Learning how to surf? You'll quickly realize you just can't live without wax.

Surfboard wax is a necessary addition to your surfing equipment checklist, as it's nearly impossible to surf well without the essential grip provided by this smell-good, sticky substance.

In this guide, I'm going to hit on everything there is to know about surf wax, including:

  • Why do surfers wax their surfboard?
  • What is surf wax?
  • How to wax a surfboard.
  • How to remove wax from a surfboard.
  • Do you wax a foam surfboard?

And a bit more. So let's stick it in the brain and smack it on the board, as you'll be a surf wax connoisseur in no time.

Why do Surfers Wax Their Surfboard?

As you know, your feet aren't connected to your board by some form of magic or bindings (tow-in boards excluded), and aside from gravity and skill, the only thing keeping you stuck to the otherwise slippery deck of your shred stick is the wax.

So why do you wax a surfboard? It's all about grip, my salty people.

The surf wax in itself is a sticky substance. Applying to the surfboard correctly will create small 'beads' across the top of your board. These beads create a bumpy surface, promoting friction on the bottom of the surfer's feet. When combined with the overall sticky nature of surf wax, this allows the surfer to stay secured on their board during progressive surf maneuvers. It's also important for paddling, as we must stay secured in the sweet spot for speed and control, the bumps also providing friction to our chest while racing to the lineup.

Without wax, our feet would slip right off the otherwise flat, smooth, wet, and slippery surfboard, and the incredible turns and airs you see today just wouldn't be possible.

What is Surf Wax?

Back in the day, surfers would create grip by stealing their grandma's collection of candles. But today, surf wax is an advanced formula, and there's more than one. You'll actually need to pick your wax based on water temperature and desired traction, but I'll get into that more soon.

What's important to know is that the primary ingredient of surf wax has typically been paraffin, which is a product of oil. Actually, that's pretty much how surf wax was discovered in the first place!

Seeing how his family used paraffin wax to seal jars and cans in the 30s, that's when Alfred Gallant thought to put the sticky substance on his surfboard, and since then, this has evolved into the essential surf accessory commercialized and used today.

surf wax on a orange longboard surfboard

A Beautiful Wax Job along the Entire Surfboard Deck.

With advancements, we now see other ingredients, such as bee's wax or pine resin, added to the primary paraffin wax formula to alter the hardness/softness of the wax. And here's why that matters.

The Different Types of Surfboard Wax

Knowing how to wax a surfboard requires knowledge of the different types of surf waxes available and which is best for you. First off, you'll have to choose your wax according to the water temperature where you surf.

Because the temperature affects the wax, warm water wax is the hardest, increasing the melt temperature in warmer weather/waters. Cold water wax is softer, giving it room to harden (without hardening too much) in cold water. If you use cold water wax in tropical water, it will quickly melt. And if you use warm water wax in cold water, it will harden to the point of little traction and flake off the board.

Lucky for you, surf wax companies have made it clear which wax is ideal for varying temperatures, typically labeling the waxes as:

  • Tropical
  • Warm water
  • Cool water
  • Cold water

So just learn your average water temps for various seasons and pick your wax accordingly.

Surf Wax Base Coat & Top Coat

Girl learning how to wax a surfboard

Longboard? Wax from Nose to Tail to Crosstep & Noseride!

There are also two general categories of wax used when waxing a surfboard.

The basecoat is the first layer of wax that you'll place on your board, and it's more essential with soft, malleable cold water waxes.

The base coat is really the same thing as a hard tropical/warm water wax.

Because cold water wax is soft, a base coat creates a hard layer of beads that the softer cold water wax can better attach to, increasing the overall efficacy of provided friction.

You'll apply a single base coat for every fresh wax coat, but you'll utilize a top coat to wax the board before individual sessions.

There's also extra sticky punt wax meant to go over the top coat for the rippers who throw airs and huge turns.

Step by Step: How to Wax a Surfboard

There's a technique to it, so here's how to wax a surfboard the right way.

1. Start with a clean surfboard deck.

If your board has an old layer of wax, you'll need to remove it. I'll tell you how to remove wax from a surfboard below, and if/when there's no wax currently on the board, give it a quick run down with a wet towel to clean the surface and let it dry.

