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Surf Wax 101

Surf Wax 101

Applying surf wax can be somewhat mystifying to the inexperienced. Once you do it a few times, however, you won’t even have to think about it.

Surf wax is for the deck of the board, and keeps you from slipping off. It’s hilarious to watch surfing newbies take their shining new board straight from the shop to the beach and try to surf with no wax.  I’ve also heard stories of people waxing the underside of their board. I don’t know how people get this idea. Maybe they think the wax is supposed to help the board glide on the water.

surf wax 101

Get the proper wax

There are several surf wax brands, including Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax, Mrs. Palmers, Sticky Bumps, Bubblegum, and several others. I like Sticky Bumps wax the best, but most waxes work just fine. In my experience Sticky Bumps is easier to apply.

It’s important to get the right wax for the temperature of the water you’re going to be surfing in. If you get a cold water wax but you’re surfing in Hawaii, the wax is going to melt right off. It seems like a strange idea, but the wax WILL disintegrate and rub off faster than you can believe. Harder wax has a higher melting temperature, and softer/tackier wax has a lower melting temperature. Wax companies make several different grades of wax:

Basecoat — Definitely get a few bars of this. It’s the hardest wax. In some very hot climates this is the only wax that won’t melt.
Tropical — For 75 F degree water and above
Warm — 64 – 74 F degree water
Cool — 58 – 68 F degree water
Cold — 60 F degrees and below

These degree ratings are for Sticky Bumps brand surf wax. Each company might have slightly different temperature ratings, so you’ll have to check it out for yourself.

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There aren’t really any instructions on the bars of surf wax, so beginners are often left wondering just how the heck they’re going to put the darn stuff on. The result that you want when you wax your board are small bumps. The bumps help improve the grip of the wax. You don’t want a smooth sheet of wax since that can be almost as slippery as no wax.

Tip: Don’t wax your board in the sun, especially in the summer. It will probably start to melt. You want your wax and board to be nice and cool for the best application.  You can wax in the sun if it’s been in the shade a while, but if you let the wax warm up on a hot summer day it’s going to be tough going and probably just smear or flake off.

Rest your board on something soft, and either take the fins out or make sure they are not going to be stressed by the pressure of waxing.

Get a bar of basecoat (basecoat isn’t necessary, but it helps a ton) and put down a very thin and even layer. Don’t press too hard for this step. Then start rubbing the wax on the board lengthwise, parallel to the stringer, and then crosswise, from rail to rail. This crosshatching will help the wax start to form small bumps. Sticky bumps puts a little slogan on their wax bars: “Nose to tail and rail to rail.” You don’t have to press too hard, just keep a firm pressure. Too much pressure will wreck your newly forming beads.

Sometimes the wax will get hot from all the friction and will start to get too tacky. If this happens, the wax might look like its shredding. Shredding wax doesn’t make for a good wax job. Take a break or switch to another bar.

Once you’ve got a good layer of topcoat on there, grab the regular wax and start rubbing it on. Once you’ve got some well established beads you can start to rub diagonally or in circles. It’s really up to you. Wax isn’t permanent, so you can experiment. If the beads are starting to look elongated, switch to another direction.

One wax application tip I found is to “draw” on the basecoat wax in a diagonal crosshatch pattern. Basically you take the corner or edge of the wax and draw parallel lines about 2 inches apart from the upper right rail to the lower left rail. You then draw another set of lines on top of that from the upper left rail to the lower right rail. It should look kind of like a fence. Make sure the lines are nice and heavy. Once you’ve got the lines established you can go ahead and start to form the bumps.

Where to apply your surf wax

You might be wondering WHERE you should put the wax. Basically you want plenty of wax on the board, so don’t skimp. Longboards are customarily waxed all over the deck, from the tail to the nose. This is to allow you to walk the deck and hang 10.

However, you probably won’t be doing moves like that for a while, so you don’t need to wax the entire deck. If you have a shortboard or funboard you also don’t need to wax all the way to the nose. You’ll want to wax approximately the back ¾ of the board. Approximate where you’ll put your feet (rear foot over the fins, and front foot over the middle in a comfortable athletic stance) and give yourself at least 10-12 inches more wax from your front foot to the nose of the board. You’ll want to be able to move your feet around.

Since you’re a beginner, you might not always pop up in the precise spot you want, so extra coverage in the wax area will be beneficial.

You will also want to wax very close to the rails in the spots where you’re going to be grabbing your board for your popup, duckdives, and turtle rolls. The extra wax will help you grip your board better.

