“What does the wax do?”
Surfboards are designed to be smooth and hydrodynamic, which is perfect for gliding through the water. But this slickness makes the board almost impossible to lie on (or stand on!) without slipping off! Surfboards need enough grip to enable the rider to have control of the board while paddling around and especially for when the rider is on their feet.
So to find a solution, surfers experimented with all sorts of things. Back in the days of wooden surfboards (early 1900′s) it was common practice for shapers to sprinkle sand onto the wet varnish to provide grip for the rider. This worked pretty well, but came with a big downside – imagine how brutal it would be lying bare-chested on sandpaper! SO in 1935 surfers discovered that paraffin floor wax provided good traction without the nasty side-effect of removing your nipples! The simple floor wax has since been refined by several companies into hundreds of different varieties to suit every water temperature and surf craft.
So, what does the wax do? Waxing the board gives you more grip without slicing your body to pieces!
“What’s the best way to wax a board?”
There is no special trick to the perfect wax job, it’s usually just a case of not making any obvious waxing errors because wax does have a few downsides. It gets dirty, it melts, it gets stuck to everything and you never have a block of wax when you need one! So to make sure you stay stuck to your board you, need a good bit of wax management.
The 10 Wax Rules
1. Wax is for the deck (top of the board where you lie/stand on the board) not for the bottom, it will not make you go faster!!
2. Make sure the wax you’re using is for the right water temperature. Cold water wax will not work well in warm water (ends in a sticky mess) and warm water wax will not work well in cold water (not enough grip). If you want the perfect wax job try using a bit of base coat (hard wax) to build up nice grippy bumps before you put on a softer top coat so it’s nice and sticky.
3. Clean the wax off periodically to keep you board clean and light. Invest in a wax pickle (google them, amazing things). Wax goes bad after a while and a large build up is only making your board heavier.
4. Wax more of the deck than you think you need too. If you plan on nose riding…wax all the way to the nose. Shortboarders make sure you wax farther in front of where your front foot normally is – this will be usefull for landing rotation airs or moving forward in barrels (even if this seems like a pipe dream…it’s best to be prepared just in case!).
5. When travelling with boards it’s easy to get wax on the bottom of your board, use a wax comb or pickle and keep the bottom of your board clean. Make sure your boards are ready to go as fast as possible because you never know how soon the waves will be pumping!
6. There’s nothing worse than having a session ruined because you don’t have enough wax. Always keep a small chunk of wax in your boardies (or a whole bar in the car) for emergency top-ups.
7. There are 2 types of surfers, ones that always have wax and ones that never do. Make sure you’re not the one wandering the beach and wasting time asking everyone if they have any spare wax. But also don’t forget, that sharing is caring – when you see that desperate surfer racing up and down the beach, be their hero!
8. Keep your boards out of the heat and out of direct sunlight. A perfect wax job can turn to an icky mess in minutes if you leave your board wax-up to the sun (the same thing happens with boards in a hot car).
9. There is no trick to choosing wax just make sure it’s for the right water temperature and if you like the smell, buy it! You may find that there is a particular brand you prefer that works well in one ocean and not another (or this may just be in the mind!). Avoid coloured waxes – even though they look cool, they can stain your board!
10. This is the most important one. Always, always, always give your board a quick rub with wax before you enter the surf. This eliminates a classic excuse for poor performance before you even enter the water!