Posted on October 14, 2022 by Reed Naliboff
Waxing a surfboard is not rocket science, but that doesn’t mean that achieving the perfect wax job doesn’t require the right techniques and tools for the task. If you’ve ever wanted to know how to wax a surfboard the right way, you’ve come to the right place!
Surf wax is not a one-size-fits-all product, so be careful about what you purchase. There are different waxes depending on where you’ll be surfing and its physical environment. It’s the water temperature that will determine the type of wax you’ll want to buy for your top coat. In warm water, you want to use hard wax with a high melting temperature. In colder conditions, you’re looking for a softer wax with a low melting temperature. If you don’t use the right surf wax, you’ll be slipping and sliding all over the place. Follow the temperature guide listed on the surf wax package and you’ll be set.
Items you’ll need:
If you’re waxing a new surfboard, skip ahead to step three.
Leave your board with the wax exposed to the sun for about 5 minutes. Using the thin side of your wax comb or plastic scraper, make long straight lines up and down your board until you’ve removed your surf wax. If you don’t have enough sun to help melt your old wax, use a bit of liquid wax remover to help remove the excess wax.
You’ll want to apply wax indoors if possible. The friction you create while waxing causes heat, which can make your wax smear if you try to apply it in direct sunlight. There are two schools of thought when it comes to waxing a surfboard — the circle method and the criss-cross method. Waxing in a circular motion can be a bit more difficult to get started. However, I think waxing in small circles leads to more consistent bumps of wax. The criss-cross method is certainly the quickest way to go and that’s probably why most tour pros who go through dozens if not hundreds of boards each year use it. Either way, it’s more of an opinion or preference than a right or wrong way. So grab a comfy seat, put your board on your lap, and get ready to put in some elbow work.
The goal is to create an even distribution of “bumps”
Hold your bar of wax so the thinner side is touching the board. Using “very light pressure,” begin to rub the wax in small circles — slowly moving along the deck of your board with each new circle. Remember, this is just a base coat; you don’t want much more than a thin layer of wax at this stage.
Continue to put wax in circles on the board until you’ve covered the deck from rail to rail on the areas you’ll place your feet and where you’ll put your hands when you pop-up. For a longboard, this could mean the entire deck. For a shortboard, this could mean covering about two feet on the center of the board as well as the tail. If you’ve got some pressure dings that aren’t filing with wax, use the corner of the bar like a pencil get some wax where it needs to go.
Don’t go much thicker than this with your base coat
Hold your bar of wax so the thinner side is touching the board. Using “light pressure,” draw long diagonal lines across the deck of your board on the areas you’ll be standing and where you’ll put your hands when you pop-up. For a longboard, this could mean you’re making diagonal lines on the entire deck. For a shortboard, this could mean covering about two feet on the center of the board as well as the tail if you’re not using a traction pad.
Once your crosshatch is complete, fill in the squares with some “very light” circular motions. If you’ve got some pressure dings that aren’t getting filled, use the corner of the wax to apply it where it needs to go.
Crisscross (left) vs. circle method (right)
Regardless of the method you used to apply your base coat to the surface of your board, you’re going to want to apply your top coat of wax in small circles. The goal here is to create as many little bumps as possible, which is accomplished through light pressure and an even waxing motion. You’ll want to use about twice as much wax on the top coat as you did with the base coat. Once your board is good and covered, you’re officially out of excuses to not be surfing. So get out there!
Use the teeth of your wax comb to create extra grip
Now that you know how to wax a surfboard, have you asked yourself why wax a surfboard in the first place? The reason is simple. Surfboard wax is designed to help surfers maintain grip on their board. Without it, you will find it difficult to stand up and keep balance on your board, never mind doing any sort of tricks. For this reason, properly applying wax can be the difference between riding a wave and wiping out.
You’ll want to get your feet on some fresh wax every time you paddle out. For the first few surfs after a fresh coat, only apply a very thin coat to “freshen up” and keep a good grip. But once you’ve built up a decent layer, you can use your wax comb to scratch criss-cross lines on your board to expose some fresh wax for great grip. And if you find yourself at the beach without a bar of wax or a comb, don’t worry. Get into the water about knee deep and rub a handful of sand into your wet board’s wax to roughen up the surface.
“It depends” is the honest answer to that question. Some surfers love riding on a clean white coat of wax while others couldn’t care less about the looks. If you’re a shortboarder who surfs multiple times a week, you may want a fresh, thin coat of wax each month. But if you’re a longboarder who only surfs on the weekends when there’s some swell, you can probably surf on the same coat of wax until the temperature changes. Remember that wax adds weight, so you don’t want to pile it on too thick.
Looking to expand your surfing arsenal with a soft top that requires no wax? Check out ISLE’s selection of soft top surfboards for sale here. And if you're not quite sure what kind of board to get, we've got a guide to choosing a surfboard for beginners.
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