What Is Base Coat Wax and How Is It Used?
Wax has been a ubiquitous part of the surf experience nearly from the beginning. It is practically mandatory for efficient wave riding since the fiberglass that our boards are made from gets incredibly slippery when wet. Here in Hawaii, we are used to using warm and tropical formula wax, but in cooler places, surfers have long been using base coat in addition to their cool or cold formula surface wax. I have recently had some customers here in Hawaii ask me what exactly base coat wax is, since it has only recently begun to pop up in surf shops here. But to understand base coat, you first have to understand how the temperature of the water affects the wax on your board.
As anyone who has left their board out in the sun knows, wax melts when it gets hot. But you may not realize that surf wax can even melt—or at least soften—when it gets just a little bit too warm. This is why we have different formulas of wax. Tropical and warm water waxes are extra hard, because the warm water of the tropics can melt softer waxes and cause them to get rubbed off of boards. But the opposite happens in cold water, where wax can become so hard that it stops being sticky and instead gets slippery. To combat this, cold and cool water waxes are made softer and stickier. They provide extra grip in cold water, but in warmer water they easily melt and get rubbed off the board, as mentioned above.
The key to successfully using wax while surfing is to match the right formula with the right water temperature, which is why tropical, warm, cool, and cold water wax all have different temperature ranges. Tropical is the hardest and least likely to soften or melt; cold is the softest and stickiest and least likely to “freeze” into a hard, slippery mass. Warm and cool wax lie somewhere in the middle.
The problem with super soft cold water wax is that it is less likely to develop nice wax bumps. It is super soft and sticky, which helps in cold water, but tends to smear and get rubbed off, which doesn’