How to apply surf wax?

Surf wax is for the deck of the board, and keeps surfers from slipping off and falling. It creates grip and traction, which are much needed when surfing. For this reason, properly applying wax can be the difference between riding a wave and wiping out. Don’t worry, waxing a board is relatively simple, but can be a challenge to the inexperienced surfers. There aren’t really any instructions on the bars of surf wax, so beginners are often left wondering how they’re going to do it. However, once you do it a few times, you won’t even have to think about it.

In this article, we’ll explain how to put on the basecoat, follow it with the topcoat, comb it up and also how to remove it properly. There are several surf wax brands. It’s important to get the right wax for the temperature of the water you’re going to be surfing in. If you get a cold water wax but you’re surfing in warm water, the wax is going to melt right off. Harder wax has a higher melting temperature, and softer wax has a lower melting temperature. Wax companies make several different grades of wax.

Grades of Surf Wax

Basecoat — It’s the hardest wax. In some very hot climates this is the only wax that won’t melt.

Tropical — For 75 F degree water and above

Warm — 64 – 74 F degree water

Cool — 58 – 68 F degree water

Cold — 60 F degrees and below

How To Apply

First of all, apply the basecoat in the shade, never under the sun. If you are using a longboard, wax the entire topside of the board from nose to tail and edge to edge. If you are using a shortboard, wax the topside of the board from the front logo to the back edge – about two thirds of the length – and from edge to edge. There are a couple different techniques to apply the basecoat, as follows:

Circle pattern

Rub the wax onto the board in small circles, moving up and down the board until bumps start forming.

how to apply surf wax

applying surf wax

Straight line pattern

Rub the wax onto the board in straight lines up and down the board, parallel to the rocker.

wax applying - straigh pattern

wax applying – straigh pattern

Crosshatch pattern

Rub the wax onto the board on a diagonal, and then perpendicular to that diagonal, completing a crosshatch pattern.

wax applying for surfers

wax combing

Most importantly, use the edge of the wax stick, not the flat side. Apply until there is a bumpy coat, you don’t want a smooth sheet of wax since that can be almost as slippery as no wax. Your topcoat will adhere to these little bumps. Depending on the size of your board, you may need to use an entire stick of wax in order to get the basecoat right.

After the basecoat

apply your temperature wax. Wax over the entirety of the area you just covered with base coat. To be safe, try using a different-colored topcoat wax than your basecoat. If your topcoat wax is the same color as your basecoat it will be harder to tell where you have applied it, so be sure to wax in one direction if this is the case.

Combing the Wax

Now it is time to comb the wax. Run your wax comb through the wax on your board. Run it in diagonal crosshatch lines to rough up the wax and allow you to grip to your board even better. Be sure to run it through all of the wax on the board. Use the wax comb each time you surf if you haven’t applied a new topcoat. Sometimes, your wax will get flat and lose some of its traction. If you don’t want to apply a new layer of topcoat, take the comb-side of your comb and make a crosshatch pattern using diagonal scrapes.

It is always good to remove the wax entirely from time to time, to reapply a new layer. It loses its grip after some surf sessions, and you don’t want too much weight from excessive  wax on your board. Removing the wax is easier than you *might think. Surf wax is really messy and sticky, so start by getting some old newspaper or plastic bags to cover the floor where you’re going to lay the surfboard.

Put your board on something firm but soft. Take out the fins if possible. Leave the board in the sun for a half hour, or if it’s cold and cloudy, give it a quick once over with a hairdryer. Then take your wax comb or another firm plastic straightedge (no metal). As you will see, the wax comes off in thin scrapings. Now you can collect the wax in a ball and throw it in the garbage before it gets all over everything. Wash your hands with hot water to get the entire residue off. For that, use a surf wax remover. Nevertheless, it’s very smelly and isn’t necessary if you’re going to put wax right back on. Wax remover is good for getting the wax off of a ding for repair or for putting on an adhesive deck grip.

Talking about adhesive deck grip, some people prefer to use them instead of wax. Maybe 90% of the surfers do use traction pads on the tail block (back foot) and wax on the front foot. Only a few opt for traction pads on their front foot. If you do so, always use a rash guard or t-shirt to protect your skin front it, as the pads are really abrasive and can cause bruises and rashes.

Last tips:

  • Keep a few bars of wax in a small plastic baggy for your sessions;
  • Refresh your surf wax with a quick once over before every session;
  • Surf wax makes a nice air freshener, but don’t leave bars sitting on the seat or dashboard in your car during the summer. It’s almost guaranteed to melt;
  • Don’t chew your wax;
  • Wax melts very fast in the sun if it’s not in the water. If you’re taking a break and laying down on the beach, keep your board face down, even better if you have a board cover, so the sand won’t stick to the wax. It gets rubbed into the bar when you apply more wax. Moreover, sand is really abrasive to your skin;
  • Buy wax in sets. It’s only a dollar, and you’ll get mad at yourself for not picking up a few more bars when you run out.
  • Tropical surf wax might not melt in cold temperatures, but it won’t give you much traction. Use the right temperature!

Do you want a practical lesson about how to apply wax? Check out our surf lessons in San Diego and learn more with our instructors.