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December 02, 2021 8 min read

How to Wax a Surfboard

Man in a wetsuit waxing his surfboard

If you’re new to the surfing world and are unsure how to wax your surfboard correctly, we’ve got you covered. We may also give some refreshing tips for even the most advanced surfers. Follow the guidelines below to ensure you’re waxing your board flawlessly every time. 

Surfboard wax is essential as it gives you a tight grip and creates traction for your feet on your board. The wax also stops you from slipping off when you’re paddling out to the waves. 

Before we get started, we need to quickly cover the wax you’ll be using. There are two layers of wax that you need to apply to your board: a base coat and a topcoat. 

Your basecoat will be the first layer of wax. This coat, which is usually harder, ultimately holds down your topcoat and will help you keep your balance whilst surfing. 

Once your basecoat is completed, the topcoat will be applied in a gentle circular motion, and you will see the bumps created by your basecoat become more noticeable and prominent. 

Follow These Five Steps to Wax Your Surfboard

Woman in a bikini waxing a surfboard

Firstly, you will need: 

  • A wax comb
  • One bar of basecoat or tropical water wax
  • One bar of temperature appropriate wax
  • A clean towel or paper towels

Step One: Clean Your Board

Make sure the surface of your board is clean and tidy. If your board is new, give it a quick wipe over with a towel to ensure there is no dust or dirt present. If you’re re-waxing an existing board, make sure you remove all wax residue from your board and wipe it clean with a towel. There are tips for wax removal at the end of this article. 

Step Two: Find a Flat Surface

Before starting the waxing process, make sure your board is on a firm, padded surface like a carpeted floor. Check there aren’t any objects or bumps underneath that could damage the underside of your board during the waxing process. 

Step Three: Wax Technique

Waxing a surfboard

Let’s take a look at the different waxing techniques you might use when you come to wax your surfboard.

Crosshatch Technique

There are 2 techniques that work best for waxing your surfboard. First, we will talk about the crosshatch technique. 

Using the crosshatch technique, you will make diagonal lines with the basecoat wax. If you have a longboard, you will wax up the entire board, and for short boards you will focus on the working foot sections and where your hands would be placed. Add extra sections in case you need to move your feet for any reason. 

Start your line from the side of the board and bring it diagonally to the center, applying a medium amount of pressure. Pushing too hard can lead to over-application, and light pressure won’t give you the level of grip you need. 

Once you have completed these lines up the board, repeat the process in the opposite direction, creating a crosshatch design. Then repeat the process on the other side of your surfboard. 

Using the side of your wax, work in circular motions along your crosshatch pattern to create bumps. Keep the circles small until you see prominent bumps appear. 

Circle Method Technique

The second technique is the circle method. Take the thinner side of your wax and, with light pressure, rub the wax over the board in small circles. Apply the wax until the surface of the board is covered from rail to rail.

Short boards need wax in the center and at the tail of the board where your feet will go. Longboards, however, may need to be waxed up the entire deck.

Step Four: Apply Your Topcoat

Once you have created bumps on the sections where your feet and hands will be placed whilst surfing, you will need to apply your topcoat. Use a small circular motion. If you don’t see bumps on your board, you haven’t finished and may need to apply more wax. No bumps mean there won’t be enough traction. 

Step Five: Wax the Sides of Your Board

Run the wax down the sides of the board where you would place your hands for a duck dive to give you extra grip and to stop your hands from slipping. 

When and How to Remove Your Surfboard Wax

Surf boards with bluefin on the sand

A popular misconception is you need to completely re-wax your board every time you surf. It’s advised to apply a light topcoat of wax before you surf or when you feel you’re losing traction with the board. 

If you feel you don’t need to apply a new topcoat, but the wax on your board is looking a little flat, use a wax comb to mark diagonal lines in the existing wax. This helps roughen up the wax and makes it sticky for your next surf. 

Try Sand and Sun

There are a few ways to remove the wax from your board. Some surfers find covering their boards with sand and leaving it for a few minutes loosens the wax from the board and makes it easy to take off. 

Leaving your board in the sun can also melt the wax, making it easy to remove with a wax comb or credit card. Be careful that you aren’t leaving your board in the sun for too long as it could damage it. 

Flour Can Remove Surfboard Wax

Another strange way surfers have found to remove wax is with flour. Place your board in the sun and allow the wax to melt. Generously sprinkle flour over the melted wax and wait for it to settle. You will then be able to use tissue paper to remove the wax. It can get messy, so make sure you’re in an appropriate environment and work the wax towards the middle of the board. 

The most effective way is to use a wax comb. Wax combs remove wax from all types of boards and are easy to use. Take your wax comb and run it down the surface of the board until your board is smooth and no wax is present. Then take a cloth or towel and wipe your board clean. 

