If you’re brand new to surfing, it’s likely that the concept of surf wax — why it’s used and how it’s applied — is completely foreign.
Welcome to the beginner’s guide on everything surf wax. Below you’ll find all the useful information you’ll need to purchase the correct wax, apply it to your surfboard, and remove it when necessary.
What is Surf Wax?
Surf wax is a combination of paraffin or other hard waxes, and is usually mixed with colored dye and some kind of scent, like bubblegum or coconut. Applied to the top, or deck, of a surfboard, the layer of wax provides the surfer much-needed traction for both paddling and wave riding. Most surfers apply a little wax to their board before every session.
Selecting the right wax for your board goes beyond just picking a brand. It also involves knowing the approximate water temperature at the beach you’ll be surfing.
Surf wax manufacturers make a spectrum of temperature-specific waxes, each one designed to function properly in select water temperatures. Cold water wax is softer than warm-water wax. If you use warm-water wax in cold water, the wax will become hard and fail to provide much traction. Conversely, cold-water wax will melt off a surfboard in warm water. Check the wax’s packaging to see what water temperature it’s suitable for.
Let’s start with the basic question: where do you put the wax? The simple answer is to rub wax on the top, or deck, of the surfboard where you’ll be placing your feet. On a shortboard, this is generally from the tail to about two-thirds of the way towards the board’s nose. Longboarders will often wax the deck in its entirety so that they can walk up to the board’s nose.
Before you apply your regular coat of wax, it’s a good idea lay down a light basecoat using a hard, warm-water wax and then put the softer wax on top. This will help form small, sticky bumps and provide maximum traction.
Once you’ve got a nice basecoat, it’s time to use your regular temperature-specific wax. Rub the wax lightly over the board, either in a circular motion or from side to side. Your goal is to create little bumps that will act as grip for your feet.
Hot Tip: The Comb
Wax combs (you know, those little plasic things that come attached to most board shorts these days) are essential tools for creating the perfect wax job. Use the serrated edge to create crisscrossed grooves in the wax; the blade edge is for removal.
Removing layers of wax from a surfboard can either be a very difficult process, or it can be easy as cake. If you don’t have any sunlight or removal formula, scraping wax off with a comb or a household object such as a credit card is really tough. It takes a long time and will probably make your arm sore.
The easiest way to avoid this painstaking process is to simply lay your board under direct sunlight for a few minutes, and then use a wax comb or card to remove the melting wax. But don’t forget about your board and leave it the sun for very long — it’ll heat the foam core and damage the board.
Surf shops sell special liquids for removing board wax; these work well, as does pouring hot water over the surfboard’s deck. It doesn’t really matter with method you use, just remember that softening the wax up before removal will save you time and frustration.
House of Wax
The best part about waxing up is that it’s a ritual that takes place before you go surfing, during those blissful moments of anticipation and excitement. What lies in store for the next few hours? Fun little sections, the wave of your life, a barrel or two? Wax up your board, paddle out, and go find out!