Is Surfboard Wax Bad For The Ocean? (Fully Explained)

As a surfer, I am a true nature lover and enjoy being outdoors. Therefore, treating our environment well is very important to me. That's why I started researching whether surfboard wax is harmful. So is surfboard wax bad for the ocean?

All non eco-friendly surfboard waxes contain petroleum by-products. These substances can enter the water during surfing and cause damage to the ocean and marine life. In addition, they also pose a health risk to the surfers themselves. Eco-friendly alternatives do not harm the ocean or the environment.

As you've read, many surf waxes are harmful to the environment. But which substances in surf wax are toxic, and are there any good alternatives available? You'll find out in this article!

Is Surfboard Wax Bad For The Environment?

As every surfer knows, we use a sticky substance known as surfboard wax to stick to our boards when riding the waves.

With the ongoing pollution of our oceans these days, we need to think to ourselves, is this sticky substance harmful to the environment?

Surfers are generally very fond of the ocean and the environment, but could it be that we surfers are damaging it more than we like to think?

So, is surfboard wax bad for the ocean and environment?

This is a complex question, and as a result, there is no simple yes or no answer to it.

There is a large variety of different surfboard wax types and brands out on the current market. Each wax is made using different materials and has its own properties.

Generally speaking, surfboard wax is harmful to the ocean and marine life unless you use eco-friendly wax. This is due to an ingredient known as Paraffin.

This sticky substance is the main ingredient used in many types of surfboard wax, especially in the more traditional brands.

Paraffin is a by-product of petroleum refinement. As you may expect, this is an incredibly toxic material, both for marine life in the ocean and surfers themselves.

The toxins in surf wax don’t stop there yet, though. The wax is also bleached and further refined before it hits the commercial shelves.

All the materials and ingredients used in these processes are classified as harmful to both humans and the environment.

Surfboard wax enters the ocean as the wax degrades from the board into the ocean itself.

Surfers often think their wax stays on their board throughout the session, but research has shown that the ocean near popular surf spots contains a significant amount of degraded wax particles, which are harmful to marine life.

The alarming thing is that over 95% of commercially available surf wax brands contain these severely harmful chemicals mentioned earlier.

This means that most surfers do damage to the thing they love most, the ocean.

Luckily, the use of petroleum by-products in surfboard wax has decreased significantly since its origin of surfboard wax.

However, as these numbers show, we have still got a long way to go before all harmful chemicals have diminished from the sport of surfing.

Is Surfboard Wax Toxic?

Now that we have determined that surfboard wax does, in fact, damage the ocean and its marine life, it is time to take a closer look at the details.

Is surfboard wax toxic? And if so, what ingredients in it cause the most damage to the ocean?

In the previous paragraph, we have already looked at Paraffin, the starting point of all toxic chemicals found in surfing wax.

Paraffin is created through the refinement of the notorious chemical petroleum, it is then further fabricated into so-called petrochemicals used in surfboard wax, and this is where the toxicity starts.

As the name suggests, petrochemicals are chemicals created through refined petroleum, and several of these can be found in surfboard wax.

The main one is Acrolyn, which is a known carcinogen recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Acrolyn is a substance also found in cigarette smoke and is known to cause cancer and damage to the environment.

Further petrochemicals found in surfboard wax are benzene and toluene. Both are considered probable human carcinogens by the before-mentioned EPA.

These substances are both toxic to human beings and the oceanic environment. 

Besides petrochemicals, there are more harmful substances in surfboard wax.

The wax is bleached as part of the production process, releasing incredibly toxic bleach dioxins, which, similar to petrochemicals, can cause damage to both humans and the ocean.

The big problem with these toxins in surfboard wax is their poor biodegradability.

Because these substances can’t be degraded naturally, they will continue to stack and damage the environment, causing an exponentially growing problem for the oceanic environment and humanity as time goes in.

This is why we need to intervene as soon as possible. This can be done by using non-toxic and eco-friendly wax types, but more about that later.

Luckily though, more and more surfboard wax brands are switching to biodegradable alternatives.

What is Surf Wax Made Of?

We have now looked at the specific toxic and harmful chemicals used in surf wax, but there is, of course, more to it than just that.

To clarify all the chemicals we saw and to discover the remaining components of surf wax, we will now take a closer look at what surf wax is actually made of.

Once again, this is quite a difficult question to answer as each manufacturer does it slightly differently, and no one wants to dispose of their exact list of ingredients.

All surf wax, however, is essentially a large mix of different types of waxes.

Most brands use bee wax and oils such as coconut oil to add a pleasant smell and create a stickier texture to the wax. Pine resin and petroleum jelly regulate the wax’s thickness, making it more suitable for warmer or colder water temperatures depending on your specific needs.

This is the case with most ingredients added to surfboard wax.

The paraffin base is complemented with a range of vegetable oils, bee wax, pine resin, and/or petroleum jelly to achieve the desired characteristics.

This is why the question ‘what is surf wax made of’ can’t be answered exactly as it greatly varies from wax to wax.

Of course, Paraffin and other toxic chemicals play a massive role in the chemical makeup of surf wax. More information on these chemicals can be found in the previous subheading on toxins in surfboard wax.

Is There ​​Eco-Friendly Surf Wax?

After all this talk about toxins and environmental damage, you might wonder, is there another way to go about it? Is there eco-friendly surf wax on the market, or are there other alternatives?

Luckily for us surfers, there are other ways of doing what we love without damaging our playground, the ocean!

There are plenty of eco-friendly surf wax brands available on the internet and in surf shops. These waxes are not based on Paraffine, and they did not undergo the harmful bleaching process. They are instead based on biodegradable materials such as soy wax.

These wax types might not smell as good, as they don’t have unnecessary synthetic odors added to them. Still, their performance is exactly the same as traditional wax types.

These eco-friendly wax types can be found under the terms ‘all-vegan wax’ or ‘organic wax.’

These wax types are becoming increasingly popular amongst surfers, so join the revolution and keep our precious ocean a happy place for future generations of surfers!

Besides eco-friendly surfing wax, many people also adopt friction pads on their boards. These pads are glued directly onto your board, and they will eliminate the use of surfboard wax.

Some surfers love it, others hate it, but friction pads can be a great way to minimize your wax usage. It also saves you the time and effort of waxing your board every time you go out into the water.  


All in all, most surfboard wax types used today still contain harmful petrochemicals such as Paraffin which damages the oceanic environment and the surfers themselves.

This is a significant environmental problem.

Luckily the tide is shifting as more and more surfers opt to use eco-friendly surf wax or grip pads to keep our oceanic playground alive!

Marcus Campbell

Surfing is the biggest passion in my life. Transferring my knowledge about surfing to others is what I love doing most! I do this through my own surf school and through my articles on this website. This is how I hope to get everyone excited about this amazing sport!
July 19, 2022
Published: July 19, 2022