2. Set the Board on an Ideal Surface

Wax is messy, so you probably don't want to wax your board on the carpet. But you do want to set it somewhere soft so as not to damage the deck/fins. Think of laying down a beach blanket, using a stand, or waxing your board on the grass under the shade.

3. Start with a Base Coat

I said a base coat is more important in cold water, and that's true, but you can still start with a base coat surf wax regardless of warmth/cold for the best results. With the basecoat in hand, begin by creating diagonal lines across the board's deck from one rail to the other.

Keep the lines about 2.5cm apart, and do this both left and right down the deck to create small diamonds.

Next, start to create beads on the board by initiating small circles with the wax over this diamond pattern. You don't have to push down hard when doing so, as this can flatten the beads. Instead, light circles to create tall and robust anchor points for the top coat is the way to go!

4. Move on to a Top Coat

Once the base coat is applied, add an additional layer of wax with a top coat for your water temperature. Perform the same small, light, and circular movements over the top coat until beads are clearly outlined across your board.

You'll want to add a fresh top coat before every surf.

5. Finish with a Wax Comb

Running a wax comb across your layer of surf wax will revitalize the stickiness and create even more minute beads that further promote friction on the board. As a final step to wax your surfboard, run a wax comb diagonally in each direction before heading for a surf.

How to Remove Wax from a Surfboard

old surfboard wax on a surfboard

Notice the Lack of Wax in the Middle? This Board will Soon Need a Fresh Wax Job.

When it's time to apply a fresh layer of wax, you need to remove the old wax entirely. To do so, simply:

  1. Set the board outside for about 10-15 minutes if it's warm. Try to keep the board out of intense sunlight, but it needs to be warm enough to soften and begin melting the wax. If you live in cold weather, you might need to use a hair dryer. If this is the case, use the warm setting and not the hot, and keep an extremely safe distance from your board. Your goal is to warm the wax without heating the PU/Epoxy beneath it to avoid damaging the board.
  2. Once the wax is starting to melt, run the flat side of your wax comb or an expired gift card across the deck to begin scraping the old wax away. Yes, it's extremely pleasing.
  3. Discard the old wax.
  4. Clean the surface of your board with a wax remover to remove any remaining wax. Some wax removers are liquid, and others pull the wax from the deck.
  5. Wipe the board clean and allow it to try before placing your traction pad or a fresh layer of surf wax.

How Often Should I Wax My Surfboard?

You want to add a layer of top coat and run your wax comb over your surfboard before every session. But when it comes to adding an entirely new layer of wax, this really depends on how much you surf, how you take care of and store your surfboards, and whether or not you wear a wetsuit.

If you surf often, you'll want to apply a fresh layer every 3 months or so. And if you wear a wetsuit, the wax will become dirty, black, and lose quality more quickly, requiring a fresh layer every 1-2 months.

If you don't take care of your board and leave it in a warm car or outside, your wax will melt, decreasing quality and melting away the beads. With this, you'll want to add a new layer and remove the damaged wax.

You'll both see and feel when your wax is losing grip, and if that's the case, it's time to change it. If the wax loses its beads, becomes dark & dirty, feels slippery, and the top coat doesn't apply properly, then this is every sign you need to change it.

Do you Wax a Foam Surfboard?

Bryxton Shredding in her Grom Boardshorts.

Yes, I absolutely suggest waxing a foam surfboard. It won't apply as nicely as it will to a performance surfboard, but it still improves grip on the foam surface.

How to Wax a Soft Top Surfboard

Use the same steps as outlined above to wax a soft top surfboard. However, sticker, softer wax does work better, so you might find a base coat difficult to apply. Or, because of their similarity, use bodyboard wax!

That's About it for Surf Wax!

I think I covered it all. If you have any questions, drop us a comment below, and if not, it sounds like you're about ready to shred. Snag your board, hit the seaside, and please…

Don't forget the wax!

Hello to all my salty people! Thanks for readin' my blog and for the continuous support towards our brand. Make sure to sign up to our newsletter by creating your account to stay in the loop with new releases, sales & giveaways, and all our future blog post!

Live rad, stay salty.

- Ash, Dev & The Salty Shreds Fam.

July 20, 2022 — Salty Shreds

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