waxing a surfboard
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Waxing A Surfboard

A good wax job and the right wax will ensure better grip, balance, and performance when you’re surfing. Learn about how to wax a surfboard and the best surf wax brands with our guide.

Many surfers start their surfing journey on soft top surfboards since they're easy to learn the basics on and don't require much care. Most of these foam decks, for example, have enough grip and traction, so you don't need to worry about your feet slipping.

However, hard top surfboards that you'll start riding when you progress are not like foamies. The top coat of the hard board will look shiny, which doesn't exactly inspire trust since slippery generally accompanies shiny. Therefore, many questions emerge, like how to wax a surfboard, which surf wax is the best for your board, how to use a wax comb, and so on.

Below, we're going to lead you through the stages of how to wax a surfboard with a step-by-step guide and provide you with a list of the best surf wax brands so you can make an informed decision when you're purchasing surfboard wax.

How to Wax a Surfboard: A Step-by-Step Guide

A perfect wax job is key to better performance because it'll provide better balance and lessen the chance of sloppy falls. However, perfection generally sounds hard to attain. Well, that's not the case when it comes to applying wax. It's actually easier than it sounds, especially with the right kind of guidance.

Let's see.

Step #1: Gathering the Material

Not all waxes are the same: they differ in temperature, and which one you should purchase depends on the water temperature of your particular surf break. If the water temperature of your break is below 60 F (15 C), you need cold wax. If it's between 55-70 F (12-20 C), cool wax will do the job. Warm wax will be the ideal solution if it's more than 70 F (20 C) and less than 77 F (25 C).

Mostly, though, we prefer surfing the warm water of tropical climates (like Indonesia, Hawaii, or Australia), where the water temperature is mostly over 77 F (25 C). So, tropical wax is the ideal one for us.

That being said, let’s move onto the materials necessary for waxing a surfboard:

  • Base coat wax (or basecoat wax): You need to apply wax in two different layers. The first of these is the base coat that requires hard wax. Hard wax will cause the formation of sticky bumps on the surface of your surfboard and provide you with more balance.
  • Top coat wax (or topcoat wax): The top coat requires soft wax, which you’ll be applying gently. It's supposed to form a thin layer that emphasizes the bumps on the base coat.
  • Wax comb: You'll use your wax comb both when applying and removing the wax.
  • Surfboard wax remover: There are liquid solutions that easily dissolve wax. They'll accelerate the process of wax removal.

Step #2: Clean Your Board (or How to Remove Surfboard Wax)

If it's your first time waxing a surfboard or if your surfboard is new, you can skip this step. However, if there's any old wax left on the board, you need to clean it thoroughly before you start applying a new coat.

There are a few ways to clean the board: you can apply wax removal solutions to loosen the old wax, you can put your board under the sun, in hot water, or bury it in the sand for a while (so that the old wax softens first), or you can just pick up your wax comb and start scraping it.

If you're going to use a wax comb, you need to heed a few things. Wax combs have two functional edges: one of them is straight, and the other one is curved. You will use the straight edge to clean the deck and the curved edge to clean the rails.

Step #2: Apply the Base Coat Wax

Not all surfboards feature traction pads, and the aim of waxing is creating those traction pads (or, in some cases, some extra traction) by yourself. Therefore, thoroughly applying the base coat of wax is crucial to nail maximum grip, and you need to apply it away from direct sunlight because sunlight causes the wax to soften.

Having said that, there are many methods of applying wax: circular movements, vertical movements, horizontal movements, and so on. However, none of it really matters when it's the base coat. You just need to make sure that your entire board is covered and that you apply enough pressure when waxing it.

When you start feeling the formation of sticky bumps we mentioned above, it means that you successfully applied the base coat, and you can move on to the top coat.

If your board is a surf veteran and suffered its fair share of pressure dings, you can fill them with wax, too. Actually, you need to do that anyway for the sake of thoroughness.

Step #3: Apply the Top Coat Wax

There are two key aspects of applying the top coat of wax: getting the right wax in accordance with the water temperature(s) and using a circular motion when applying it. Some surfers consider this step as the most arduous one due to the exhausting circular motion, but it's actually quite easy.

You just need to apply the wax gently and make small circles over the base coat. Make sure that you're not applying more than required, though. The idea is to form a thin layer that just pronounces the bumps on the base coat.

Step #4: Comb the Wax and Start Surfing

Comb the wax in criss-cross shapes. It'll rough it up and provide extra traction. Now that you’ve successfully applied wax on your surfboard, there should be nothing stopping you from surfing unless you want to take your time to admire your wax job for the rest of the day.

The Best 5 Surf Wax Brands

A majority of the waxes on the market contain petrochemical elements that might harm the ocean, albeit in little proportions. Thankfully, in recent times, certain companies emerged with more emphasis on eco-friendliness without sacrificing quality.

Our favorite brands are those that combine environmental concerns with providing surfers with the necessary traction for their boards.

Sticky Bumps

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Sticky Bumps is a company that excels in wax research to maximize traction on surfboards, and in that sense, they've been quite revolutionary since their foundation in 1971. They are easily one of the best and most trusted wax producers in the market as well.

So, if you're looking for extra sticky wax, there's no better option than Sticky Bumps, and the company name is a testament to that. Sticky Bumps also form quite a comfortable coat in addition to forming tiny bumps with an amazing grip on your surfboard deck.

