Clean That Board!
Do you remember when you got "your new surfboard" and it looked really cool and clean and, well, perfect? Sometimes you end up spending so much time looking at it and admiring it you almost forget to think about how jazzed you're gonna be when you finally get to ride it! It is at that point in time that your board looks as good as it ever will because as soon as you wax it up to use it, it has begun the process of becoming just "your board". With time "your board" begins to show the inevitable scars of use and starts to grow that layered up coat of surf wax which seems to be really good at attracting all kinds of material like sand, dirt, wetsuit stains and even seashell fragments. The initial coat of wax looks pretty good on a new board but as time goes by it looks more like some form of sticky smeared dirt which can vary is shades of brown and black usually, and may even have some multi-colored smears if you are into some of the new brightly colored wax products available these days. Even with these cool new colors, all that old wax just makes your board look like, well, crap.
A lot of surfers aren't aware that surf wax comes in different formulations for use in specific water temperature ranges. If you don't use the proper wax for the water temperature you are surfing in you may find it harder than it should be to maintain your grip on the board! Most surfers that are aware of the need to use the proper wax don't realize that it is best to remove your existing coat of wax between seasons or when traveling to an area of drastically different water temperatures than what you have been surfing in and replace the coat with the proper wax for the local temperature. Layering multiple wax formulas on top of one another can also lead to poor performance issues with the wax and the surfer! When this is done, one thing that can happen is the wax will start to flake off and you will notice the flakes floating around you in the water. Another is that the wax will just smear around making it hard to keep your feet in the intended position on the board.
Having said all of that, we get back to our original observation.....the pristine appearance of a new board! Is there any way to bring that back? Well, probably not completely but there is a way to get close, assuming "your board" has not suffered too many beatings and is wearing the scars to prove it. You've gotta clean "your board" man! This is very easy to do and quick. Cleaning your board, as we have determined, has two useful purposes. One is that it will make you board look a whole lot better and, knowing that may even make you think it rides better. The other is that it allows you to apply the proper wax directly to the board which will definitely make it ride better. There is even a wax product sold as a "base coat" which is a special wax to be applied first for any water temp which provides a "starter layer" that helps the final coat adhere better to the board.
So, how do we start the cleaning process? Common thinking would suggest you need to scrape the nasty old stuff off and surfers will usually dive right in with the non-serrated side of a "wax comb" . This works to a point, can be time consuming, and never quite completes the job. This method tends to leaves a lot of dirty wax in the depressions on the deck of the board, of which there will be many, and the board just won't look clean at all. An actual "wax comb" is not a necessity and a variety of materials can be used that have a straight edge and are slightly flexible, but not sharp, such as a plastic putty knife or scraper.
The best way to accomplish this task is to use a scraping device in combination with a heat source and "magic dust". In reality, you don't even need a scraping device if you have the worlds most abundant free heat source (the effectiveness of which depends on the season and where on earth you happen to be), and some of this "magic dust".
What is that heat source? Well you've probably guessed by now that it is the sun. Placing you board in a sunny warm area out of the wind will quickly soften the wax and make it much easier to remove. If you happen to live in the land of eternal darkness you will probably have to use a blow dryer or hot water (not boiling or even scalding) to soften the wax.
Next you need to obtain some "magic dust". What is this "magic dust" you ask? Hopefully you live somewhere in close proximity to a surfboard manufacturer and you can pretty much get all you want for free! This "magic dust" is the foam dust cast off during the surfboard shaping process which is the first step in the construction of a new surfboard. Now, the most common type of surfboard on the market today is constructed using a polyurethane foam "blank" and this is the kind of dust you want (polystyrene foam blanks are used to construct "epoxy" surfboards and this foam dust is not quite as good for this purpose). It is a very fine powder and is found in abundance in the shaping bays and vacuum systems at surfboard factories. This material is discarded by the trash bag load and you will not need more than a few handfuls. The discarded foam dust will contain larger particles and even wood shavings so sifting out the larger pieces typically generates better results....the finer the better. So all you have to do is show up with your large zip lock bag in hand, try to be cool, but not too cool, and ask for some. It has always been interesting to me that the remnants of the material that is the core and is the first step in the life of a surfboard comes around full circle and can be used again to maintain, improve the appearance and breathe a little new life back in to that same board. How's that for recycling! If you don't live near a surfboard manufacturer you can use sawdust! This works also, although I believe not quite as well. The same guidelines apply to sawdust, "the finer the better" so sift through whatever form you can get your hands on.
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So what do we do with this "magic dust"? It's simple really, assuming you have softened the wax in one of the ways described above. If your wax coat is really thick you can start by using the scraping technique to remove the bulk of the wax but you don't have to. All you have to do is sprinkle the dust onto the wax and rub it around and you will be amazed at how the dust collects the wax and it just wipes off forming larger pieces which can be formed into a ball. Keep sprinkling dust onto the board and wiping, making balls, and before you know it the wax has been literally polished off the board! Every depression and surface irregularity is wax free!
How does she look? Did you find a "ding" you didn't even know you had? Is there some yellowing or discoloration that indicates water might be getting into your board? Good thing you removed your wax! One thing to remember is that you should do this in an area where you can contain the wax and the stray foam dust for disposal. Out in the yard is best as the grass is soft and wont damage the bottom of your board. All you need to do is lay down some plastic or some newspaper, put your board down, get busy, and then gather it all up when you're done.
Don't forget to dispose of all the waste properly. Oh, and go buy a new bar of wax!
Keep surfing, share a smile and even a wave. I hope you found this helpful.
Thomas on July 18, 2012:
Thanks for the info about using the 'magic dust', sounds like winner and much less harmful to the board that hot water.
GaynorG (author) from Florida, USA on January 06, 2012:
Thanks for that! If you would like to see what's going on in the world of surfing,....stop by www.surfline.com for all kinds of cool surf stuff and the latest buzz on what is happening everyday in surfing around the world.
John R Wilsdon from Superior, Arizona on January 04, 2012:
You write well. I don't have a board, and I live in Arizona, but if I were to turn into a surfboard enthusiast at my age, I would definitely use your hub when caring for a board.
This is very useful. Thanks.