calisthenics Certification. Find out more about Danny at

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