Other assorted surf wax tips

  • Keep a few bars of wax in a small plastic baggy for your sessions. No baggy = sand in the wax and wax all over your stuff.
  • Refresh your surf wax with a quick once over before every session.
  • Wax combs help by roughening the surface of the wax. If your bumps are getting pretty smooth, a wax comb can be the right solution. Wax combs also sometimes come with a straight edge for scraping off old wax jobs.
  • Surf wax makes a nice air freshener, but don’t leave bars sitting on the seat or dashboard in your car during the summer. It’s almost guaranteed to melt. There’s nothing like ruining your upholstery with surf wax!
  • Don’t eat your wax. =)
  • Wax melts very fast in the sun if it’s not in the water. If you’re taking a break and laying down for a tan on the beach, keep your board face down. Prop up the tail with your beach bag or a log so sand doesn’t get on your wax.
  • I try to keep sand out of my wax at all costs. It becomes a nightmare when you’ve got sand on the deck and you want to put more wax on. Then the sand gets rubbed into the bar, and all over the place, and ugh. Plus sand is really abrasive to your skin.
  • Buy wax in sets. It’s only a dollar, and you’ll get mad at yourself for not picking up a few more bars when you run out.
  • Tropical surf wax might not melt in cold temperatures, but it won’t give you much traction. Use the right temperature.
  • Don’t lean your board wax-side down against your hot car. Talk about a mess.
  • Wax jobs can start to get really dirty or smooth. When it looks really disgusting, smooth, or is coming off in chunks for no apparent reason, it’s time to scrape it all off and start fresh.

Removing your surf wax

Removing the wax is easier than you might think. Surf wax is really messy, so start by getting some old newspaper or plastic bags to cover the floor. You can do this outside or inside, but make sure you’re not doing it on Aunt Josephine’s antique Ming dynasty rug. Your family might also get mad if there’s lots of surf wax on the lawn or patio.

Put your board on something firm but soft. Take out the fins if possible, or put them on a folded blanket. (If your fins are glassed on or you don’t want to take them out, be very careful that you don’t snap them when you’re waxing the board)

Depending on how hot your area is and how strong the sun, leave the board in the sun for 5-15 minutes, or if it’s cold and cloudy, give it a quick once over with a hairdryer. (Don’t burn your poor board) Then take a firm plastic straightedge (no metal) like an old credit card and scrape the wax off your board. Some wax combs come with straightedges for wax removal. My Zog’s Sex Wax “Sex Comb” even has an inwardly curved edge for the rails. (The prominent “Sex Comb” label also causes lots of awkward questions from my friends who find it in my car!)

No wax comb?  Use an old credit card or similar.

As you can see, the wax comes off in thin scrapings. Now you can collect the wax in a ball and throw it at your friends. If you don’t have anyone nearby, throw it in the garbage before it gets all over everything. Wash your hands with hot water to get all the residue off.

Surf wax remover will get ALL your remaining wax residue off, but it’s very smelly and isn’t necessary if you’re going to put wax right back on.

HOWEVER, in recent years an invention has come around called The Pickle.  I freakin love this thing.  It is like a sock with fiberglass foam dust inside that literally erases extra wax right off your board.  You won’t believe how good it works until you try it.  This lets me polish all the wax off my boards in record time, making them look super new.  Just make sure to scrape the majority of wax off your board first, as much as you can, then rub it with the Pickle for a board that looks like it came right off the rack.  MUCH better than the liquid wax remover.

Pickle Wax The Remover w/Wax Comb
  • The Pickle Wax Remover¨ is a unique tool used to remove the surf wax from any surfboard.
  • The Pickle is unique because it is a chemically-free dry wax remover. The Pickle cleans any type of surf wax off any type of surfboard.
  • The Pickle can clean any surfboard with three easy steps. First, scrape the excess wax off the board using the enclosed Mr. Zog's Sex Comb or Flex Comb scraper.
  • Second, grab your Pickle. Go ahead; don't be bashful! Third, rub your Pickle hard over the surfboard while applying pressure and using firm strokes.
  • Rotate your Pickle to avoid wax build up. Keep rubbing your Pickle until your stick is shiny


  1. Don’t wax your board under the sun? we used to do that all the time back in the day right on the beach. Sex Wax blocks are hard and we would leave those blocks out and come back and they never melted. A bit of salt water mixed in with the wax while waxing always worked like a charm.

  2. I bought my lady a surfboard for Christmas she wants to return it and get a different one but we already put wax on it. What can I use to get all of the wax off of the board to make it look new again? Preferably household products.

