Wax for surfing: Different types for gloss and grip

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  08.02.2023
I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

There are as many types of surf waxes as there are fishes to see around you when you’re out there in the ocean. Some are used for grip while others for a shiny gloss and protection.

Waxes are a class of chemical compounds that are plastic (malleable), insoluble in water but soluble in organic nonpolar solvents. There are many different types of wax for surfing. Base waxes are used to increase grip, which often contain a mixture of paraffin and beeswax.

In this article, I’ll explain the different types of waxes and when to use them on YOUR board.

What is surf wax

Understanding the Role of Surf Wax

What is Surf Wax?

Surf wax is like a magical adhesive that helps surfers stick to their boards like glue. Without it, you’d be slipping and sliding all over the place, and any chance of pulling off a sick trick would be totally out of the question.

What Does Surf Wax Do?

Surf wax is designed to give you the perfect balance of grip and stickiness, so you can stay balanced and shred the waves like a pro. Here’s what it can do for you:

  • Keep you upright and steady
  • Help you maintain your balance
  • Allow you to pull off tricks with ease

How to Choose the Right Wax

Finding the right wax for your board can be tricky, but it’s worth it in the end. You want to make sure you get the perfect blend of traction and stickiness, so you can stay balanced and have the most epic surf session ever. Here are a few tips to help you pick the right wax:

  • Check the temperature of the water
  • Consider the type of board you’re using
  • Read reviews from other surfers

Choosing the Right Surf Wax for Your Adventure

Different Types of Wax

When it comes to waxing up your board for a surf session, it’s important to know what type of wax you need. After all, you don’t want to be slipping off your board when you’re trying to catch a wave! Here’s a quick guide to the different types of wax out there:

  • Cold Water Surf Wax: For when the water temperature is under 15℃ or 60℉.
  • Cool Water Surf Wax: For when the water temperature is between 14-19℃ or 58-68℉.
  • Warm Water Surf Wax: For when the water temperature is between 19-23℃ or 66-78℉.
  • Tropical Surf Wax: For when the water temperature is 23+℃ or 75+℉.

If you’re surfing in Ireland, chances are you’ll be using Cold Water Surf Wax all year round, since the water temperature rarely goes above 15℃!

Environmentally Friendly Wax

Surf wax used to be made with paraffin, which contains some pretty nasty chemicals that are bad news for marine life. But nowadays, there are plenty of 100% natural surf waxes made with biodegradable, non-toxic ingredients like beeswax. So if you want to do your bit for the environment, you can easily find a wax that works for you.

At the Wild Atlantic Surf Shop, you can find all the eco-friendly wax you need, as well as all the other gear you need for your next surf session. So don’t forget to check them out!

Getting Started with Base Wax

What is Base Wax?

Base wax is like the primer coat of paint you put on a wall before you start adding the fun colors. It’s essential for any new board, no matter what temperature you plan on surfing in. It’s like a foundation for all the other waxes you’ll be using. It’s super hard and should only be used on clean, new boards.

Why Use Base Wax?

Base wax helps other waxes stick to the board better, and it can help your board last longer. Plus, it’s just a good idea to start with a solid foundation before you get into the fun stuff.

How to Use Base Wax

Using base wax is easy:

  • Make sure your board is clean and dry
  • Rub the base wax on the board in circular motions
  • Let the wax cool and harden
  • You’re ready to start waxing!

Choosing the Right Wax for the Right Temperature

Base Wax

Before you can start waxing your board, you’ll need to get the base wax down. It’s like the foundation of a house – you can’t build the rest of the house without it. So, make sure you get the base wax on there first.

Water Temperature

Once the base wax is on, you’ll need to figure out the temperature of the water you’ll be surfing in. A great resource for this is Surf-Forecast.com. The water temperature will determine which type of wax you’ll need to use on your board. This is because some waxes get harder in colder temperatures and softer in warmer temperatures.

Types of Wax

Here’s a breakdown of the different types of wax and the water temperatures they work best in:

  • Cold Wax – This is the softest wax and is best used in water temperatures below 58°F (14°C). It’s great for those cold winter months in Charleston.
  • Cool Wax – This is the next softest wax and is best used in water temperatures between 54-69°F (12-20°C). Perfect for Folly Beach in the spring and fall.
  • Warm Wax – This is a harder wax and is best used in water temperatures between 63-78°F (17-25°C). It’ll get you through the early summer and fall months in Charleston.
  • Tropical Wax – This is the hardest wax and should only be used in really warm waters, like those above 75°F (24°C). If you’re planning to surf Folly Beach during hurricane season, you’ll want to bring this wax with you.

Everything You Need to Know About Waxing Your Surfboard

The Different Layers

When it comes to waxing your surfboard, you need to know the difference between the two layers you need to apply: the base coat and the top coat. The basecoat is the first layer of wax and it’s usually made of a harder wax that works best in warm water or tropical climates. It’s purpose is to hold the top coat down and give your board the traction it needs to stay afloat. The top coat is the layer of wax that you apply on your foundation or base coat. It’s important to use gentle pressure and move in a circular motion when applying the top coat.