If your wax is particularly hard and you’re having trouble removing it then you can also purchase a liquid wax remover. It will help soften the wax and make removal easier. Take the wax remover and rub it over your board with an old towel or T-shirt. 

Making sure your board is as clean as possible is crucial as you don’t want wax residue interfering with your fresh coat.

Choosing the Right Wax for Your Surfboard

Surfboard under the sun

If you’re new to surfing, it may not be common knowledge to you that different products or brands only work well in certain temperatures. Where you will be surfing will decide what type of wax you’ll be needing. 

Tropical 

Waters that are 75 degrees and above will require you to use a tropical wax. Tropical waxes are designed to withstand hotter temperatures, and they won’t melt away in direct sunlight or when it gets hot outside. These waxes are usually harder and have a high melting temperature. 

Warm

If you’re surfing in water temperatures between 66 and 78 degrees, you’ll need to use a warm water wax. Warm water waxes aren’t made to stand hot temperatures and could melt if the climate conditions aren’t correct. 

Cool

Cool surf waxes are used in temperatures ranging from 58 to 68 degrees. A general rule is the colder the water, the more wax you will need to apply, so take this into account if you’re surfing in cool or cold temperatures. 

Cold

In temperatures 60 degrees or below, then you should use a cold-water wax. Coldwater waxes keep maximum grip when the temperatures are low. You need to store these waxes carefully, so make sure you’re reading the storage instructions. 

Typically, the surf stores wherever you are will stock surf waxes specifically for the water temperature in the area. Choosing a surf wax you love can be trial and error, as not every surfer likes the same thing. 

A good way to choose which wax to use is to ask for recommendations from surf shops or ask local surfers. If you live in an area where the water temperature fluctuates, then you’ll be needing to switch your wax seasonally.

If you’re traveling and taking your board with you, then be sure you’re researching the water temperatures in the country you’re visiting. You may need to strip the wax off your board and apply a fresh coat for your upcoming trip.  

Traction Pads

Traction pads can also be a great way to have some grip on your board. They’re beneficial for short boards or where your foot placement is important. The most common types of traction pads are tail pads. They are at the foot of your board and help stop your feet from slipping off the back. They also do a great job of reminding you of where your feet need to be placed.

What to Do When Wax Gets on Your Clothes

Two women preparing their surf boards

It happens, and before you panic, there are a couple of ways you can fix this problem. Put your clothing item in the freezer to harden any wax. You should be able to scrape most of the wax off after this step. 

If there are any stains left from the wax, take a paper towel and place it under and on top of the stain. Get an iron on a low-level heat and iron over the paper towel. You will see the towel soak up the wax residue. Once most of the wax has been removed, soak your clothes in an oxygen-based stain remover overnight. Finally, wash the piece of clothing as you normally would, and it should be as good as new! 

Surfing is an extremely fun and rewarding sport, so making sure you're well equipped and ready to go is important. You need to be taking proper care of your board and surf equipment and checking it regularly. 

FAQ’S

🏆 Where do you put the wax on a surfboard?

When waxing a short board, apply wax to the tail and about two feet on the center of the board. You can also apply wax to where your hands would be placed when performing a duck dive or pop-up. 

For longboards, apply wax to the entire deck of the board. 

A great rule to remember is to apply wax to the working foot zones of the board and apply wax from rail to rail. 


👍 How long does surf wax last?

Surf wax in bar form doesn’t expire. 

If the wax is on the board, eventually over time it will become a smooth grey blob and would need to be replaced. 


🏝️ Do you need a base coat to wax a surfboard?

Base coat wax is the primer that holds your top coat down and will help you gain traction when surfing. 

Having a base coat of wax is a personal preference. However, most surfers prefer having a base coat as it gives you more grip and stops your top coat from moving around on your board. 


❓ What dissolves Surf Wax?

Leaving your board in the sun for ten to fifteen minutes will help soften the wax and make it easy to remove with a wax comb.

Alternatively, you can use a hairdryer on small sections and scrape the wax off before moving on to the next. 

Wax removers and flour are also great ways to remove wax. 


📦 How often should I wax my surfboard?

If you live in a country with 4 seasons, you at least need to be re-waxing your board 4 times a year to accommodate for the temperature change. This also applies if you’re taking your board on a trip where the temperature differs from the one you are currently in. 

Depending on how often you surf, you may want to completely strip your board of wax and start over, as it can become dirty or lose its grip. The amount you reapply wax is a personal preference, and every surfer is different.

Megan Bryant
Megan Bryant

Based in Bali, her favorite SUP spot is the GILI Islands themselves. Travel is another passion of hers - she dreams to see the entire world one day.


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