Around The Surfing World

An East Coast Surfer’s Quest for Gulf Wax

Gulf Wax, the real stuff
Gulf Wax, the real stuff


Tired of rashes that rendered me nearly comatose, and a surfboard that reeked of the smell of candy, I had had enough.  So I went on a quest — for Gulf Wax.

Growing up in the sixties, there was no such thing as surf wax.  Surfers either robbed and melted down all of mom’s candles, or they broke down and bought some Gulf Wax.

Gulf Wax is paraffin used for canning, candlemaking, and a variety of other uses, among others: surf wax. Back then, a box came with 5 bars and cost 50 cents. Break the bars in half and you had 10 bars.  A nickel-a-bar was not a bad thing.

“I remember Gulf Wax,” says Ponte Vedra’s Scott Collings. “I melted it in a pot and brushed it on the board with a paintbrush. Boy was my mom pissed for ruining her pot and my dad’s paintbrush. Worked well though.”

It did work well, and it still does. But it’s now 4 bars per box, and has skyrocketed to about 4 dollars. But that’s still a deal, and it sure beats smelling like a flower and nipples so sore they feel like they are going to burst into flames.

Gene Cooper, owner of Cooperfish Surfboards in Oxnard, California says, “I use it. I hate that greasy kid stuff.”

“I’m with you, Gene,” adds Gloucester, Massachusetts surfer Bob Wallis. “I hate that smelly, soft, boutique wax crap.”

But Gulf Wax is not quite easily accessible as it used to be, as I was soon to find out.

First stop: Michaels, an arts & crafts store on the Southside of Jacksonville, 5 miles away. They stock every kind of candle-making accessory and wax one would ever need or want, except of course, Gulf Wax.

Next: Super Wal-Mart (heck, they have everything):

Wal-Mart guy: “Can I help you?
Me: “Yes, please. I’m looking for some Gulf Wax.”
WMG: “Gulf what?”
Me: Gulf Wax. It’s paraffin, used for canning and candlemaking.
WMG: “OH! We ain’t got none.”

“We ain’t got none?” No wonder their prices are so cheap.

As it’s turning out, nobody’s got none. Now I’m out a half-day of searching, and in what I’ve spent in gasoline I could have bought a case of SexWax and one of those fancy rash guards.

Never! The quest continues.

Now, having already dropped a surfwriter’s salary in petrol, I decided to head back home do a little surfing of a different sort; the internet.

So, perched in front of my Mac, in my favorite surfing chair (which incidentally, is stained with SexWax from the bottom of my boardshorts), I’m surprised to find the elusive wax at, of all places, amazon.com.

And at only $3.99 a box, I promptly place an order. That’s when I’m shocked to find a shipping price of $6.29 for a grand total of $10.28. Unfortunately, I’m as frugal as I am stubborn, and a dollar-a-bar is not going to cut it. Not to mention, it will take at least week to get it.

However, while surfing the net, an e-mail check grants rave reviews for a previous article I had done on Gulf Wax, and quite a few recommendations as to where to find it, too.

Gene Cooper (yes, the Gene Cooper) of Cooperfish Surfboards, and a huge proponent of GW, responds:

“This is the clean s#&%. I get mine at Ralphs.”

Which is great for Gene, but he’s on the west coast. There are no Ralphs in Jacksonville, Florida. Likewise, Roger Brucker of Savannah pitches in:

“Kroger sells Gulf Wax. They still use it for home canning. Anybody have a bar of Purple Waxmate? I want to melt some in my van for old times’ sake.”

Ah yes, Waxmate, the original “greasy kid stuff” (and yet another story).

And, for what it’s worth, while Savannah is certainly the east coast, there aren’t any Krogers in Jacksonville, either.

Both Ralphs & Kroger stock Gulf Wax, but neither are located in Jacksonville, Florida

Finally a hit! Local surfer and dear, old friend David Lambert posts via facebook:

“Proctor Ace Hardware in Neptune Beach carries it – next to the mason jars. Wanna add some beeswax to make your own? Yell, I have bees.”

Now we’re talking. Gulf and bees wax! And Proctor’s is only a mile away. You rock David Lambert.

So I hop on my scooter and scoot on down to Ace. But alas, it appears others have read David’s post, as well. The jaunt to Proctor’s proves futile. They have sold out of Gulf Wax.

But darn it, I will not be deterred. There’s a swell coming, and my 9’4” Takayama will be clad in Gulf Wax, or nothing at all!

So, by now, I have circumnavigated Jacksonville with little-to-no results.

There were numerous trips to large-chain department stores, out-of-the-way hardware stores and a rickshaw-full of grocery stores. As it turns out, the grocery is where I finally found it; I was just in the wrong aisle.

Now call me stupid, but I was scouring the candle aisle, for it was indeed wax I was desperately seeking, only to find candle upon candle, most of which weren’t even wax. It seems like candles, which were once a terrific source of illumination, are now all about fragrance. Scented liquid with floating wicks, push button air mists, even types you plug into a wall, it’s all about fragrance now, which ironically, is one of the exact reasons I abandoned present-day surf wax in the first place.

You see, it’s all those chemicals they put into surf wax to make it smell fruity and easier to apply that gives you the rash. Not to mention how it sticks to your baggies and destroys your car seats and anything else it touches. Ever try to remove wax from your car seats? Can’t be done. I’m old fashioned. I seek those glorious, rash-free days of yesteryear, hence, the quest.

But alas, this quest appears to have been for naught. Despite an abundance of support from loyal readers and friends, my Takayama sits waxless, hanging on my wall like a relic and craving saltwater like all of those hopeless fish dotting the shoreline.

And just when I had given up…I stumbled upon my beloved Gulf Wax.

The “great find” began with a craving for grape Jell-O. I loves me some grape Jell-O, so I went to Publix. But apparently, Jell-O has taken the same course as candles. While you can’t exactly plug it into a wall (yet), searching for grape proved just as futile. There’s kiwi-strawberry, strawberry-banana, even piña colada and margarita, but no grape.

And then it happened.

A pitiful glance upward in a desperate sigh of frustration, and there it was.

The Publix ceiling opened to a chorus of “booo-wee-eee-ooooh”. A magnificent rainbow appeared, and the Earth stood still. For right there above the pistachio-apricot-mango-pineapple Jell-O was my long-sought-after Gulf Wax (not to mention, priced admirably at $3.19)!

The Gulf Wax was right there above the Jell-O all along

If it was a shark, it would not only have bitten me, it would have married me, divorced me and taken my house.

Thus ends the saga of a surfer’s quest for Gulf Wax, and now I must undertake another.

Do they still make Slipcheck?

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Marion Stratford

Marion Stratford is a freelance writer from Jacksonville Beach, Florida. A surfer for 45 years, he has covered surfing as a correspondent for the Florida Times-Union and is currently a National Surfing Examiner with Examiner.com.

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3 thoughts on “An East Coast Surfer’s Quest for Gulf Wax”

  1. tell me about it!! i dont surf but i ski. Right now im living in the bronx 4 school and i couldnt find this stuff anywhere! i mustve gone to almost every grocery store on treamont. Eventually i just had a friend buy it for me when he went home with a wall mart near by.

  2. I work for a produce company that uses the wax for our seasonal candy apples that you find in the walmarts/Kroger/and other grocery stores east of the missippi river.
    I am looking for a place besides Kroger/walmart to shop for Gulf Wax, because they seem to never have
    any or not enough.
    If there is a place that we could buy in bulk/pallet size please if you could send me the information that
    would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you

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