by Corky Carroll
Just a note to those of you who read me but don’t surf, we use wax on the top our boards to keep us from slipping off. It’s not like on skis where you use it on the bottoms to go faster. Ok, just wanted to clear that up as it is a common source of confusion to non-surfers. With that said, lets today take a look at waxes, how to most efficiently apply them and how to effectively remove them in case you desire to do that.
Back in the dinosaur days of surfboards, when I first started, we did not have surfboard wax. We used bars of paraffin wax that was made for sealing jars of jellies and jams that our moms would make. Moms did that back then. You could buy a box with four big bars at the store, break the bars in two and have eight hunks of wax. This wax was pretty good when you first put it on, but it would get slippery fairly fast so you needed to apply it often. This was the reason that when surf trunks were first appearing on the scene there was always a “wax pocket.” Obviously for holding your wax while you surfed so that you could re-apply it when needed. It has amazed me in recent years to find out that most people not only don’t use the wax pockets to carry wax, they don’t even know that’s what that pocket is for. True. I was out one day, not long ago, and found myself out of wax and in need of it. There were like thirty people in the water and I asked if anybody had some wax I could borrow. Everybody just looked at me and went, “huh?” Nobody had any.
Anyway, getting back to the story, we now have very good surf waxes available in all kinds of formulas. From extremely cold water to extremely warm water and in various degrees of sticky. Surf wax has come a long way. My advice on first applying wax to a new board is to get two bars. One bar of “base coat,” which is very hard, and one bar of whatever the water temp is going to be where and when you surf. Apply the base coast in long vertical strokes using the flat side of the wax, you get more on that way. I like to make my wax strokes about three feet in length and always vertical, nose to tail or visa versa. Little beads form this way and are very effective as to applying more later and keeping the wax on longer. Once you have a nice even coat of base wax applied then it’s time to put a layer of “temperature based” wax over it. For example, if the water in your area is in the 60’s, like Orange County in the summer, most people would choose a “cool” water wax. Apply this wax exactly the same as the base coast, long vertical strokes. I have seen people using the edge of the bar of wax and putting it on in tiny little circles, I never got that as it takes forever to do it that way and I don’t see the nice even beads form. Long vertical strokes work better.
Taking wax off is another matter. First off, why would you want to do that? I have had boards for years without ever even thinking of taking my wax off. But there are many people who like to always have a nice clean “new wax” kinda look and feel to their boards. Old wax can get kinda dirty and ugly looking, true. So, if that is important to you then it’s fine to change your wax. Also, you can get stuff in your wax that you don’t want, like tar or other forms of dirtiness. Taking wax off is not always that easy. I find that if you put your board out in the sun for a few minutes it will make the wax soft and easier to get off. Use a plastic tool, like a spatula, to scrape it off. They actually have wax removal tools available in most surf shops. Scrape it as clean as you can and then try to get the residue off with a moist cloth. Some people use acetone for this, and that works fine. But beware of gasoline as this can get into the pours of your glass job and make it extremely difficult to re-apply the wax. And NEVER use any kind of oil, like baby oil etc. You can never get that off and you will wind up having to totally sand your board down and re-gloss it. If you have to use anything I would keep it to only acetone.
One of the nice things we have today are all the cool boutique kinda waxes. They have nice smells like coconut, mango, lime, musk, cherry, banana and many more. I hear some even taste good in case you get hungry (just kidding, don’t eat it). And surf wax is not expensive at all, well worth the price.
I hope this helps shed some light on the wonderful world of surf wax to those of you who were wondering what it was all about. Happy surfing and no slipping.