Traditional vs Sticky Wax

When it comes to waxing your board, you have two options: traditional wax or sticky wax. Traditional wax is the most popular and it takes a few minutes to make your board sticky enough to stay afloat. Sticky wax is a great alternative if you’re not sure if your board is waxed enough. It’s important to note that you should only apply sticky wax to the area where you’ll put your feet. Too much wax could make it too sticky to actually work.

Wax On, Wax Off

Now that you know the difference between the two types of wax, it’s time to get your board ready for the waves. To get the best results, you’ll need to apply the base coat first, then the top coat. Make sure to use the right amount of pressure when applying the base coat and use gentle pressure when applying the top coat. Once you’re done, your board should be ready to ride!

What Temperature Wax Should You Use?

Tropical Temperatures

Ah, the tropics! When the temperature is 75 degrees and above, you need a wax that can handle the heat. Tropical wax is designed to be hard and won’t melt away when the sun is blazing. Plus, you’ll get maximum grip on your board.

Warm Water Wax

If the temperature is between 58 and 75 degrees, then warm water wax is your go-to. It’ll keep your board nice and grippy, but make sure you use it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Cool Water Wax

When the temperature dips below 58 degrees, you’ll need to grab some cool water wax. This wax is designed to keep your board from slipping, even when the water is icy cold. Just make sure to store it properly so it doesn’t melt in higher temperatures.

Cold Water Wax

When the temperature is 60 degrees or lower, you’ll need to break out the cold water wax. This wax is designed to keep your board from slipping, even when the temperature is freezing. Just make sure you don’t use it in warmer climates, as it won’t hold up.

Popular Wax Options

Most surf brands offer wax options for all temperatures. So, you won’t have to switch brands to find the right product. Whether you’re surfing in the tropics or in a cooler climate, you’ll find the right wax for you.

Surf’s Up! What You Need to Know About Wax Combs

What is a Wax Comb?

If you’re a surfer, you know that wax combs are essential for keeping your board in tip-top shape. But if you’re new to the sport, you might be wondering: what is a wax comb?

A wax comb is a tool used to remove old wax from a surfboard and to comb newly-applied wax for increased traction. It has a jagged edge that helps to remove the wax and keep your board looking and feeling smooth.

Do You Need a Wax Comb?

You don’t need a wax comb to apply or remove wax from your board, but it can make the process a lot easier. Plus, it’ll help you get the most out of your surfing session. So if you’re serious about surfing, it’s worth investing in a quality wax comb.

How to Use a Wax Comb

Using a wax comb is simple:

  • Start by scraping off any old wax from your board.
  • Then, apply a new layer of wax and use the comb to spread it evenly.
  • Finally, comb the wax in the direction of the waves to create a smooth surface.

And that’s all there is to it! With a bit of practice, you’ll be waxing your board like a pro in no time.

How to Apply Surf Wax for Maximum Traction

When to Apply

Surfing without the right wax on your board is like driving a car without brakes – you’re gonna have a bad time. So, it’s important to know when to apply wax to your board.

Newbies often think they need to wax their board every time they go surfing, but that’s not the case. You only need to re-wax when you start to lose traction. The frequency of waxing depends on the length and frequency of your surfing sessions, as well as the type of wax you use.

How to Apply

Applying wax to your board is a process. Here’s how to do it right:

  • Start with a base coat. This will help you gain traction and keep the top coat in place.
  • Add a thin layer of wax for the top coat.
  • Choose a wax that’s designed for your specific surfing needs. Consider the level of stick and the temperature threshold.

And that’s it! Now you’re ready to hit the waves.

Say Goodbye to Your Old Surfboard Wax

When to Remove Your Wax

Ah, the age-old question: when is it time to say goodbye to your old surfboard wax? Well, it’s simple: when you start to feel like you’re slipping off your board, it’s time to get rid of the old stuff and apply some new wax. The more you surf, the more often you’ll need to reapply wax.

How to Remove Wax

There are several ways to remove wax from your board. Some surfers find it easiest to cover their boards with sand and let it sit for a few minutes. The sand will interact with the wax molecules and loosen it from the board. After a few minutes, just wipe it off with the sand.

If you’re at home, you can use a heat gun to melt the wax. Just make sure to use gloves and a thick rag, as the wax will be hot.

If you don’t have a heat gun, you can use a wax comb. Just run the comb down the board and wipe away as much wax as you can. To get a really clean surface, you may need to use a cloth as well. Keep going until your board is glossy and wax-free.

It’s important to get your board as clean as possible. Any leftover residue from your old wax can interfere with your new application and affect your traction and balance. So make sure you get it all off!


Now you know when to use the RIGHT type of wax it’s time to get you surfboard back in shape for your next wave.

It’s as easy as keeping an eye on the temperature and wax your board for this season’s weather conditions. And remember, wax on, wax off – it’s not just for Karate Kid anymore!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Kauai Surf Report is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new sports with everything surfing at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2019 to help loyal readers with surfing and water sporting tips.