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Why Do Surfers Wax Their Surfboards? 4 Key Benefits Explained
  • Author: Bargains Online

  • Date Posted:28 May 2024

Ever wondered, “Why do surfers wax their surfboards?” Find the answers in this surf wax guide. Keep your surfboard looking great & ready for the waves.

Ever watched a surfer gliding effortlessly across a wave and wondered, "How do they stay on the board?" Surfing looks magical, but there's some science behind that smooth ride. 

One key ingredient to their success? Surfboard wax.

So, why do surfers wax their surfboards?  It's not just an accessory; it's a necessity. It helps surfers stay on their boards, offering grip and stability. 

In this article, we're diving deep into the sticky truth about surfboard wax and cover four key benefits that make this wax so essential. From enhancing grip to boosting confidence, you'll discover why this small addition to your board can make a big difference in your surfing experience.

The sticky truth – why do surfers wax their surfboards? 

The primary purpose of surfboard wax is to give you traction. Without it, the board would be as slippery as a bar of soap, making it nearly impossible to stand or manoeuvre.

When you apply wax to your surfboard, it creates a sticky surface that helps your feet grip the board. Whether you're executing sharp turns or maintaining your stance during a ride, your wax is what keeps you connected to your board.

But what are some of the key benefits of waxing your board? Let’s take a look at the top four.

Benefit #1 — better grip, better control

Imagine trying to surf on a board that's as slippery as a freshly waxed floor. Sounds impossible, right? 

That's why surfboard wax is important— it’s what keeps your feet firmly planted, giving you the control you need to master the waves.

With a well-waxed board, every movement you make is more precise. The enhanced grip means your feet stay in place, allowing you to shift your weight and adjust your stance without slipping. 

This control is important for performing manoeuvres like bottom turns, cutbacks, and even more advanced tricks. The better the grip, the better you can execute these movements.

Improved grip even helps with movements as simple as paddling out. As you paddle, you need to stay balanced on your board. Wax makes sure your body doesn’t slide off, making your paddling more efficient and less tiring. This means you can reach the lineup faster and have more energy for catching waves.

Benefit #2 — stay safe on the waves

Safety is important when it comes to any kind of exercise, whether it’s running on a treadmill or breaking a sweat on an electric bike. But surfing? It requires a different level of safety entirely.

One of the most common hazards of the sport is slipping off the board. A sudden slip can lead to painful falls and injuries.

Other common surfing injuries also include:

  • Lacerations like cuts and scrapes
  • Sprains
  • Dislocations and fractures
  • Swimmer’s ear and surfer’s ear

By preventing slips, wax minimises the chances of losing your balance and falling off the board. This is crucial not just for your safety but also for maintaining your confidence on the waves.

In short, a good wax job can mean the difference between a series of frustrating wipeouts and an enjoyable day out on the water. By prioritising surfing safety with wax, surfers can focus on what they love most: riding the waves.

A surfer expertly rides a wave. “Why do surfers wax their surfboards?” — to maintain grip and stability.

Benefit #3 — prolonging your board life

Surfboards aren't cheap (unless you buy one from us, of course). No matter how much you spend, you’ll no doubt want to take good care of your gear and prolong the life of your board. 

A well-maintained wax job can do exactly that. Surf wax acts as a protective layer, shielding the board from scratches, dings, and other minor abrasions. It fills in small imperfections on the board's surface, preventing them from turning into bigger issues. 

Surfboard wax can even help prevent water damage. 

We know surfboards getting damaged by water sounds…odd. But it does happen. Small cracks can allow water to seep into the board, weakening it over time and leading to costly repairs.

A properly waxed board minimises this risk by creating a barrier that repels water. This is important for boards with foam cores, which are particularly vulnerable to water damage.

Maintaining your board with regular waxing can also save you money in the long run. By protecting your board from damage, you won’t need to worry about frequent repairs or replacements.

Benefit #4 — boosted confidence

Whether you're a beginner catching your first wave or an experienced surfer attempting advanced manoeuvres, confidence is a huge part of surfing. 

When your board is properly waxed, you know it will provide the grip and stability you need. This peace of mind lets you focus on your technique and the waves, instead of worrying about slipping off. 

The mental aspect of surfing is just as important as the physical. If you're constantly worried about slipping, it can be hard to stay mentally in the zone. When your board is properly waxed, you know it will provide the grip and stability you need.

This peace of mind lets you focus on your technique and the waves, instead of worrying about slipping off. This can make a particularly big difference when you're learning new skills or tackling challenging conditions.

Types of surf wax & choosing the right one

There are three main types of surf wax. Understanding the differences and when to use each one will help you maintain your surfboard in the long run. 

Basecoat wax

The basecoat is the foundation layer of wax. It's applied directly to the clean surface of the board and is typically harder than topcoat wax. 

The primary function of the basecoat is to create a durable, textured layer that helps the topcoat adhere better. Think of it as laying a solid groundwork that ensures your grip is long-lasting and effective.

Topcoat wax

The topcoat is applied over the basecoat. It's softer and stickier, providing the actual grip that keeps your feet planted on the board. 

Together, a hard basecoat and a soft topcoat make your board both durable and grippy — a perfect combination.

Temperature-specific waxes

Surf waxes are also formulated for different water temperatures. Using the right temperature-specific wax ensures it performs correctly without melting off or becoming too hard. 

