Why Do Surfers Wax Their Boards? A Complete Guide

Have you ever wondered why surfers wax their boards? Surfers wax their boards to provide grip and traction between their feet and the otherwise smooth, slippery deck of a surfboard. 

In most cases, wax is an essential part of surfing, and you won’t be able to ride without some on your board! 

This article dives into exactly why surfers wax their surfboards, what surf wax is made of, the different types of surf wax, and more. 

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Why do you wax surfboards

Pismo surfing

Surfers wax their surfboards to create grip and traction between their bodies and the board. While surfers lay on their surfboards and paddle, or while they sit, the traction from the wax keeps them from slipping off the board. 

More importantly, the grip from surf wax keeps traction between surfers feet, and the deck of the surfboard, so while they’re standing on the board and riding waves, they don’t slip off. 

By waxing the deck of their surfboard, surfers are able to stand, ride, perform turns, cutbacks, and other advanced maneuvers  without sliding off what would otherwise be a very slippery surface. Surf wax is one of the most important pieces of surfing equipment.

I remember back when I was a kid, and I didn’t know anything about surfboard wax, or why surfers wax their boards. I tried to go out on a surfboard  that had very little wax on it, and I was so frustrated that I kept slipping off my board. That day was a first-hand lesson for me on just how important it is to wax your surfboard! 

P.s.: If you’re looking for good gifts for surfers, a few sticks of surf wax is a FANTASTIC gift. Surf wax is also a great stocking stuffer! 

Different types of surfboard wax

There are several different types of surfboard wax available on the market, including basecoat  wax, top coat wax, surf waxes for all different temperatures, and even surf waxes made from different ingredients.  

Surfboard wax by temperature

You’ll want to buy and use surfboard wax that is appropriate for the climate you’re surfing in. For example, in Costa Rica, you’re going to want to use tropical wax. Tropical wax is much harder than cold water wax, so it doesn’t melt in the warm, tropical waters or under the hot tropical sun. 

If you’re surfing somewhere with colder waters, you’re going to want a softer, cold water wax. 

If you’re unsure of what wax you need, just pop into your local surf shop and they’ll be able to tell you exactly what to buy.

Basecoat Wax

Basecoat wax is a type of wax that is very hard, and unlikely to melt in warmer temperatures. When waxing your board, many surfers first apply a coat of basecoat wax to the deck of the board to give the topcoat/regular wax something to stick to. 

Basecoat isn’t too different from tropical wax, which is also very hard to prevent melting. If you don’t have a basecoat on hand, you can substitute it for tropical wax.  

Applying a layer of basecoat wax to your board before the topcoat can prolong the wax job of your board, and create nicer grip for your feet than if you were to skip it. 

However, it’s worth noting that it’s not technically necessary to use basecoat, and many  surfers don’t. 

Additionally, since tropical wax is already very hard, it’s more common for surfers in cold water to use a basecoat, since the surfers using the tropical wax already have really hard wax on their boards. 

Topcoat Wax

Your topcoat of wax is just going to be the appropriate wax for your water temperature that you put over the base coat. If you don’t use a basecoat, “topcoat” wax is just regular, old surf wax. 

What surfboard wax is made of

Surf wax is typically made of a blend of different waxes, such as paraffin wax, beeswax, and/or plant-based waxes, along with other additives such as resin, coconut oil, and fragrances. The exact formulation can vary depending on the brand and type of wax, but the basic ingredients are chosen for their ability to create a sticky, textured surface on the surfboard that provides traction and grip for the surfer’s feet.

Is surfboard wax environmentally friendly?

Keep in mind, paraffin wax is derrived from petroleum, a non-renewable fossil fuel. Paraffin wax is known for its ability to create a firm and durable surface, which makes it a popular ingredient in surf wax.

However, the production and use of paraffin wax have several environmental impacts. Firstly, the extraction and processing of petroleum involve significant amounts of energy and resources, which can contribute to air and water pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, paraffin wax is not biodegradable, which means that it can persist in the environment for a long time, potentially harming wildlife and ecosystems.

Surf wax made with parrafins contains petrochemicals, which are not biodegradable and are harmful when ingested. Think about how much surf wax melts off or flakes off your board when you’re in the ocean, and then multiply that by the 35 million people in the world who surf. 

It might be worth using a more eco-friendly surf wax! 

Sticky Bumps, Matunas, and Wave Tribe make more eco-friendly surf waxes.

Why wax a surfboard when you can use a traction pad?

Traction pads and traditional surf wax are two different options for providing grip and traction on a surfboard. Traction pads, also known as deck pads or grip pads, are adhesive pads that are placed on the deck of the board. They are typically made of EVA foam, a lightweight and durable material that provides excellent grip, even when wet. Traction pads come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and can be customized to match the surfer’s style and preferences.

Traditional surf wax, on the other hand, is applied directly to the board and creates a textured surface that provides grip and traction. The texture of the wax can vary depending on the type of wax used, the water temperature, and the surfer’s preferences. Some surfers prefer wax as it can be easily adjusted to their desired level of stickiness by applying more or less of it.

Ultimately, the choice between traction pads and traditional surf wax comes down to personal preference. Some surfers prefer the feel of wax, which can provide a more natural and tactile experience. Others prefer the convenience and durability of traction pads, which can be more long-lasting and require less maintenance than wax. Both options can provide excellent grip and traction, and it’s up to the individual surfer to decide which one works best for them.

Shop Surfboard Traction Pads

Why do surfers wax their boards- FAQ’s

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions regarding surfboard wax:

Can you wax a foam surfboard?

When it comes to whether or not to wax a foam board, it really comes down to personal preference. Many people choose not to wax their foam surfboards because wax is difficult to clean off of a foam surfboard, and it can make their boards look pretty dirty. 

However, I’ve always waxed my foam surfboards, and the surf school I worked at always waxed up the foamies. Foam surfboards are pretty great when it comes to grip, but for most foam surfboards, they’re still much more slippery than a traditional surfboard with a nice coat of wax on it. Personally, I recommend slapping a coat of wax on your foamie, because a bit of extra grip doesn’t hurt! 

Do you wax the bottom or top of a surfboard?

You want to wax the top, or the deck of your surfboard because this is the part of the board you lay, sit, and stand on. 

How often do you need to wax a surfboard?

Most surfers usually slap a little extra wax on their boards either before each time they paddle out, or every few times. 

If you surf regularly, it’s a good idea to fully strip the wax off your board and rewax it every month or so. I also recommend rewaxing your board before every surf trip.

Do I need surf wax?

If you’re riding a hard top/ fiberglass board, yes, you need surf wax, OR a traction pad. If you’re riding a foamie, you can go either way but I recommend a little wax even on the foamies. 

Surf wax tips

  • Carry a little piece of wax in your pocket for long sessions
  • Store your surfboard out of the sun so the wax doesn’t melt
  • While on the beach warming up, put your surfboard upside down

Why do surfers wax their boards- final thoughts

Surfboard wax is essential for surfing, and surfing would be pretty difficult without it! I hope this post has provided you with some useful insights on surf wax, and answered the question of “why do you wax surfboards.”

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