Wax is probably the most overlooked part of any surf setup. Surfers look at board shapes, fin templates, and even traction pad choices to explain why they aren’t ripping as hard as they think they should be. Wax is barely an afterthought. Most of us only think of it when it feels like our feet are slipping off the board, if we think of it at all.
I used to be a firm believer that one should never pay for wax if one can avoid it. I would let my wax sit for too long and keep applying wax on top of wax until my board looked like some mashup of a bizarre Jackson Pollock original and poorly laid concrete. But, if there’s anything I’ve learned from testing and looking for the best wax, it’s that a fresh coat of wax does wonders. It might even be the next best thing to riding a new board.
When you give your board a fresh coat, you want to make sure you’re working with the best wax out there. With so many options to choose from, it can be tricky knowing which wax is best. But, I’ve taken it on to try as many as I could find so you can know which is best. To view all the products next to each other, view our comparison table below. And for more information on how to find the best wax for your needs, take a look at our buyer’s guide.
The Best Surf Wax of 2023
Stickiest Surf Wax: Fu Wax
Best All-Around Surf Wax: Sex Wax
Runner Up, Stickiest Surf Wax: Sticky Bumps Munkey Wax
Runner Up, Best All-Around: Bubble Gum
Best Eco-Friendly Surf Wax: YEW! Your Environment’s Wax
Stickiest Surf Wax
Application: Very Easy
Smell: Freshly Detailed Car?
Fu Wax is the stickiest, most effective wax for discerning surfers. Period. By a long shot. I don’t think I’ve ever put a layer of Fu Wax on my surfboard and had an issue with losing traction. Ask 2022 World Champ Filipe Toledo what he uses. If anything, I’ve only noticed the exact opposite issue: too MUCH grip? Like I’ve tried to make slight adjustment to stance mid-wave and felt my feet not wanting to move. It was almost confusing. That means your wax works. With Fu Wax, that shift needs to be more intentional. And isn’t that the point?
We do have a few gripes with the world’s best wax, though, and we dinged Fu Wax hard, maybe too hard in our initial review for them. Those gripes are: packaging. (Plastic wrappers are bad, dudes.) Smell. It doesn’t offer the same olfactory pleasures of the competition. And confusion around temperature designation. Well, if you check online, the color codes more effectively conveys the wax temperature range, so…that’s been addressed. See below. The only weakness is durability. This is not a wax you can leave on your board for long periods of time. It requires regular refreshing. Which you should kinda be doing anyway. So in that sense, it’s doing you a favor. Take care of your surfboard. It also sticks more readily to your arm, wetsuit, etc… because…well, it’s the stickiest surfboard wax on the market. So if you want sticky, sticky it is.
If your top priority is sticky wax and maintaining grip, look no further. If you care about smell and the environment, which (as someone who gets their kicks in the ocean) you probably should, you make want to skip to number two. But you will be choosing an inferior product in order to support Mother Nature and titillate the nostrils.
Best All-Around Surf Wax
Sex Wax is another one of the OG brands, and it definitely deserves its reputation as the go-to wax for most surfers across the globe. It’s quite sticky and goes on fairly easily on any board, with or without basecoat. It also smells fantastic which is always a plus, and the branding is bar-none when it comes to juvenile surf-humor. Another upside to Sex Wax is the cardboard packaging. It makes this wax easy to store for later and use again without having to worry about getting wax everywhere.
In all honesty, this wax isn’t the easiest to apply – it requires a happy medium between the light touch required for sticker waxes like Fu Wax, above, and the heavier-handed elbow grease required for harder waxes like Sticky Bumps. However, where Sex Wax shines is in its longevity. The wax stays sticky for multiple sessions if your board is stored correctly (a.k.a. not in a hot car), and it doesn’t take much to give your board a refresher and achieve the same performance as when you waxed that board up for the first time.
The bumps don’t look nice for as long as harder waxes as they’re a bit prone to spreading, but that’s the trade-off for grippiness, and we think Sex Wax has hit the happy medium between the two. That said, you might want to consider a stiffer wax if you’re planning on trunking it in the summer months – I’ve been prone to gnarly rashes from Sex Wax. The wax comes in a variety of temperatures, with everything from Xtra Cold to Tropical.
