Why Do Surfers Wax Their Boards?


If you’re new to surfing, and you’re wondering why you keep seeing people rubbing what looks like soap all over their boards on the beach before they hit the water, what they’re doing is coating them in wax to provide grip for their feet.

When you buy a surfboard, the hard shell on the outside will be lovely and shiny, but unfortunately, that also means it’s super slippery. This article will tell you everything you need to know about surf wax and how to apply it.

Keep reading to find out!

How do you wax a surfboard?

Step 1: Preparation

The first thing you need to do before you go anywhere near your board with wax is gather everything you need and clear a space to work in.

You will need your chosen wax (this will be the topcoat wax), a wax comb, base coat wax, wax cleaner and some tissue or a cloth.

Step 2: Clean your board

Don’t be tempted to jump straight in with the wax, it’s always best to start with a clean board.

This will remove any dust, dirt and old wax from previous sessions. If you wax on top of a dirty board, the wax won’t stick as well and will end up flaking off in chunks.

To properly clean your board, use a wax comb to scrape all the old wax and dirt away. If the comb doesn’t do the job, you can also use a wax remover to dissolve the more stubborn wax that remains.

Keep cleaning until your board looks shiny, that will be the sign that it is completely clean and ready to be waxed.

Step 3: Apply the base coat

This will be the part that affects the success of the wax on your grip, as this is what will be stuck to your board even after the topcoat has rubbed off.

The base coat is also what will make your topcoat last longer, so it isn’t a step that should be skipped.

So, when applying the base coat, you need to be extra thorough because if you leave a section uncovered, after a while in the water the topcoat will have washed off, and you’ll have zero grip in that area of the board. 

When rubbing the wax onto the board, remember to put quite a bit of force behind it, because it takes a lot of pressure to rub off. You’ll know it’s going on properly when bumps begin to form.

There are three main patterns in which you should apply the base coat, these include:

  1. Cross-hatch – apply the wax in long strokes in a diagonal direction down the board, then do it again but in the opposite direction to create a criss-cross pattern
  2. Straight-line – simply create straight lines with the wax starting from the top and working your way down and repeat until the board is covered
  3. Circular motion – as you probably guessed, this one required you making small circles with the wax to cover the board

You don’t have to stick to these patterns, though, you can use a combination of all three or just make up your own. As long as the board is sufficient;y covered, and you’ve made the little bumps with the wax to indicate it has been properly applied.

Step 4: Apply the topcoat

Applying the topcoat is pretty similar to applying the base coat. You can use one or a combination of the techniques from step 3.

One thing you need to consider when applying the topcoat is, you need to be able to see where you’ve put it. So, it’s a good idea to either use a different colour to the base coat or to apply it in an obviously different pattern to the base coat.

Step 5: Set the wax

Finally, once the topcoat is fully applied, take the wax comb and comb through the wax. This will scuff the wax to make it more adhesive and will give you the best possible grip.

Then, just apply a small splash of cold water to your finished board to harden it a little, and you’re ready to hit the waves.

Should you wax a foam surfboard?

In short: yes, you should still wax a foam surfboard. Some foam boards will be grippier than others, but you’ll definitely benefit from a layer of wax to give you that extra grip.

To apply wax to your foam surfboard, simply follow the same step-by-step process that is detailed above.

What is the best surf wax?

When it comes to picking the best wax for your surfboard, the most important thing to consider is the temperature the wax you use is designed to work in.

Different waxes will work best in different water temperatures, so you’ll need to know what temperature the water is that you plan to surf in, and buy your wax accordingly.

Most waxes will say on the label, what water temperature it has been designed for. If you’re going to be surfing in cold water, you will need a soft wax, and if you’re going to be surfing in warmer water, you’ll need a hard wax.

If you want to apply a base coat and a topcoat, whatever wax you use for your topcoat, you’ll need to use the opposite on the base coat. So, if you’re going to be in cold water, you should use a hard base coat and a soft topcoat. For warmer water, do the opposite.

In terms of the best brands that make surf wax, some favourites include:

Final Thoughts

Having to wax your board every time you surf can sound tedious, but seriously, don’t skip it. A surfboard without wax is shiny and slippery, and you’ll really struggle to feel confident on the board if your feet don’t have anything to grip onto.

Wax your board, you won’t regret it!

However, something you might regret is getting wax on your clothes or car seats after your session, click here to find out how to fix this problem.

Read Next: What size surfboard should I get?

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