Of course, when it comes to surfboard waxes, environment-friendliness always emerges as a concern. Well, let us tell you that the Sticky Bumps waxes are at least less damaging than their petrochemical-based counterparts because they use more biodegradable materials.

They might be a bit on the expensive side, but it's still a small price to pay to make sure you're getting the best performance from your board while remaining eco-friendly, too!

Check Out Stick Bumps Surf Waxes

Surf Organic

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Speaking of eco-friendliness, it's impossible to ignore what the Australian company Surf Organic is doing. When they were founded in 2011, their single aim was to create ocean-friendly alternatives to the waxes of the time, and they were successful in their mission. Their waxes contain no plastics and no other petrochemicals, and they only use recycled material in their packaging.

Surf Organic’s concern for the environment isn't limited to producing eco-friendly surf wax either. They're also a part of the 1% for the Planet project, which encourages businesses to donate one percent of their revenue to the preservation of our planet and tackling environmental issues. Moreover, they're a member of the non-profit sea-roots organization dedicated to activism concerning the protection of Australia's ocean and beaches: the Surfrider Foundation.

All these extracurricular activities shouldn't deceive you, though, since their wax is also top-notch. It's one of the stickiest waxes currently on the market, so you can be sure that it'll firmly keep you on your board, and your performance will exceed your expectations.

Check Out Surf Organic Surf Wax

Matunas Surf Wax

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Matunas is actually a farm located in Santa Cruz, California, and it’s been producing surf wax by using the 100% natural ingredients that grow on this farm. Furthermore, recycled ink and paper are employed in the packaging of their products. These are qualities that certainly warrant praise.

Yet, that's not the only merit of the Matunas Surf Wax. Besides providing enough grip, it's also quite easy to apply. If you're a beginner who's about to wax their boards for the first time, Matunas might be the best option for you.

Moreover, unlike the two options above, the Matunas Surf Wax is quite economical. The packages include six bars of wax, so you'll be paying less for more.

Check Out Matunas Surf Wax

Famous Green Label Surf Wax

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Although the company also produces surfing apparel and surfboard bags, it's fair to say that Famous excels in traction. Their traction pads are among the best in the industry, and so is their Green Label Surf Wax. Considering the history of organic surfboard wax, they're quite the pioneers, too, as they've been making them since 2002.

The Green Label Wax is durable and provides lots of grip with no slip. Its formula is specifically developed for high-performance surfers. It's also free of any petrochemical ingredients and entirely made of biodegradable materials.

The company retains their Earth-conscious approach in packaging as well. Their packages are FCS-certified and inked with soy. However, we should warn you that this particular wax doesn't go well with oil-based waxes. So, if you're going to buy it, you better get one for the top coat and one for the base coat.

Check Out Famous Green Label Surf Wax

Outdoors Wax Works Gripping Wax

Similar to all the other wax brands on our list, Outdoors Wax Works' surf wax formula is also an all-natural one, but two main features separate it from the others: it has a higher melting point than them, and it can be used in both hot and cold water. Still, we should inform you that its grip is better in cold temperatures.

Some might argue that its scentlessness is another distinguishing feature. Most surfboard waxes smell really bad, and some brands try compensating by producing cherry-flavored waxes.

The Outdoors Wax is in neither of these scent-based categories as their formula is as scentless.

Check Out Outdoors Wax Works Gripping Wax

Waxing a Surfboard FAQs

How Often Should I Apply Surf Wax?

If you apply wax to your surfboard for the first time, you need to apply a coat of fresh wax before every session for a couple of days. That way, the coat will have enough wax to settle, and you'll find that it's gripping you better and better with every passing session.

After a week or so, you can stop waxing. Instead, you'll just use your wax comb to make criss-cross lines on the top coat, as explained in the fourth step of our guide. That'll provide you with all the traction you need.

Of course, there'll be instances when you forget to pack your wax comb, but it shouldn't be cause for worry. Wetting the top deck of your surfboard and roughening it up with sand on the beach will also yield similar results.

How Frequently Should I Remove the Old Wax?

This particular question depends on two criteria. One of them is how good-looking you want your surfboard to be. If you want it to look nice, you can remove and renew wax whenever you see fit. If you don't mind that, it depends on what kind of surfer you are.

Are you a recreational surfer who only paddles out on the weekend? The wax probably will hold until it's no longer compatible with the weather and water temperatures. If you're an aspiring surfer who practices whenever they can, on the other hand, you'll probably need to remove and re-apply wax once every month.

Can I Use Other Waxes on My Surfboard?

The universe is quite unpredictable, so you never know when you're going to run out of wax or when you're going to feel a sudden urge to go surfing. Unfortunately for you in this scenario, let's say that there's no opportunity for you to buy new wax either. So, can you just apply any wax (like candle wax) on your board?

No, you can't, and you shouldn't. Other waxes can damage your board - without providing any grip, that is!

Wrapping Up...

A good surf wax and a decent wax job will grant you enough grip and traction for a safe and performance-oriented session. Therefore, learning everything you need to know about is crucial for improving as a surfer.

However, as surfers, we need to be careful about what our equipment and tools are doing to the ocean. A majority of surf waxes in the market feature petro-chemicals that harm the ocean and its habitat in the long run. So, it's better if we opt for brands that cultivate an eco-friendly approach to their business.

In this article, besides providing a step-by-step guide for how to apply wax, we gave you a list of the best organic surf wax brands so that you can surf safely and without unwittingly harming the ocean.

Written by
Jeremy Dean
surf coaching