Ahhh the smell of a fresh bar of wax. Is it humanly possible to go into a surf shop and not pick up a bar of the sticky icky just to take a whiff? Besides smelling nice, wax is the stuff we put on top of our boards to help us stay on and not slip off. And if you’re wondering about surfboard wax shelf life, I’ve got the answer for you.
Surfboard wax in bar form does not expire, however once applied to your surfboard wax “expires”. Eventually, it will become a smooth grey blob on top of your board that needs to be changed. It’s not as grippy as it once was and looks like small grey boogers. When it gets to this point, it’s time to re-wax your board. That’s the process of completely removing all your old wax and replacing it with new wax.
So, wax does go bad and does need to be changed. A wax job can seem overwhelming with so many different brands and types of wax on the market. Basecoat? No basecoat? Tropical or coldwater? Sticky Bumps or Sex Wax? Don’t worry, we’re gonna go full Mr. Miyagi on when to wax on and when to wax off.
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How Long Does Surfboard Wax Last?
Easy answer: 3 months. Ok bye, go wax your board. If you’re living somewhere with 4 seasons you should at minimum be re-waxing your board 4 times a year.
You do this in order to match your wax with the changing water temperature. Generally, most companies offer 5 different types of wax: base coat, cold water (-15c), cool water (14-19c), warm water (19-23c) and tropical (23c+).
So, no matter what the season and water temp you’ll be covered. The hotter the water the harder you want your wax to be so it doesn’t melt. This also being said, if you’re going on a surf trip somewhere tropical and you’re coming from a colder climate or vice versa, make sure to re-wax and match the temperature accordingly.
Most people will apply more wax before every session, ensuring the board is extra grippy. Nothing is worse than forgetting your wax and having a very slippery, frustrating surf.
Now, depending on how often you surf you might want to completely change your wax (removing the old wax and putting brand new wax on) more frequently just because of general dirtiness and less grip.
But, this is a personal preference and some people will change their wax only once or twice a year. Like I said above, after some time your wax will turn grey. Now, you don’t have to re-wax your board at this point, you can just keep putting new wax on top. But, most people like the look of a fresh wax job and that extra grip that comes with it.
There are some obvious mistakes that will shorten the lifespan of your wax that I will go over now.
The biggest and most blatant one being heat. Wax is… well, it’s wax, so if heated up it will melt. This means if you leave your board out in the sun all your wax will just melt off.
Most people flip their boards over or cover them with a towel if they’re hanging out on the beach after a surf. The other hot topic in wax meltage is the classic board trapped in hot car fatalities.
Just like children and dogs, it’s not very good for a surfboard’s health to be left in a hot car. This won’t only melt all your wax, it will cause a sticky mess on the seats of your car, all while being terrible for the foam core of your board.
How long does wax last in bar form before you’ve applied it to your board? On the label of Mr. Zogs Orginal Sex Wax it says “does not expire”. I think that’s a pretty safe assumption for most brands of wax. As long as they are stored somewhere that they won’t melt they should be good for years to come. I do hope your wax isn’t just sitting around for years though, because that means you probably aren’t surfing!
How to Re-Wax your Surfboard
Heat: First you are going to need to heat up your old wax so it becomes soft and easy to remove. There are a number of ways to do this. Yes, you can simply leave your board out in the sun for a little bit. This works fine, but remember the sun isn’t always the best for your board, and if left for too long it can cause warping and bubbling of the fiberglass. A common trick is to get a hair dryer and on low/medium heat slowly heat your wax until it’s soft and ready to be removed.
Scrape: Time to scrape that bad boy. Now that your wax is nice and soft you can begin the removal process. If you have a wax comb they normally have a flat scaping side as well just for this purpose. An old credit card or any flat scrapey type thing will do the trick as well, just be careful not to press too hard and dent or crack your fiberglass.
Start from either end and slowly scrape in one direction removing the wax as you go. Make sure to form all your old wax into a sweet ball that you can add to for years to come. Pro tip: Pinterest style surfboard wax candles are worth many brownie points with the wife or gf. Actual pro tip: take a rag or cloth with a little bit of rubbing alcohol and wipe down your board when you’re done to remove any extra wax residue.
Apply: Now that your board is clean it’s time to put on that new wax. If you are using cold or cool water wax, apply basecoat first. Basecoat wax does not provide any traction, but does provide a surface for the wax to stick and bead, and adds some extra thickness for the cold and cool water bars.
Basecoat is not needed for warm and tropical bars. You can apply your wax in a few different ways. Small circles or cross-hatching is most common, but in the end, it’s just what you like best.
Make sure you’re covering the critical areas where your feet will be and the rails where your hands will be during your pop up. Generally, for a short board you wax about half the board; from the stomp pad where your back foot goes to about to the midpoint where your front foot should be.
Some people even skip the half foot gap between your back and front foot to save wax or time or to look cool. If you’re riding a longboard and walking the nose you’ll wax the whole thing tip to tail. Just remember, if there’s anywhere on your board you don’t want to slip off, you’re going to want wax there.
What Surfboard Wax to Buy?
Well, if it’s time to change your wax you’re gonna need some new wax. But what to buy? As far as brands go there are many differnt options, the main contenders being Mr Zogs Orignal Sex Wax, Sticky Bumps and Bubble gum. There are countless other brands, and it really comes down to personal preference. You can try a few different brands and see what you like best. A good sniff test is a great place to start. Don’t forget to purchase the correct temperature rating according to where you’ll be surfing.
If I had to recommend a surf wax, for me personally its Mr Zogs Original Sex Wax every time. The amount of stick is perfect, it lasts long and smells amazing, what more could you ask for?