Why Do You Wax a Surfboard? (& How To Apply It Correctly)

Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax, Sticky Bumps, and Mrs. Palmers are all well-known names within the surfing community for being some of the best surfboard wax brands around, but what exactly is surf wax, and why do surfers wax their surfboards?

So Why Do You Wax a Surfboard?

Surfboard wax has only one purpose, to create friction between your body and your surfboard.

Without surf wax or an alternative slip prevention product, you will find it difficult to remain on your surfboard without sliding off.

Below we will take a deeper look into how wax wax works, why it is important, and how to correctly apply it to your surfboards.

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Why Do You Wax a Surfboard?

Why Do You Need to Wax Your Surfboard?

When one surface makes contact with another and attempts to move along its surface, a force known as friction is exerted.

According to the Cambridge dictionary, friction can be defined as “the force that works against an object as it slides along the surface of another object or moves through a liquid or gas”.

Although our feet are naturally designed for grip, the fiberglass of our surfboards is smooth, and with the added lubrication from the ocean’s water, the surface of your board becomes extremely slippery.

There are three factors that affect frictional force, which is as follows: the adhesion between the surfaces, the roughness of the surfaces, and the deformation of the bodies.

The smoother a surface is, the less friction you will experience, and therefore the harder it will be to find your grip.

This is where surfboard wax comes in.

Surf wax is designed to increase the surface area of your surfboard, and therefore increase the friction of your feet, hands, and body with your surfboard’s surface.

When you correctly apply surf wax to your board, the result should leave tiny wax granules, somewhat like sand, which will aid you in keeping on your feet when popping up or prevent you from sliding from your board while you paddle to the backline.

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What Is Surf Wax Made From?

Surfboard waxes are usually made from a mixture of synthetic and organic materials, although there is an abundance of environmentally friendly, organic surf waxes on the market.

For the most part, popular surfboard wax is made with a base of paraffin (from hydrocarbon or oil).

According to Sticky Bumps Wax Research president, John Dahl, the base is also made of resins and synthetic rubber.

After this, flexible waxes, such as beeswax are added to make the surf wax softer, as well as other softeners such as whipped oil.

Fragrances such as bubblegum, berry, or other fruit are often added to the mixture to create a pleasant aroma.

For eco-friendly, organic surf wax, a combination of beeswax, coconut oil, tree resin, and essential oils or similar products are used.

The Importance of Using Wax on a Surfboard 

As you now know, surf wax is used to increase friction and help aid you to stay on your surfboard, but why is this important?

Surf wax is important as it helps us and others remain safe while surfing, ensures that we progress as fast as possible, as well as makes sure we maintain a sense of enjoyment as we move through our surfing journey.

Safety

When we are surfing, our surfboards are our responsibility, and therefore, constantly letting your surfboard shoot from under your feet because it is too slippery is irresponsible.

Not maintaining control of your surfboard can be dangerous, not only for ourselves but for other surfers in the water.

Using surf wax will help you remain close to your board when you are paddling, duck diving, and riding waves.

Progress

If you can’t stay on your surfboard, you will find it extremely difficult to progress with your surfing.

Learning to surf is not all that difficult when you use the correct surfboard and some good wax.

Take away the wax, however, and the learning curve becomes a lot steeper.

Even if you have mastered the basics of surfing, removing the wax from your surfboard will send you back months of progress and will leave you feeling like it is your first time in the water again.

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Enjoyment

Although surfing goes much deeper than simply riding a wave, without being able to stand up on a surfboard and experience what surfing feels like, you will quickly lose interest.

When you are new to surfing it is best to make sure that you use all the gear that is needed. 

Although it might seem like a small extra and an unneeded expense, the enjoyment you will find in the sport relies heavily upon this fruity-smelling, sticky wax.

How to Apply Wax on a Surfboard Correctly

It is not only important to use wax, and the correct wax for your surfboard, but equally important to correctly apply it before hitting the waves.

Waxing your surfboard can be done in 5 easy steps (providing you have already fixed any dings).

1. Clean Your Board

You should always start with a clean board before adding new wax to your surfboard.

Using a smooth flat object such as a wax comb or an old bank card, remove any old wax from your surfboard.

If the wax is particularly difficult to remove then you can leave your board in the sun or a warm room to soften it up.

Wipe your surfboard with warm water to remove any salt, sand, or dirt, dry it off, and you are ready for the next step.

2. Apply Base Coat

Before adding your surf wax, you should apply your base coat.

There are various methods for applying the base coat, such as in circular motions, in a thatched pattern, or in a diagonal line.

Whichever you choose is up to you, but the base coat should always be applied gently and evenly.

Applying the base coat with too much force will cause the wax to become smooth.

When your base coast is complete it should form little beads for the topcoat of wax to stick to.

3. Apply the Top Coat of Wax

Once you have applied your base coat it is time to apply the normal wax.

Depending on the climate and water temperature you will be surfing in, choose the correct wax and begin applying it with your favorite technique.

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When you are complete, the final result should be small granules and not smooth.

You should make sure to put wax on all areas of your board that you will be making contact with. This, depending on your surfboard size, could use up to 2 bars of wax.

4. Roughen Up the Wax

Once you have completed applying the top layer of wax you can use your wax comb to roughen up the surface of the wax to provide maximum friction.

Take your wax comb and run diagonal lines down your board, first from the left, and then the right.

If you don’t have a wax comb you can use an old plastic fork (try to avoid metal as it can damage the resin on your board).

5. Freshen up the Wax Before Each Surf

You don’t need to put new wax on your surfboard each time you surf. 

In fact, if you use good quality surf wax, correctly apply a base coat, and keep your surfboard clean and free of sand, then you will only need to wax your board a couple of times a season.

That being said, thanks to gravity and the weight of our bodies, the ridges, and granules that we create on our boards tend to flatten after as little as a single surf session.

To ensure that your wax continues to provide the best grip possible, you can roughen up the smoothed wax with your comb or fork before each session.

Some surfers even take their combs into the water with them in case they need to do a little landscaping while in the backline.

Conclusion

Fiberglass is smooth and has very low friction. Mix this with some lubricating water and your surfboard becomes more of a slip and slide than anything else.

To ensure we don’t constantly fall from our surfboards while we surf, surfers use surf wax to increase surface and therefore add some friction.

Although there are some alternatives to surfboard wax, such as trackpads and sticky surfboard grip pads, surf wax is still the most popular, cheapest, and efficient non-slip product to use on your surfboard.

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