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How to Wax Your Surfboard

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

I’m so excited you want to learn more about how to wax your surfboard! I wrote the post I wish I’d read when I started surfing. We'll talk about why you wax your surfboard, what part of your surfboard to wax, what type of wax to use, and some of the other basics to help you get started.

So, why do you apply wax to your surfboard?

I’ll be honest. I didn’t understand the purpose of waxing your surfboard when I started surfing at 33. So if you don’t know what it’s for, you’re not alone! For the first few months, I dutifully applied wax to my soft top, knowing I was supposed to do that but not sure why. So, if you’re wondering why you apply wax to your board… it’s for the grip! So ya don’t slip.

What part of your board do you wax?

We wax the top of our boards, not the bottom. No dumb questions here! Now, where do we wax our boards? To put it simply, you want wax where your chest and feet will touch the board. But let’s get a little more technical. It depends on the board you’re using and how you’re going to be using it.

If you’re on a soft top, do you need to wax your board? The internet will say “Yes!” and “No!” Very adamantly. So really, if you’re on a soft top, you can wax your board if you feel like you need more grip. And if you don’t, then you don’t have to wax it. But there’s a special soft wax, so you totally can!

If you’re going to be riding a longboard, you’ll want to wax the whole thing- nose to tail. This is so you can freely move up and down the board, and do all that pretty cross-stepping, without slipping.

It’s a little bit more dealer's choice for mid-lengths and shortboards. Some people choose to wax the entire board (people have opinions! But keeping it simple here). Others choose to wax from the tail, up to the logo (or about three-quarters of the way up). So, as you learn your style, you’ll know what works for you.

What are the types of surfboard wax and when do I use them?

The harder the wax, the warmer the water, the softer the wax the colder the water. So here’s the basic guide (I'm using temps based on Sticky Bumps Wax, though brands may differ slightly, this is the general gist).

  • Basecoat wax: This wax isn’t temperature dependent. It provides the foundation (or base) for the top coat, ensuring the top coat adheres to the board.

  • All- Temperature wax: I’ve not used this type of wax specifically, but this is a convenient option that some surfers love. It works across a range of water temps including 58°F - 75°F | 14°C - 24°C

  • Cold water wax: For water temps below 60°F | 15°C Cool

  • Cool water wax: This happens to be what I use for most of the year in Southern California. For water temps 58°F - 68°F / 14°C - 19°C

  • Warm water wax: For water temps 64°F - 74°F / 18°C - 24°C.

  • Tropical water wax: Above 75°F (24°C)

How to remove old surfboard wax from your board

I wasn’t sure if this section should go before or after how to apply wax, but if you’re applying wax to an old board, and want to re-wax it you’ll have to clean it first. So here are a few tips on how to clean your board.

If it’s a warm day you’ll need:

Set your board out in direct sunlight for 5 minutes. Then, try to scrape it off using a wax comb. If it isn’t easily coming off, leave it for another 5 minutes and check again. It’s crazy how quickly the wax softens and how easy it is to remove, so if you’re struggling, let it soften a little more. From there you’ll want to wipe it down with a citrus-based cleaner to remove any excess wax.

If it’s a cold day you’ll need:

  • Warm Water

  • A hairdryer

  • Maybe a little more technical advice than I can provide here

If it’s cold, you’ll want to pour hot water on your board or use a hair dryer. But if this is the route you’re taking, make sure to get a little more guidance so you don’t damage your board. If you've got any tips on removing wax in cold conditions, please share them in the comments section, we love learning together!

How should I apply wax to my surfboard?

So now that you’ve cleaned your board:

You’ll start by applying a base coat. The base coat provides a foundation for the topcoat and ensures the top coat will stick to your board while giving a foundation for traction. There are a few ways to apply a base coat, but you want to start building your grip. One way is to apply crisscross lines up and down your board, then rub the wax in small circles, making sure every area you’re wanting wax on is evenly covered.

Then you’ll add the top coat.

What about those cool wax patterns, do they do anything?

Maybe a better way to say this is, does the way I apply wax matter? Yes. Applying wax in specific ways can help your grip, which improves performance. The way you apply wax can:

Add traction to your surfboard:

Applying wax in a pattern like circles or crisscross creates a texture on the deck of the board, adding traction.

Customizable grip:

Depending on what sort of grip you’d like, will impact the type of pattern you apply. You’ll learn this over time. More pronounced patterns give you a solid grip, and as you learn more about surfing you’ll discover if you prefer a solid grip or a softer one.

Efficient wax distribution:

Patterns help distribute the wax across your board, so it’s not all clumped in one spot!


Okay, so I see beautiful wax patterns, and always attempt them. But I’ve learned that my current skill level is at the crisscross lines, and it gets a nice distribution of wax across the board. But one day I’ll have beautiful circle patterns all over my board! (Go check out IG and get inspired).

How often should I wax my surfboard?

You’ll want to check your board before each session and typically apply a little wax each time. You’ll learn what you need and what feels good for you as you go.

If the water temp changes, you may have to rewax your board. But here’s how it works. You can put cold water wax over warm and cool wax, but not the other way around. The hard wax will scrape off the soft wax.

How often should I clean and rewax my surfboard?

Everyone says you should rewax your board every 2-3 months, but you should ask a local surfer how often they rewax their board. The general rule is you don’t want to apply new wax over sand or a layer of wax that has lost its gripiness. What I’m trying to say is, some people rewax their board more often, some less. Just find what works for you!

What brand of surfboard wax should I buy?

Okay, so…. Wax wax wax. Who knew there was so much you could say about wax? But here we get into what type of wax to buy. This isn’t an affiliate post, I’m not being paid for these recommendations. I’ve also only tried one wax, and stuck with it since it worked for me. So, what brand should you buy?

I use Sticky Bumps. I love the wax and they ensure that “Every part of the wax-making process is eco-friendly, making no waste. Everything is reused and recycled. And when you're finished, Sticky Bumps biodegrades through an emulsifying process, sending it right back to the environment from which it came.”

Other brands to check out include:

You’ll also find awesome local brands like Saba Suf, which is one of the all temperature wax’s, and hand poured in Venice Beach, CA.

So, the type of wax you choose depends on what’s important to you. But these brands can get you going in the right direction.

Now, go surf!

Now that you know all the basics to get started, go wax that board and catch those waves!

surfboard wax, surf wax

Disclosure: We only endorse things we've personally used or come highly recommended by trusted peers. If you grab anything we mention using our referral links, know there is no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, Surfista Co. LLC earns from qualifying purchases.

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