How to Wax a Surfboard (Even if you Have Before)

Like a lot of surfers, I’ve waxed a surfboard or two. But, I have to admit I don’t think I do the best job. I’ve slipped off a board a few times, and that’s not including my regular wipeouts….
So, I thought it would be interesting to make a research project of waxing a surfboard, since I needed to wax up my new funshape. I went to several websites that came up on a Google search, like Instructables, Surf Science, Sharkbait, etc. to find out what they had to say. I wanted to go about this like I’ve never even heard of wax- starting from no knowledge- which isn’t a stretch. From what I found, this is the method I thought captured the best of the advice given.
First, it seems obvious, but I removed any metal rings and bracelets I had on. Metal can scratch up a nice finish on a board without even knowing it. Also, I made sure I had a nice stable surface to work on, in and area where I could get a little wax on floor, so I set up 2 sawhorses with traction padding on the top edge as a non-slip support.

I started with a new board, but if I wanted to, I could strip all the wax off another one, and use a cleaner to take off the remainder. You can use acetone as a harsh wax leavin’ remover, but if you’re just rewaxing, I’ve used some degreaser which works well enough to remove the remaining residue:

To start, I tried to determine on this funshape the area I wanted to wax. I knew I wanted to wax all the way back to the tail, but I wasn’t sure how far up I wanted to wax to the front. I wanted a continuous wax job all the way up, since I’m never consistent where I place my feet when I pop up, but I didn’t want to wax all the way up since I won’t be doing any noseriding….well, at least not on purpose. I ended up putting a mark with some wax about where I thought my shoulders would be when I am paddling and made that the stopping point:
From what I had read, I gathered the following types of wax, most of which I was given at the surf shop where I got the board, so luckily, this worked out.
The different types of wax I used
I’ll go through each layer I used in order.
1. Basecoat
    Contrary to what I’ve always been told in the past, I read that cold water wax does not make the best basecoat. In fact, the founder of Sticky Bumps said that warm/tropical temperature water wax can be used successfully in all water temperatures, but cold water wax cannot, and should only be used in cold water conditions. I also found it interesting that I read that you needn’t use the labeled “Basecoat” wax, that Tropical Temp wax will serve as a good basecoat, so I decided to use that. I used Sex Wax Tropical Temp 6x Extra Hard Blue Label as the basecoat.
Recommendations varied on how to apply the basecoat. There has always been the “tip to tail, rail to rail” method. From what I could gather, many just glossed over by saying that the wax should be applied in long vertical strokes down the board, then long horizontal strokes across the board, followed by random circling of the wax to fill in spots.
I read I different approach I decided to try out. Instead of long strokes, it claimed, use shorter strokes. This prevents smearing the wax due to heating the wax from the friction of a long stroke. The “tic-tac-toe” method recommends to make short strokes (I made mine about 3-4″ long) in a tic-tac-toe pattern, or like a checkerboard. This prevented me from dragging the wax along for too long since I had to keep lifting the wax from the board:
Another thing I remembered was to use I light hand when applying the wax. This certainly made a difference, and made the bumps appear more quickly without as much smearing. This process did take a while, but I’m hoping that it will create a better basecoat. I used the edge of the round cake of wax, until it was blunt, then flipped it over to use the other side. I found pushing the wax away from me on strokes left better “bumps” than pulling it towards me, however, I had to be careful not to grind the scraping chunks that came off into the board and cause unevenness.
Using both edges of the cake of wax
Here is the first pass completed:
First pass of basecoat
Again, I used the same method for the second pass, being careful to try not to overlap areas I had already done, so I could fill in the empty spots:
Second pass of basecoat completed
I went back and did this a third time, this time spending a bit of extra time on the tail of the board for two reasons: first, the fabric panel made the wax pattern harder to see if I put enough on, and second, the tail is an area you want more wax than less.
Here is the third pass:
I did go over the rails a bit to give me a little grip if needed while paddling out, or if I needed to retrieve my board. One website said that the only people who need to worry about wax on their rails slowing down their board already have someone to wax their boards for them. Very true.
1st Diagonal pass of basecoat

I did the same thing going from top left to bottom right in short strokes along the board, making little “x”‘s all over the board:

2nd Diagonal pass of basecoat

I did this two more times to build up this layer. Next, I followed the same short stroke concept when doing the circular part of the application, but I applied the wax in small motions like little apostrophe’s all over the board. I made the first pass from the left side of the board, then went to the right side of the board and did this pattern again. I repeated that once more. While I was working, I noticed the wax cake had become quite soft in my hot little hand, so I ran it under some cool water to firm it up again to prevent smearing as much as possible.
Here is the completed basecoat layer:

Completed basecoat layer

2. Cold Water Wax Layer

    I thought this was a bit strange after I has read that cold water wax can only be used in cold conditions successfully, but since this layer will be sandwiched between two warm water layers, I thought I’d try it. The rationale, I think, is to give some separation to the layers, and lengthen the wear out period. Or it just may be a way to move cold water wax out of inventory, who knows. I used Sticky Bumps Cool in the blue wrapper.
I used the exact same method that I had used before, but since this wax could break in half, creating two rough sides, I had read this makes an excellent surface for building up bumps:
Breaking the wax in half to create a rough surface
I used the rough surface, and it worked beautifully. Since my wax passes would be hard to see , I decided to pick a section and do all passes over that section, then move on to the next, sort of like mowing the lawn:
Left side is completed cool wax layer, right side is to come.
Here is the completed cool/cold wax layer on top of the basecoat:
Cold Water layer on top of basecoat
3. Top Layer- Warm/Tropical Temperature Wax (Florida)
    At this point, I’ve finally gotten to the top layer, which I’m using warm water wax on for now, since we’re in Florida. I used Sex Wax 5x Warm Water Wax orange label.
Using the same short stroke method as before, I put about 3 passes of this wax on, being sure to concentrate on the tail area especially.
Completed top layer
4. Single Pass with the Wax Comb
    As much as I hated to mess up my work, many sites recommended finishing up with a pass with a wax comb. Only plastic or rubber wax combs are recommended (do they make any other type?) to prevent scratching the glass. I did use long strokes for this working in the diagonal in one direction first, then the other direction diagonally, forming little diamond cuts into the wax all over the board:
After making diagonal passes with the wax comb
5. Super Duper Sticky Top Coat
    Okay, so this was another freebie from the surf shop that I was curious to try. It’s marketed as super sticky, and meant to be used as as super light layer of topcoat over your regular topcoat. I had to laugh when it says in fine print “not for beginners”. Excellent marketing. Since in my mind, I surf like Layne Beachley, I thought that would suffice. It’s Sex Wax “Indecently Sticky” Cream grey label.
This stuff feels like it would make a great skin moisturizer. I certainly wouldn’t take it with you to the beach or it’ll liquefy in your pocket before you step on the sand.
I took the same light strokes as before, but only put one light layer where I think my front foot may end up, and on the tail area as well.
So that’s it. Here’s the waxed board completed:
All waxed up
Update:
I’m really happy with the wax job, I felt very secure paddling out (I always wear a rashguard, so belly rash isn’t an issue). My feet felt very stuck to the board, even when flying through the air doing what I like to call the “D’OH! Aerial.”
Here’s my daily mantra these days:

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Categories: Wax

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