Runner-Up: Stickiest Wax
Sticky Bumps Munkey Wax
Smell: Sticky Bumps
Before this, I had no idea that there were other kinds of Sticky Bumps formulas out there. The Sticky Bumps Munkey wax seems like Sticky Bumps’ response to the criticism that their wax isn’t sticky enough, and this wax is advertised as being five times stickier than the regular Sticky Bumps Formula. Munkey is plenty sticky to the point that it seems like this stuff wants to stick to anything and everything around it, so be careful where you store this wax.
I found Sticky Bumps Munkey Wax to be really easy to put on a board. It didn’t flake up at all and a little bit of wax seemed to go a long way. While surfing, I had a few waves where I was surprised that I didn’t slip off my board which is always a good thing when looking at waxes. This wax can be tricky to strip, but I think that is worth the grippiness that comes with it.
Runner Up: Best All-Around Surf Wax
When you’re looking for a wax, you want something that goes on easily, feels sticky, and smells good. Bubble Gum easily checks all the boxes. This wax went on the board probably the easiest of all the waxes I tested. It bumped up almost immediately and didn’t take much effort on my part. It was also fairly sticky given the stiffer consistency, not as sticky as Sex Wax, but close. If you find Sex Wax to be just a bit too sticky, Bubble Gum’s formula might be exactly what you’re looking for.
I do wish that this wax didn’t come in the wrap that it has. It breaks into two parts and I pretty much used one half instantly so storing it isn’t too bad. Though Bubble Gum is a tad more expensive than some of the cheaper options, I think it’s worth the extra dollar or so for a solid wax. But…it’s not as Sticky as Fu Wax. See above.
Best Eco-Friendly Surf Wax
YEW! Your Environment’s Wax
YEW! is naturally made from beeswax in Manhattan Beach, CA. The golden bar of wax is all natural, smells great and applies easily to your board. It’s pricey, and not insanely sticky, but when it’s your wallet or the environment, the world would be a lot better if we more consistently chose the latter. One thing to note is that it does look yellow instead of the classic surf wax white, which can look nice when paired with the right resin tint (or look the opposite if not), and can be a good conversation starter in the water.
Smell: Delicious. Do not eat.
Mrs. Palmer’s was the wax of choice we grew up with surfing on the East Coast. Like Fu Wax, it’s less available than Bubble Gum or Sex Wax, but sometimes it’s the scarcity that makes you pine for it. It beads up easily. It smells nice. It’s unobtrusive paper packaging, so no harm no foul environmentally. It’s got a semi-juvenile innuendo befitting an Aussie surf brand with a ’90s sensibility. It’s nostalgic and effective. It’s the good stuff.
Application: Above Average
Smell: Palo Santo
Kassia Meador’s wax is made to help you stick to your board, (all the better to crossstep with) and bring good vibes with its natural Palo Santo infusion. “Palo Santo is a tree burned by Shamans and Medicine people for its energy cleansing and healing properties,” the description reads. Application is made all the easier with the unique triangular design that allows you to always get a corner and helps each bar last longer. It’s pricey, but worth it.
Application: Below Average
This was the only wax that I tested without a wetsuit. I could only find warm wax so I felt like that meant I needed to not wear a wetsuit even though the water was a little colder than warm. Despite the challenges, there was a lot to like about the FCS wax. The wax seemed sticky enough and I never felt like slipping off. Plus I didn’t rash up at all on my chest or stomach which is always a plus. The shape of the wax bar made it easy to hold when applying and easy to put back into the box which was a plus.
This wax was tricky to put on, even with the benefit of the ergonomic bar. At first, it was hard to get the wax to stick to the board. Once it started sticking, the wax wanted to flake. Then, it would goop together making it hard to get an even coat on the board. Avoiding pulling off wax from an area and leaving it bald was tricky at times. More importantly though, I was pleased how this wax performed in the water. And, it was only slightly tricky to strip.
Cost: $3.00 ($18 for a pack of 6)
Smell: Smooth and pleasant
Saba is a brand started by a Venice couple frustrated with the current offerings. Born during the pandemic, Gal Tshnieder and Laura Quintana wanted a wax that could perform well in all conditions, coast to coast and of varying latitudes. The result is two different mixes—a base coat and top coat—and when used together form an easy-to-apply, stickier than most concoction. They are really on to something and are only picking up more steam with each new happy customer. If you want a hand-poured, well-loved blend made by surfers with a genuine goal to make surfing better for all who use the product – then Saba Surf Wax is worth a try.
