Part of maintaining your paddle board means making sure it has enough friction so you don’t slip off. Some paddlers use traction pads for grip, while others use wax. Most starter paddle boards now come with traction pads.

Should you wax a paddle board? What are the advantages of using wax? If you will be using wax, how do you apply it properly?

Waxing vs. Traction Pads – The Pros and Cons

There are a lot of arguments for waxing your board. The reason for choosing wax over the latest traction pad fad is because paddlers feel more connected to their board when they ride on the open water. Wax provides the friction necessary for paddlers to maintain their footing, especially when they are on the move.

There are also paddlers who have surfed for many years before traction pads became popular, and love the familiarity of their feet touching the board.

Some new paddlers eventually use their SUP boards much more. As most start off with beginner paddle boards, they eventually find the traction pad peeling off and becoming useless. Traction pads can also cause chafing on the feet, thighs, or stomach when you rub it too often. Yoga enthusiasts might be too familiar with this!

Pros of waxing:

  • Feeling of connectedness with your board
  • Provides friction throughout the full deck surface
  • Familiarity of old-time paddlers before the traction pad fad
  • Not having to deal with traction pads peeling off
  • No chafing!
  • Your board will look dirty as wax collects dirt

There are a lot of arguments against waxing as well. For one, wax melts when exposed to the sunlight and heat. If you surf for hours, you might begin to feel the wax sticking to your feet. Not cool! This also means you have to reapply the wax more frequently than changing your traction pad.

Although it’s entirely up to the paddler and the activity they do with their board, you might find the cost of waxing adding up faster than replacing a traction pad.

An overlooked con for using wax is how old wax must also be removed. Not only does a paddler have to stay on top of their wax game, but the layer of wax has to be removed before it can be replaced. Imagine to your surprise when your chest rests against a board with little to no wax, and you slip off. Paddling with no grip is agonizing.

There’s also no denying that traction pads are way more comfortable in feel than wax. Can you imagine rubbing your buttcheeks on a waxed board vs. moving around on a traction pad? The difference is noticeable.

Paddlers with yoga paddle boards can enjoy a full-deck padding that feels like a comfortable cushion for their poses.

Cons of waxing:

  • Melted wax is lame
  • Waxing your board frequently can be costly
  • You have to frequently remove old wax and reapply new wax
  • It’s easy to forget to apply new wax
  • Traction pads simply feel way better than a waxed hard surface

So how do you decide which is best for you? Our recommendation is to simply try it out to find your preference.

If you already have a traction pad, keep it on until it comes off. Then you can apply wax to see how it feels. If you started off without a traction pad (since some boards cost extra to have them added!), then maybe it’s time to give them a shot. You never know what you might be missing!

What Type of Paddle Boards to Wax?

So there isn’t any confusion, not all paddle boards require wax. For example, yoga boards will often use a full-deck traction pad for the comfort of the user. Unless you are extremely accustom to hard surfaces and have a distaste for yoga mats, then you might want to set aside the wax for another type of board.

PVC inflatable boards are another type that doesn’t require any wax seeing as it won’t improve your grip in any way and the wax won’t do well with PVC material.

What about other types of paddle boards like epoxy or soft top foam? Epoxy, carbon fiber, and fiberglass boards using hard tops can use a good layer of wax. Soft top foam or other foam boards only need a thin layer enough to prevent slipping. You can wax more if needed.

Racers, fishers, and touring paddleboarders without traction pads will want to use wax to help keep their stance when paddling. If you have found yourself slipping in the past, then more wax is better!

Waxing to the Point of Glossy (Overwaxing)

This isn’t a good idea. The problem with waxing your paddle board until it becomes glossy and shiny is the amount of friction it creates for you when out on the water.

You can test this out by tossing a cup of water onto your board and watching what happens to the water. If beads of water form, then the surface tension of your board is high and will affect your paddle board performance out on the water. What you should hope to see is for the water to simply drip off along the sides. The less tension and friction, the smoother your paddleboarding experience will be.

Whoops! Water beads formed on this overwaxed paddle board. Source.

Should You Wax the Bottom of a Paddle Board?

Absolutely not! Unless you want the extra challenge, wax applied to the bottom of a paddle board will add unnecessary drag. This means more surface tension, friction, and less gliding and tracking. Paddlers that use wax at the bottom of their paddle board will perform worse on the water.

How to Wax Your Paddle Board

In the video below, Reuben from SUPboarder shows you how you can wax your paddle board effectively with a base coat wax then a top coat wax.

Our Closing Thoughts

Whether you choose to wax on or wax off, it’s up to your preference. There are benefits and disadvantages for using wax. You can also get away with traction pads to keep things simple without having to wax your paddle board frequently.

We hope this guide helps you in deciding whether to use paddle board wax, and how to apply it properly to prepare your board for the next session in the open water!