Wax on wax off – to wax or not to wax (your SUP)

We recently took delivery of Loco’s 2016 8.9ft El Diablo for inclusion in the current equipment test being worked on. Supplied naked (no deck pad) with only tail kick EVA the concept of waxing your stand up paddle board reared its head.

Many brands choose to supply their sleds with deck pads already glued in place. But there are a few, such as Loco, who provide gear without. And even if your board does have grip, there are some instances when a bit of wax will improve versatility – even with race/touring boards – such as areas without EVA padding.

Loco El Diablo 8.9ft 2016

Types of wax

The UK isn’t exactly the Tropics – a fact which hardly needs pointing out. Even during the height of summer water temperatures remain frigid compared. OK, there are hardy souls who’ve grown accustomed to the lack of warmth in waters surrounding the British Isles. These brave (fool hardy?) riders do paddle without the aid of rubber suits. For the majority, however, suitable protection will be needed.

But this isn’t an article about wetsuits; it’s about wax. Surf wax (as that’s what you’ll be needing – no ear wax faux pars please!), for our home shores, comes in a few forms: cold water, cool water and warm water types.


If summer air temperatures do soar then warm water wax will be the choice. For the rest of the year riders will be switching between cool and cold water grip. In winter it’ll definitely be the latter!

Applying your coat

We’ll not lie. There’s a degree of misty eyed joy at the thought of applying a coat of surf wax to your sled. The sweet smelling substance alone delivers floods of good time endorphins and induces thoughts of offshore surf expectations. The reality, after a few wrist cramping minutes, is rubbing wax on your stick is time consuming and dull – but necessary.

To get maximum traction we’ve found it best to apply two coats – a base and top layer. Harder cold or cool water wax (depending on season) should be rubbed on first. A flat application is best, with as few uneven areas as possible. There are many different ways of sticking wax to your board. Some use a circular hand motion, others employ parallel strokes – if you’re feeling suitably creative (we weren’t! – ed) then it’s possible to ‘wax on Daniel san’ in patterned form.

Once that initial layer has been added (it will probably take a full block) it’s time to add the second coat. This will see a considerable build up of wax – something that shouldn’t be shied away from as grip is good. There’s nothing worse than paddling out on a cracking forecast and finding the deck of your SUP is more akin to an ice skating rink. Get your wax application correct BEFORE you hit the beach for a session.

Loco El Diablo half waxed

Having added the second layer it’s best to let it set. Then inspect for any bare patches – although with two coats applied liberally this shouldn’t be the case. One tip when waxing is to make sure rails, bare sections behind the kick pad and the front section of the standing area be well covered. Lack of grip will be missed when out on the water – for various reasons.

Follow on applications

It may be after the initial waxing process a further top up will be needed. You as the rider will be aware of how effective your traction is. Once the board’s deck becomes slippery it’s time to add another covering.

Best practice also dictates a few times a year riders should fully strip their wax and re-apply fresh bumps. This will keep riding experiences satisfying and avoid unnecessary dunkings. Seasonality will also play its part. As temperatures warm up you’ll need to change the type of wax you’re using. Summer will require a cool or warm water coat on top of the cold water layer. And don’t discount changing wax if travelling to warmer climes.

Loco El Diablo fully waxed 8.9ft

Pros and cons of waxing SUPs

So what does waxing your paddle surfer offer? Generally speaking a naked board that’s waxed will deliver more rider feedback. Subtle changes in your board’s reactiveness can be felt much sooner than if riding a board with deck pad. There’s also a weight saving element to not having an EVA foam covering.

That said deck pads these days are a lot lighter than they once were. And thinner to boot. There’s also a time issue with deck pads – as in you don’t have to maintain your deck grip as you would with a waxed sled. As we’ve already said, waxing boards can be time consuming. Or maybe that’s just us…?

If you’ve never tried a naked board with wax job then it could be worth getting involved to analyse the different feel you get. You may still prefer your pad covered sled which is perfectly fine. After all, there are no rules in SUP and everything is open to interpretation.


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1 Comment on Wax on wax off – to wax or not to wax (your SUP)

  1. Verity Thomas // January 13, 2016 at 4:42 pm // Reply

    I have always liked surfing with a deck pad on the back. When Lunasurf started doing front foot pads I started using those on my shortboards… With limited time to surf (due to having a young family) I find it quicker to get a “full” hour session in the water…. Recently I bought a Lokahi 7’11 Custom Pro surf SUP which is naked but after using a few times I found I kept having to clean wax off the blade of my paddle so I have now put a Ljnasurf full deck pad on it. Watch this space!! 😎

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