Smell: Sticky Bumps
Sticky Bumps is another OG wax. If you’re in a bind, you can probably find Sticky Bumps somewhere and it’ll get the job done. One thing that surprised me this time around was how tricky it is to get the wax onto the board. It takes some time to get the wax to stick to the board at first. But once it does, Sticky Bumps is easy to put on and will bump up immediately.
Sticky Bumps is just not a very sticky wax. It feels adequately grippy, but it won’t wow you with how much grip you’ll feel. That being said, there are times when less stick can be nice like if you’re trunking it or don’t want to get your new suit all waxy. Though I never noticed a lack of grippiness, I did notice that it wasn’t as sticky as some of the other choices on this list. One cool thing to note is that Sticky Bumps also makes a softboard wax which is meant to apply easier to a foam surface and comes in cool-cold and warm-tropical.
I was excited to try this wax since it’s biodegradable and seemed like it would be a good one. Finding Matunas ended up being a huge hassle though. I tried like five different shops and once I found some, it looked like the bars had been sitting there since the nineties. Definitely not the strongest impression.
The biggest thing that I noticed about Matunas was that it felt very malleable and soft. It was like the bar had partially melted in my car on the way to the beach. It went onto my board melty. Even in cold water, the wax felt soft and seemed like it was ready to slip. Under my feet, Matunas performed a little better, but it still was much softer than I prefer. I could feel my feet slide through the wax which is never what you want.
So, if you’re looking for something that you can feel good about using, there’s Matunas. If you’re looking for a wax to push your surfing with, there are other waxes out there.
On A Mission is better known for their other surf accessories and for good reason. Their wax is nothing special. It bumps up pretty quickly but that’s about all this wax has going for it. My first impression was that it wasn’t very sticky, but, fortunately, it ended up being grippier than I feared. This wax also wasn’t the easiest to get on the board at first either. It’s not a wax that you can really cake on. And, if you find a better wax, stripping the OAM wax is going to be a pain.
Maybe if you are somewhere tropical, this wax would be a good choice. Like if you found yourself alone on a desert island with a sick break and needed anything. In a situation like that, not being able to strip the wax might even be a virtue. But otherwise, I’d pass on OAM’s wax.
|Name||Price||Stickiness (out of 5)||Smell|
|Fu Wax||$5||5||Freshly Detailed Car|
|Sticky Bumps Munkey Wax||$5||4.5||Sticky Bumps|
|Bubble Gum||$3||3||You guessed it: Bubblegum|
|YEW! Your Environment’s Wax||$5||3||Beeswax|
|Kassia’s Palo Santo Wax||$6||3||Palo Santo|
|Saba||$3||5||Smooth and fruity|
|Sticky Bumps Original||$1.80||3||Sticky Bumps|
|OAM (On a Mission)||$2||2||Coconut|
How We Tested Surf Waxes
A few notes about how we tested every wax. Each wax got one surf in mostly cold water. I didn’t use any base coat, just straight wax. I used the same wax comb to strip each wax, and if one wax was particularly difficult to strip we made a note of that. Otherwise, we went off of the overall feeling while surfing to judge each wax.
How to Choose the Right Surf Wax
As you can see with the guide above, there is a nearly-overwhelming amount of surf wax out on the market today, and the list we just ran through is just the beginning. So when choosing the right surf wax for the conditions and your values, it’s important to consider these factors:
Water Temperature Compatibility: Surf wax is designed to perform optimally at different water temperatures. Varieties include cold, cool, warm, and tropical. Make sure the wax you choose aligns with the temperature of the water you’ll be surfing in. If you use colder wax in warmer waters, it’ll simply melt off the board and won’t do its job. Here are the general temperature ranges for each wax type:
Cold: Under 60°F
Tropical: Above 75°F
Tackiness or Stickiness: This is how sticky the wax feels. You want something that provides a solid grip, but not so sticky that adjusting your stance becomes difficult. We rated the above waxes on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the stickiest of them all.
Durability: Although there’s something refreshing about applying a fresh coat of wax, it’s best to go for a wax that has a good lifespan, offering long-lasting grip without the need for frequent applications. It’s good for both the environment and your wallet.
Ease of Application: Some waxes can be more user-friendly than others. Look for a wax that spreads smoothly, not forming clumps that can affect your grip on the board.
Environmental Impact: As we become more aware of our ecological footprint, consider choosing environmentally friendly surf wax options. These are typically crafted from natural, biodegradable ingredients that reduce harm to marine life. Packaging also matters, and it’s wise to find products as well as wax that breaks down over time.
Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features from The Inertia, click here.