  • Cold water wax for temperatures below 60°F (15°C) – This wax remains soft and sticky in cold conditions.
  • Cool water wax for temperatures between 58°F and 68°F (14°C to 20°C) – This balances softness and stickiness.
  • Warm water wax for temperatures between 64°F and 74°F (18°C to 24°C) – This wax is harder to prevent melting in warmer waters.
  • Tropical water wax for temperatures above 75°F (24°C) – It’s the hardest wax, designed to stay solid and effective in hot conditions.

Choosing the right wax

The right surf wax depends on the water temperature where you'll be surfing and the specific needs of your board. Start with a basecoat to create a solid foundation. 

Then, choose a topcoat that matches the water temperature. If you’re going to ride in cold or cool water, use softer waxes that stay sticky in lower temperatures. On the other hand, go for harder waxes that won’t melt off in the heat if you’re surfing warm and tropical water.

It's also a good idea to experiment with different brands and types to find the one that feels right for you.

How to wax a surfboard — a step-by-step guide
Now that you know why it’s so important to wax your board, let’s take a look at how to do it.

Step 1 — prep your board

Begin by assembling your tools:

  • A wax comb or scraper
  • Wax remover (optional)
  • Clean cloth or paper towels
  • Basecoat wax
  • Topcoat wax (appropriate for the water temperature)

Having these tools and materials ready will make the waxing process smooth and efficient.

Next, make sure your board is clean and dry. Any dirt, sand, or old wax can prevent the new wax from adhering properly. Use a wax comb or a scraper to remove any old wax. 

If the wax is particularly stubborn, you can use a bit of warm water or a wax remover solution to clean the surface thoroughly.

Step 2 — apply the basecoat

Once your board is clean and dry, it’s time to apply the basecoat. This layer provides the foundation for your topcoat, helping it stick well.

Here’s how to apply the basecoat:

  • Start with the rails and tail.
    Apply the wax to the edges (rails) and tail of the board. Use small, circular motions to create an even layer of wax. 
  • Cover the deck.
    Move on to the main deck of the board. Continue using small, circular motions to apply the wax evenly across the entire surface.
  • Build up a texture.
    The goal is to create a bumpy texture that will hold the topcoat. Don't be afraid to apply a bit of pressure to ensure the wax adheres well to the board.

Step 3 — add the topcoat

With the basecoat in place, it's time to add the topcoat. This layer provides the stickiness that keeps your feet glued to the board.

Follow these steps for the topcoat:

  • Apply over the basecoat.
    Using the same small, circular motions, apply the topcoat over the basecoat. The basecoat's bumps will help the topcoat grip better.
  • Focus on key areas.
    Pay special attention to the areas where your feet will be most of the time, such as the tail and the middle.
  • Create the right texture.
    Use a bit of pressure to build up the topcoat, ensuring it’s evenly distributed and has a sticky, textured feel.

Before each surf session, check your board and add a bit more topcoat if necessary to keep the grip fresh and effective.

A surfer kneels on the beach, applying wax to his surfboard. This image illustrates one answer to “Why do surfers wax their surfboards?” with that answer being: to ensure better grip and control.

When and how to remove surfboard wax

Remember what we said in step 1 of the board-cleaning process? Sometimes, an important step in maintaining your board is removing old surf wax. 

Here are some telltale signs that it’s time for a clean slate of surf wax:

  • Discolouration
    If your wax has turned yellow or brown, it’s likely accumulated dirt and grime. This not only looks unsightly but also reduces the effectiveness of the wax.
  • Dirt buildup
    Visible dirt and debris embedded in the wax can compromise its texture and grip. If your board feels gritty or looks dirty, it's time for a refresh.
  • Loss of grip
    If you notice your feet slipping more often or the board feels slick instead of sticky, the wax has likely worn down and needs replacing.

Regularly checking your board for these signs will help you maintain the best possible traction and performance.

Removing old wax from your surfboard is a straightforward process, but doing it correctly is crucial to avoid damaging your board. 

Follow these steps for safe and effective wax removal:

  • Warm the wax
    Place your board in the sun for a few minutes or use a hairdryer to gently warm the wax. This softens the wax, making it easier to scrape off.
  • Scrape off the wax
    Use a wax comb or a plastic scraper to remove the softened wax. Start at one end and work your way across the board, using the flat edge of the comb to lift off large sections of wax. Remember: be gentle! You don’t want to scratch the board’s surface.
  • Clean the residue
    After most of the wax is removed, there will likely be some residue left on the board. Use a soft cloth or paper towel with a bit of wax remover or coconut oil to wipe away any remaining bits. 
  • Final rinse
    Rinse the board with fresh water and dry it thoroughly with a clean towel. This removes any leftover wax remover or oil, ensuring the surface is clean for the new wax application.

This simple maintenance routine keeps your board in top condition, ready for your next surfing adventure.

Wax on, wipe out less

Putting wax on your surfboard might seem like a little thing, but it's actually important for catching waves. 

It enhances grip for better control, reduces the risk of slipping and falls and prolongs the life of your board. It also protects your board and makes you feel more confident out there on the water.

Each of these benefits contributes to a safer, more enjoyable surfing experience, whether you're catching your first wave or well on your way to mastering complex manoeuvres.

So, next time you prepare for a surf, take a few extra minutes to wax your board properly. It's a small effort that pays off in big ways.

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