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Why Do Surfers Wax Their Surfboards?

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Learning how to surf can be quite challenging, but there are some tips and tricks that can make your life easier. One such trick is applying wax to your surfboard’s deck which you might have occasionally seen surfers do. However, how does this wax help your surfboard? 

The reason why most surfers wax their surfboards is that the wax creates friction between the deck of the board and the body (& feet) of the surfer. This makes sure that the surfers don’t lose their grip on their board while riding a wave. It also assists in maintaining your grip while you are paddling around in the water.

Applying wax to the surfboard is an age-old trick that every surfer must utilize in order to prevent their board from slipping away. However, for an ideal surfing experience, you must learn about different surf waxes and how to apply them to your surfboard properly.

applying surfwax to a surfboard

Benefits of Using Wax on Surfboard

From protecting your surfboard to improving your balance, applying wax to a surfboard has many benefits. Moreover, if you’re a beginner, you must apply wax to your surfboard so you have a better grip on the water. 

As mentioned earlier, surf wax is an excellent way to improve your grip on the surfboard. Surfboard wax gives your feet enough grip and traction to remain stable on the surfboard. Moreover, surf wax also prevents you from slipping off your board as you paddle out to the waves.  

Make sure to replace wax about every 10 sessions. Avoid leaving the wax exposed to the sun, because when it melts it looses its less effective.

Different Surfboard Waxes

There are different surfboard waxes out there that you can apply to your surfboard. Two of the most common ones that you can apply, in all cases, are the basecoat wax and the topcoat wax. 

Although both these waxes have different benefits, they both need to be spread on your board so that you can have the optimum surfing experience. Furthermore, knowing the distinction between traditional and sticky wax can be the difference between a good and a bad surfing experience. 

Basecoat Wax

Also known as an undercoat wax, this wax is applied on the surface of the board before we apply the conventional surfboard wax. The purpose of the basecoat wax is to keep the topcoat wax in place so it can play its part. 

Why Basecoat Wax is Important 

It is necessary to apply the basecoat wax to your surfboard for plenty of reasons. When applied to the board, it creates microscopic wax bumps throughout the surface, which creates more friction between the surface and the surfer’s feet.

Moreover, this wax makes the regular wax a lot easier to apply on top of it and also helps the regular wax stick to the surfboard better. Basecoat wax is largely made of solidified wax and is suitable for usage in tropical areas. Unlike other wax compounds, the base coat maintains its stability regardless of changes in temperatures.

Clothes say its a marketing and in theory it makes sense but in reality 9 out of 10 surfer dont apply basecoat wax. In some cases the surface of a board can be very slippery (because of graphics/artwork) and applying basecoating is adviced

Topcoat Wax (basecoat)

A topcoat is a wax coating that is put on top of the basecoat wax (if you bother). It is typically applied in a circular pattern with light pressure. The minor bumps generated by the basecoat become visible after applying the topcoat. One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to apply too much topcoat wax, otherwise, it will make surfing on that board uncomfortable. 

Traditional Wax

These waxes contain the properties of both the basecoat and the topcoat. Therefore, they are one of the most popular surf waxes available. However, traditional waxes often take a lot more time to settle in before providing a sufficient grip on the surfboard.

Sticky Wax

Sticky wax helps you keep your balance and grip on the surfboard far more effectively than any other wax. However, these waxes can also sometimes reduce your mobility on the surfboard. Therefore, the only location where you should apply it is where you will be planting both your feet.  

When to Wax Your Surfboard

It is important to consider the temperature of your locality before applying the wax as it will play a huge role in determining whether the wax will set onto your board correctly or not. The best time to wax your surfboard is either during the winter (when the temperature of the water is low) or during the summers (when the temperature of the water is at its highest). After you apply the wax to your surfboard, it’s best to wait for at least a day before you take it out in the water. This should be done to make sure that the wax gets enough time to set on the surfboard correctly. 

Moreover, you shouldn’t wait too long to wax your surfboard if you’re riding waves regularly. Ideally, you should wax your board at least two to three times a year to make sure you have great grip and traction on your board at all times. This will prevent you from slipping off your board and injuring yourself. 

Why Environment Temperature is Important

Certain waxes will perform more efficiently in specific climates. You should choose the wax according to the time of the year and the environmental temperature of your location. Surfing in warmer temperatures requires you to use a more temperature-resistant wax, otherwise, the wax will melt when exposed to the sun. 

