Why Do Surfers Wax Their Boards? (Important Facts)

As a new surfer, you are likely more than familiar with the feeling of falling, slipping, ultimately wiping out regularly.

This would be made significantly worse if you didn’t make use of some sort of “non-slip” device.

Here’s Why Do Surfers Wax Their Boards:

Surfers put wax on their surfboards to create friction between their body and their surfboard, which prevents them from slipping on the smooth fiberglass surface.

Let’s take a deeper look into how surf wax works, what wax you should use, and any possible alternatives and answer any questions about surf wax that you may have.

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Why Do Surfers Wax Their Boards?

Why Do Surfers Use Surf Wax?

Part of the joy of surfing is popping up onto your feet, bending your knees, and carving along a wave.

This, however, becomes extremely difficult if your feet are constantly slipping along your surfboard.

Because surfboards are made perfectly smooth through a fine sanding process, they become incredibly slippery when wet.

This makes for an experience somewhat like the first time you tried to ice skate.

Using surf wax or other non-slip products creates friction between your feet and surfboard when standing, as well as prevent you from slipping off your board while paddling.

Without wax on your surfboard, you will find yourself falling into the water a lot more than is necessary and will quickly find yourself discouraged.

Can You Surf Without Using Wax?

The short answer is yes, you can surf without wax on your board, but it would be difficult.

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The only reason to surf without wax is that you are using an alternative method to prevent yourself from slipping around your board.

Not using a non-slip material can be dangerous for both you and other surfers in the water.

Remember that you’re responsible for where your surfboard ends up while you surf.

That being said, once you have mastered the basics of surfing, you may find some joy in messing around in small surf without wax on your board. 

Just make sure you only do so when there are no other surfers in the area.

What are the different types of surf wax?

There are endless types of surf wax, but in general, they can be broken into five main categories.

Surf wax is made differently depending on the temperature it is intended to be used in.

This is done because a wax that is too soft will simply melt off your board in a warmer climate, while a wax that is too hard becomes difficult to apply in colder weather.

Choosing the correct type of surf wax is important. However, it is not difficult to do so.

The following table represents the recommended temperatures for different types of surf wax.

Type of WaxTemperature
Base CoatUsed at any temperature as an undercoat before applying standard wax to help it stick.
Cold Water Wax14°C (58°F)
Cool Water Wax12-20°C (54-69°F)
Warm Water Wax17-25°C (63-78°F)
Tropical Wax24°C (75°F) and above

How to Correctly Apply Wax on Your Surfboard

Applying your wax correctly will make a huge difference in how well it functions.

Choosing the correct wax, using a base coat, and applying the wax with the correct method will all help your wax last longer and work to the best of its abilities.

1. Clean Your Surfboard

Before you think about applying any wax to your board, you should make sure it is both clean and dry.

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To do this, you can leave your surfboard in a warm room or in direct sunlight (which isn’t how you should usually store a surfboard).

Once the old wax has softened, you can use a wax comb or old bank card to scrape it off.

Once your board is free of wax, you can wipe it down. This is also a good moment to fix any dings that may have been hidden beneath the wax. 

2. Apply a Base Coat

When applying the basecoat, it should always be done softly to prevent smudging of the wax.

The base coat should form small beads of wax that will aid the topcoat to stick to the board.

Other than applying it softly, your base coat can be applied through circular, criss-cross, or chaos-like movements.

3. Apply Top Coat of Wax

Once you have fully covered your board with the base coat, it is time to add your surf wax.

Always ensure that you are using the correct wax for the water temperature you will be surfing in.

You can apply your wax in either a circular or cross-like method, although a cross wax application is often more efficient and easier to apply.

Make sure to thoroughly wax all the areas of your surfboard that your body may make contact with.

Depending on the size of your surfboard, you could find yourself using anything from half a bar of wax to two full bars each time you re-wax your surfboard.

4. Roughen Up The Wax

Once you have applied enough wax, you can roughen it up with a wax comb or a fork (plastic is best to avoid scratching your board).

Run the come or fork diagonally along your board to roughen up the wax, thus creating a larger surface area for more friction.

5. Re-comb Your Board Everyday

You don’t need to re-wax your surfboard every day, but it is an excellent idea to re-comb it before each surf session.

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The weight of your body will flatten and smooth the wax on your board over time.

Using a comb or fork to roughen up the wax before each session keeps it fresh, rough, and ready to use.

What Is Surf Wax Made From?

Surf wax is made from a variety of ingredients, some of which are synthetic, while others are organic and environmentally friendly.

In most cases, however, surf wax is made from a mixture of beeswax, paraffin, and, or hard waxes.

Surf wax is often scented with smells such as coconut, mint, and various fruit flavors.

Some waxes that make use of paraffin and petroleum can be hazardous to the ocean environment as small amounts of the toxins seep into the water.

Because of this, many surfers have resorted to eco-friendly waxes or to make their own with beeswax, coconut oil, and essential oils. 

Are There Any Downsides to Surf Wax?

Other than the potential environmental effects of using synthetic surf wax, there are two main downsides that you may face while surfing.

Allergic Reactions

Due to the chemicals in some surf wax, you may find yourself experiencing an allergic reaction in the form of a rash or itchy skin.

If this is the case, then it is best to either switch up your wax for a more organic version or make sure only to use a full-length wetsuit.

Wax Rash

If you find yourself surfing in warmer climates, you may be tempted to surf without a shirt. 

Apart from the potential dangers from the sun, you will likely experience a rash on your skin from the constant movement against the wax.

The best way to prevent this is by wearing a thin rash vest.

Conclusion

Surfers use surf wax on their boards for a single reason, to create more friction between their body and the surfboard and thus help prevent them from sliding on the slippery surfboard surface.

Without wax, surfing becomes near impossible, as well as dangerous.

Always ensure your surfboard is correctly waxed with the relevant temperature wax, and you will enjoy a slip-free surf session (or at least as close to one as you can hope for).

Why Do Surfers Wax Their Boards?
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