Why Do Surfers Wax Their Surfboards?

Why do surfers wax their surfboards?

Surfing is an activity that requires immense skill and balance, but what many people don’t realize is that it also requires a little bit of chemistry.

There’s one thing that all surfers must do before they hit the waves and that’s waxing their boards.

Sure it might look like a show-off move, especially when done at the beach and generally everything surfers do can look a bit show-offy, but waxing your surfboard is a practical thing to do.

This seemingly small detail can make all the difference in a successful ride or a wipeout and how you perform out on the water.

In this blog post, we’ll explore why surfers wax their boards and provide some tips on how to apply wax correctly.

We’ll also take a look at what kind of wax is best for different types of conditions so you can be sure you have the right setup every time.

Wax On, Wipeout Off — Benefits of Applying Wax on Surfboards

Surfers use wax on their surfboards to create a sticky surface that allows them to grip the board while riding waves.

Without wax, the board can become slippery and difficult to control, leading to wipeouts and (major) frustration.

It’s similar to how cars might slip on a wet or icy road without proper tires or chains. In both scenarios, traction is essential for maintaining control and avoiding accidents.

One of the benefits of waxing a surfboard is improved maneuverability. With a sticky surface, surfers can more easily shift their weight and adjust their position on the board, allowing them to perform more advanced maneuvers such as cutbacks and aerials.

Another benefit is increased speed as the wax reduces drag on the board, allowing surfers to ride faster and catch bigger waves.

And of course, wax helps prevent wipeouts by keeping the surfer’s feet firmly planted on the board.

As an example, imagine a surfer trying to catch a big wave without wax on their board. As the wave begins to carry them, their feet start to slip on the slick surface, and they lose their balance and fall off the board.

Now imagine the same surfer with a properly waxed board — as they ride the wave, their feet stay firmly planted on the board, allowing them to shift their weight and maintain control.

What Is Surf Wax Made Of?

Surf wax is like a secret potion that turns your surfboard into a sticky, grippy, wave-riding machine. But what’s actually in this magical substance?

Typically, surf wax is made from a blend of natural and synthetic materials. The primary ingredient is usually a type of paraffin wax, which is derived from petroleum.

Don’t worry — this isn’t the same stuff that you use to make candles or sealant. As you already know, surf wax is specially formulated to be water-resistant and tacky, so it can withstand the rigors of riding waves.

To create the perfect texture, surf wax manufacturers might add other ingredients like coconut oil, beeswax, or even tree sap.

These natural ingredients can help improve the wax’s stickiness and add a pleasant aroma.

Different Kinds of Surf Wax

The type of wax you use will depend on what kind of conditions you plan to surf in, usually different types of wax are designed essentially for different temperatures.

In order to differentiate between surf waxes, you should check the label or packaging to see which water temperatures they’re designed for.

Some waxes may have different colors or scents to help you distinguish between them.

Here’s a rundown of the most common types:

  • Cold Water Wax — Designed for water temperatures below 60°F (15°C). Extra sticky in cold water conditions
  • Cool Water Wax — Designed for water temperatures between 58-68°F (14-20°C). It’s a good all-around wax that can work in a variety of conditions but is particularly effective in moderately cold water.
  • Warm Water Wax — Designed for water temperatures between 64-74°F (18-23°C). Softer wax that provides a good grip in warmer water conditions.
  • Tropical Water Wax — Designed for water temperatures above 75°F (24°C). Extremely soft wax that provides maximum stickiness in hot water conditions.

Remember that it’s important to use the right wax for the water temperature you’ll be surfing in, as using the wrong wax can result in a slippery board and a frustrating surfing experience.

To ensure a solid grip on your surfboard, it’s important to select the right wax based on the time of year and the environmental temperature of your surfing location.

How to Wax a Surfboard?

Waxing your own board is easy enough for anyone. Start by cleaning off your board with some warm water, this will help remove any dirt or debris that could prevent the wax from sticking properly.

If you have already applied a surf wax before or there’s already wax on that surfboard (somehow), make sure to remove it first, we want to apply new wax.

Grab a bar of surf wax and rub it lengthwise across the board, covering the entire surface in a thin layer. This base coat will help the top layer of wax adhere to the board more easily.

Next, rub the surf wax in a circular motion across the board, applying a thick layer of wax to the deck. Use firm pressure and make sure to cover the entire surface of the board.

Once the wax is applied, use a wax comb or if you don’t have one, use the edge of a credit card to create a pattern in the wax. This will help improve the grip and traction of the wax.

There you have it, your board is waxed and ready to hold your feet in place while you’re riding the waves.

How Often Should You Reapply?

You should be able to tell when your wax is starting to wear off by looking at the board. If it looks faded and dull, then it’s time for some fresh wax.

Depending on how often you surf and the water temperature, you may need to reapply wax every few sessions.

Each time you wax your board, you should be sure to scrape off the old layer first before applying a new coat so essentially you’re starting fresh and the wax can stick properly.

Check out the above section each time you wax, to make sure the correct wax is being applied for the conditions.

If you’re surfing a lot in warm water, you may need to reapply wax more often than if you’re surfing in colder conditions.

You don’t necessarily need to wax your board every time you surf. If the water temperature is cold, you may not need to wax it as often (just make sure the wax is still in good condition and offers the necessary grip).

Every surfboard will be different though, so take a look at your board after each session, and if the wax looks like it’s starting to wear off, reapply a fresh layer.

Don’t be lazy, as you may slip off your board if the wax isn’t providing adequate grip. Doing this will help ensure that you get the most out of your surfing experience.


Waxing your surfboard is a crucial step in ensuring that you stay on your board and catch some sweet waves.

By choosing the right wax and applying it properly, you can have confidence in your grip and feel more in control of the water.

Waxing the proper way should be tailored to the water temperature you’ll be surfing in, as different waxes are designed to provide the right amount of grip in each temperature range.

Make sure to wax your board before each session in warm water and in every few sessions in cold water.

And finally remember, as the wise Mr. Miyagi once said, “Wax on, wax off”, be sure to keep that board waxed and shred those waves in style.