TemperatureWax Type
75 F degree water and aboveTropical
64 – 74 F degree waterWarm
58 – 68 F degree waterCool
60 F degrees and belowCold

Tropical — For 75 F degree water and above
Warm — 64 – 74 F degree water
Cool — 58 – 68 F degree water
Cold — 60 F degrees and below

Drawbacks of Using Wax

Due to its chemical composition, using too much wax on your surfboard can be harmful both to the environment and to your health as well. Traditional waxes are made from petrochemicals, which are non-biodegradable and also not environmentally friendly. Moreover, due to this chemical, there is a chance you may develop an allergic reaction to these waxes. A suitable alternative would be to use organic waxes. 

Surfing on old wax could cause a rash on your upper body because the wax becomes hard as it dries out. If you surf without a wetsuit. If you happen to rent a board make sure to wear a rashguard if there is old or  residue wax on top of the board. This will allow you to be able to surf the next day. 

Avoid applying new wax on an old layer, the surface will get bumpy and uneven causing skin irritation. Often companies that rent boards don’t bother to remove the old wax. Make sure to wear a rash guard because rash is the worst. Maybe you wont notice much when surfing but you will when you’re laying in bed or get back into salt water.

How to Apply Wax to Your Surfboard

Applying the wax appropriately is important if you want to get the best out of your surfing experience. Here are some steps that you can follow to ensure that you apply your wax correctly.

Step 1: Remove the Old Wax

Before applying the new coat of wax to the surfboard, make sure the board is void of its previous coat of wax. Check for wax residue by running your fingertips over the surface of your surfboard, since the residue might ruin the newly applied wax and cause it to flake off sooner. Even though it might seem like a bit of a chore, removing wax is important. Take your time to remove the wax (prefereably outside on a soft surface like a old blanket or a patch of dry grass., it will benefit you later on.

Correct Method of Removing Old Wax 

The only thing you need is a wax comb, if you don’t have one you can use an old creditcard. Stroke the surfboard with the thinner side to remove the wax thoroughly. After that, use the curved side of the wax comb to wipe away the small pieces of remaining residue. 

Another option is using The Pickle, which is sort of a sock with fiberglass foam dust on the inside. You’ll be able to remove the residue wax in no time once you removed the most with the wax comb.

Step 2: Apply the Basecoat

After you remove the old wax coat, the next step is to apply the basecoat. Ensuring the correct way of applying the basecoat is very important.. Make sure to apply the basecoat wax in a circular or a cross pattern. Continue applying the wax on the surfboard until you notice bumps appearing in the wax. 

The most important thing is that you board is free of dirt, dust, or any other residue.

Step 3: Apply the Topcoat

Lastly, you apply the topcoat wax. This wax is softer than the basecoat wax and is used to provide grip to keep the surfer’s feet attached to the surfboard. Topcoats are strongly affected by water temperature since it is directly exposed to the water body.

Make sure to get the wax that is suitable for the right water temperature, so read the description before you buy. Find out the water temperature and then buy the right wax.

Most topcoat waxes have a temperature range specified that you can refer to. The topcoat is applied in the same way as the basecoat. However, because of its softer nature, it takes less effort to apply this wax.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it Possible to Surf Without Wax?

Yes, it is possible to surf without wax, but it will be very difficult to prevent yourself from slipping on your surfboard, especially when you’re learning to surf. Moreover, surfing without wax or other non-slip materials can also put other surfers in the way of harm. 

Yes its possible when you have a foamboard, the soft material (soft tops) already provide enough grip. Beginners could consider a tiny amount of wax for extra grip if the soft top is a bit older.

Can You Apply Wax in the Sun?

Avoid waxing your surfboards under the sun. This is because the heat from the sun can cause the freshly applied wax to melt.  Therefore, it’s best to wax a surfboard in the shade and wait for at least one day before taking it out. 

What is Surf Wax Made of?

Traditional surf waxes contain a mixture of various substances, such as paraffin, beeswax, and/or hard waxes. Some of these substances are organic and ecologically friendly, while others, such as paraffin, are not. Moreover, various artificial scents are added to these waxes, such as coconut and mint. 

A few more Tips

  • Make sure to dispose of old wax properly
  • Scrape the wax and make a little ball and put in a bag, keep the beach clean/nature
  • Applying the wax in a diamond pattern.
  • Avoid waxing the rails of your board, it will slow down your board


Applying wax to your surfboard is a tried and tested method to keep your grip on the sea. Moreover, it’s essential for beginners to learn how to wax their surfboards so they don’t end up splitting from their boards on their first surfing lesson. If you follow the correct procedure, not only will you learn to surf at a rapid pace, but will also have a great surfing experience. 

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