If you are new to snowboarding and worried that not waxing your new board before your first ride down a beginner’s slope may somehow damage your board, don’t be. However, keep in mind that to keep your board well maintained, you will need to wax later at some point.
Snowboards are already treated with a spray or rub-on factory wax straight from the shop. Whether you will need to wax your new board will depend on if you prefer hot wax, the length of your first snowboarding trip, the actual state of the wax on the board, and your performance expectations.
If you are already an experienced snowboard rider, a speed junkie, and planning on a long adventurous trip, it is recommended to supplement the factory wax with a coat of hot wax to increase the speed of the board’s base.
Do You Need To Wax And Sharpen A New Snowboard?
Riding your new snowboard waxed or not will depend on the state and quality of the factory wax on the board, your board performance expectations, the length of your first trip, and if your board has a sintered or extruded base.
The State And Quality Of Snowboard Factory Wax
At the factory, all new boards are tuned and waxed. The main objective of factory wax is to protect the board’s base during shipping. To save costs, manufacturers wax as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
Most factory wax lacks the quality of hot wax. Unless you buy an expensive top brand snowboard, then expect it to be a cheap spray or a rub-on type of wax. Unlike hot wax, rub-on and spray waxes are not snow temperature and conditions specific, and the wax layer is more superficial and does not seep as deeply into the snowboard’s base.
Therefore, most factory waxes are less long-lasting, offer less protection from abrasions than hot waxes. Also, if you are an experienced and competitive rider, you may miss the extra speed and smooth glide over the flatter sections of a hill that hot waxing offers.
Since a board could have been lying in storage for a long time after the factory wax was applied, the wax may have dried out. How dry it is will depend on:
- Time in storage since being waxed
- Whether the board is or isn’t in a protective plastic sleeve
- Whether the retailer has covered the base in stickers
- The atmospheric conditions in storage.
To tell whether the wax has dried out, simply inspect the base. White, cloudy patches are a sign of wax dryness, so it may be a good time to apply hot wax to the base, even though the snowboard is new.
Snowboard Performance Expectations
Don’t worry about waxing your new board if you are:
- A beginner and more concerned about staying upright than going fast.
- Expect to be riding on good quality powder, free from surface mud or other impurities.
- Only plan to be out 1-2 days.
In the case you are a competitive rider and you will be riding a new board in a race where speed matters to give you a critical edge on those flatter sections of the slope, then hot waxing may be a good idea. Hot waxing takes better advantage of the porous structure of the P-Tex coating on the board.
The snowboard base is coated with P-Tex, an abrasion-resistant plastic with a low friction coefficient that seals and protects the underlying wooden core and allows snowboards to glide over snow.
Unlike rub-on or spray waxing, in hot waxing, you must use a hot iron to rub the dripping melted wax into the poresof the P-Tex. Because the heat of the iron expands the pores, hot waxing gets more wax deeper into the base.
Also, hot waxes come in different varieties, which are snow temperature and conditions specific, allowing competitive riders to alter board performance to match the particular snow conditions on a given day and gain a speed advantage.
Under a microscope, snowflakes have sharp angular edges and act as a bit of sandpaper on snowboards scraping over them, causing friction and slowing boards down. When hot wax rubs against these snowflakes, it melts them, causing a thin layer of water to appear between the P-Tex and snow, allowing the board to avoid the friction that comes with direct contact and glide over snow instead.
Hot waxes come in different ranges of hardness. Whether a softer or harder wax is used should be determined by the day’s snow temperature. Harder wax should be used to repel the sharp crystals in the harder cold snow and softer wax on warmer and wetter snow to optimize the board’s glide.
Sintered Vs. Extruded Snowboard Base
Sintered bases (SB) are more porous than extruded ones. Therefore, extruded bases (EB) hold wax less well than (SB) and, paradoxically, require less waxing. Waxing an (EB) makes less difference than waxing a (SB). Therefore, waxing an (EB) as often as a (SB) is not necessary. For example, an un-waxed (EB) will be faster than an un-waxed (SB), but a waxed (SB) will be faster than a waxed (EB).
The implication of all of this for new boards is that if the factory wax is no good or is drying out, you will notice it more on a sintered base. An extruded base won’t show as much improvement after a wax, so it may not be as urgent to wax straight away.
If you are a beginner or just a recreational rider and planning a short snowboarding trip of 1-2 days with your new board, then riding on factory wax is ok. If you are a very competitive rider and planning to use your new board in a race, then a good hot wax is recommended, especially if you are riding on a sintered base.
Even if you are a recreational rider and not concerned with riding a faster base, you should still wax your new board, especially if you have ridden hard for many days and plan to do more hard riding, simply for long-term base protection. Wax protects your board from base burn and scrapes so that no water makes contact with the wooden core underneath.
I’m an aged skateboarder and I still shred responsibly. I started skateboarding 25 years ago but also love surfing, snowboarding, or anything that involves a board.