Get a Grip on Surf Wax

surf wax
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Surf wax is an interesting topic. Or maybe it’s not, I don’t know. Wax is something most surfers only think about briefly in one of two scenarios.

The first being the enjoyment you get from the appearance and aroma of a freshly waxed surfboard.

The second being the frustration of falling off your board when you realized you could use more wax or that you missed a spot.

How do you Wax a Surfboard?

Assuming you’re creating a nice layer of traction that won’t melt off instantly, there’s really no “wrong” way to wax a surfboard.

Waxing a surfboard is not something to overthink. Here’s how you do it:

  • (If you want a fresh wax-job) Start with a clean, wax free surfboard deck (that’s the top, don’t wax the bottom).
  • Use a basecoat, or a higher temperature wax that won’t melt.
  • Using a circular, line, or criss-cross motion, lay down the basecoat until you build up a thin layer of bumps. As long as you’re getting coverage and laying down wax – do whatever feels right.
  • Grab a softer bar of wax for whatever water temperature you’ll be surfing and repeat the process.
  • At this point, you can either go surf or give your fresh wax job a nice combing with the pointy end of a wax comb.
  • Apply a bit of wax before each surf, and clean it off when it starts getting nasty or flaking off too much.

It’s a good idea to put wax anywhere you think you’re going to put your feet. It’s better to be a little liberal here.

Cleaning Wax Off Your Surfboard

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Your surfboard’s wax job is going to degrade over time. Chunks start flaking off, it gets dirty, and it losses its grippiness.

You’re going to want to clean and de-wax your board every so often to ensure you’re getting the most out of your surf wax, you’re not leaving any planing-detracting bumps on your board, and so it doesn’t look like you just grabbed your board out of the dumpster.

To clean off and remove wax from your surfboard you’ll just need a wax comb or even an old credit card.

Set your board in the sun to loosen up the wax and scrape it off with your comb.

Repeat on the bottom to remove any stray wax that has affixed to the bottom of your board during transport or storage. Little bumps of wax on the bottom of your board or the rail can slow you down when you’re surfing.

What are the Different Surf Wax Temperatures for?

You may have noticed different temperature labels on the surf waxes you see at the store. For best results, it’s a good idea to follow these temperature recommendations.

Basecoats, warm water, and tropical waxes are harder than cool and cold water waxes – this ensures they don’t soften up and melt.

Colder waxes are a bit softer.

Temperature ranges for surf wax are typically as follows:

  • Cold Water Surf Wax: under 60 ° F (15 ° C).
  • Cool Water Surf Wax: 58-68 ° F (14-19 ° C).
  • Warm Water Surf Wax: 66-78 ° F (19-23 ° C).
  • Tropical Water Surf Wax: over 75 ° F (23 ° C).

What is Surf Wax Made of?

Most surfwax you buy at the store is made from a mix of paraffin wax, soy wax, beeswax, and other chemicals to vary the degrees of stickiness it provides, as well as some real nice smells (coconut, vanilla, “bubblegum?”, etc.).

Most of the big surf wax companies are fairly tight-lipped about the exact mix and quantities of ingredients used in their waxes, which makes sense given there’s really two big dogs: Sex Wax Inc. (Mr. Zogs) and Wax Research Inc. (Sticky Bumps).

If you’re interested in learning more about some of these waxes, here’s what I’ve got for you:

  • Mr. Zogs has a pretty nice write-up on the eco-friendliness of paraffin-based and soy-based surf waxes.
  • According to the back of a Mr. Zogs Recyclable Wax Package, the wax is non-toxic and the ingredients are designated as food additives by the FDA.
    • So, if you’re really, really hungry…. No, don’t eat it.
  • The back of a Sticky Bumps box lists the ingredients as:
    • Calcite, Natural Mineral Waxes, a Proprietary Blend of Tackifiers, and Meadowfoam Seed Wax.
    • So, no paraffin or soy wax in that one. The Sticky Bumps website also say their wax is non-toxic, biodegradable, and all natural.

It seems the biggest eco-friendly drawback of the major surf waxes is the manufacturing and processing of all the ingredients that go into it. Until some major changes happen in general in terms of energy sources, transportation, and manufacturing process – pretty much anything that is mass-grown and mass-produced is not going to be good for the environment.

How to Make Your Own Eco-Friendly Surf Wax

If you’re really looking for a low-impact, eco-friendly option, you can make your own surf wax fairly easily with only a handful of ingredients and steps.

Home-made surf wax ingredients:

  • Beeswax
  • Tree Sap
  • Coconut oil
  • Other nice smelling stuff if you’re feeling experimental – vanilla, pine needles, I don’t know?

Time needed: 15 minutes.

How to Make Your Own Surf Wax

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.

  2. Prepare a double boiler with your ingredients.

    Combine about 3 parts beeswax, 1 part coconut oil, and 1 part tree sap into a separate can/water tight container. (You may need to adjust the ratios depending on the temperature of the water you’ll be surfing.)

  3. Add your can of mixed ingredients to the boiling water in a double-boiler set up.

    Melt and combine the ingredients.

  4. Allow your wax to cool and set.

    Remove from heat and pour the hot liquid mix into a mold to allow it to set up.

  5. Wax up your board and go surf!

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