    1. Poor sand on your board in the sun. Then rub the wax off. The sand absorbs the wax and leaves a clean finish. Ive been doing this since the 70’s.

  3. I don’t like the fact I finally decided to switch back to sex wax (20 years break) and your site says “Since you’re a begainer”…

    Are you stating your wax is nobe status? Maybe I should just go back to SB (I won’t name the company)

    Your wax for newbies?

  4. When getting all the wax off the board, make it into a ball and throw it at your friends.. hahaha! Im new to surfing, and am LOVING your site. a million thank yous.

  5. The best wax remover I have ever used is called “The Pickle”. Sold in most surf shops, it’s basically a lime green colored silk stocking bag filled with surfboard foam dust. Scrape off wax with a wax comb. Slap dat Piclke on the remaining wax, which “dusts” the board with the foam dust. Start from either nose or tail of board, rub yo Pickle over the dusted areas, and dust binds with the wax to form a clump, and move the clump down the board. No chemicals,hardly any mess, recycling of board waste materials, and nice shiny board (dust causes no scratches at all). If you have a friend who shapes boards, poach some of his dust/scraps. Poach some sample silk stockings from a shoe store, and make your own Pickles for free! Aloha!

  6. Try Famous Wax, this wax is amazing!! I was a Sex Wax lifer and then had a few friends that swear by Famous so I gave it a go and was really stoked. It is super sticky but not messy and really never looses it stick. By far the best wax i have ever used and will probably not use anything else.

  7. thanks so much, i was just going to get sex wax today and i had no idea about base coat. i think i might try sticky bumps too! i have a short board, a cheapy lol its plastic. the brand is A! Actual – never really heard of it. any advice on ankle leashes?

  8. Actually, I prefer to remove wax on a cold board on an overcast day or even better, in the shade, using a 3″ putty blade. I think this scrapes off the old wax right down to the surface, and only then do I put the board in the sun to heat up the deck – then simply wipe off the softened residue with a rag.

    Or, after scraping bulk of wax – the cold-board method or however you do it – removing the residue with a rag with a bit of mineral spirits or other type of solvent.

    BUT BE CAREFUL WITH THIS STUFF! A little goes a long way, and be sure to immediately clean the deck with mild soap and water to insure all solvent is taken off.

  9. I have a question, is it ok to use different brand base coat/top coat? For example, lets say I used sticky bumps basecoat and then use Mrs. Palmers top coat? Just curious about the results since I got a free top coat of Mrs. Palmers the other day

  10. Lol im an experienced surfer in Hawaii, If anybody is wondering how to remove wax easily, use the hairdryer lol! any other questions??

  11. thanks sooooooo much!! im buying my first used board and it has wax on it so i need all the help i can get you helped a ton thanks a ton!!

  12. does any one know what an allergic rahs from wax might look like?
    im using boards at a house in mexico and getting a rash on my fore arm and inner elbow and on my side.
    seems like where i carry the board?
    its unpleasant.
    but then i just want to be sure its not a food allegy or bed bugs etc…

  13. If you want to get the remaining wax off after scrapping most of it off don’t buy a expensive chemical wax remover go buy some flour put it on the board and rub it off with a cloth. Works a treat and cheap!

  14. How well does citrus base cleaner work at removing surf wax? I only ask because I also snowboard, and if I can use the same stuff on both boards, that’s just one less chemical I have to keep around the house.

    Does it completely destroy a board? I really have no idea on this one.

  15. thanks i got a second hand board today and since im a newby i was trying to get the really old wax off with water and this really crappy scraper thank this site really helped

    oh anddo u know if bare nature boards are good ?

  16. also, try out different wax. i personally cannot use some wax. sticky bumps = rash, bad rash, not pretty, painful.

    sex wax = good, except the cherry flavored one. i cannot stand to smell that when i am laying on my board.

  17. I have a fun board, and one of the first things I did when I waxed it was I waxed all the way to the rails on the board. The first day I went out I was on my board for about three hours, most of the times sitting on it, and the wax caused my shorts to chafe me. wax up to about 3 inches from the rails to save yourself from some necessary pain.

  18. short and concise yet very detail oriented. because of you the sex wax i put on my baord turns out almost as sexy as the name implys. shaka

  19. dude thank you so much! this really has helped me more than all of the other sites that i have looked at combined. im just a noob, and all of the different advice from everyone really started to become confusing. but now that i have read your site, it pretty much all makes sense. thanks again

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