What Is The Difference Between Warm And Cold Surf Wax?

When you're just starting to surf and you wax your board for the first time, many questions can pop into your head. This makes perfect sense and has happened to me. One of these questions can be; what is the difference between cold and warm water wax?

The difference between cold and warm water wax is the hardness of the surf wax. Cool and cold water wax is much softer than warm water and tropical surf wax. Warm water wax is used in water temperatures of 68 °F (20 ℃) and above. Cold water wax should be used at water temperatures below 66 °F (19 ℃).

In the remainder of this article, I will go much more in-depth on the difference between cold and warm water surf wax. That way, you'll find out when to use which surf wax, and much more!

What is Warm Water Surf Wax?

To answer the question in the title of this article, we must first understand what warm and cold water surf wax is and why there is a difference between the two.

As the name suggests, warm water surf wax is a type of surf wax used in places with higher water temperatures. Typically, you would use warm water surf wax in water temperatures around 68 °F (20 ℃) or above.

Warm water wax is specifically made to be resistant to melting, which is, of course, necessary to withstand the high temperatures in these areas.

In order to achieve these desired characteristics, warm water waxes contain few natural oils and sticky agents, and they are made using hard base paraffin to prevent easy melting.

Within the category of surf wax that is considered ‘warm water surf wax,’ there is also a distinct type of wax known as ‘tropical surf wax.’

This wax type is only used in tropical regions where water temps exceed 77 °F (25 ℃) regularly.

Tropical surf wax has all the characteristics of regular warm water wax, but as you might expect, all exaggerated to compensate for the higher water temperatures compared to its warm water counterpart.

What is Cold Water Surf Wax?

Now that we have looked at the specific characteristics of warm water wax, it only makes sense to review cold water surf wax in some more detail as well.

As you can expect, a bar of cold water surf wax has seemingly polar opposite characteristics to a bar of warm water surf wax.

Cold or cool water surf wax is generally necessary when water temperatures get below 66 °F (19 ℃). This is often the case in the colder parts of the world and most of the world during wintertime.

Cold water wax is designed to prevent hardening up and to remain sticky, even when temperatures drop to lower levels. All types of wax, such as surf wax, tend to harden when temperatures drop.

This is not a desirable characteristic for surf wax, as hard wax offers very little grip, while a softer wax variety will make your feet stick to the board while surfing.

Cold water waxes are filled with natural oils and sticky agents to achieve these characteristics. They are manufactured with a softer base of paraffin to remain sticky at all times.

Just like warm water wax, cold water wax can be divided up into two main categories.

Cool water wax, used in temperatures between 50 °F (10 ℃) and 66 °F (19 ℃), and proper cold water wax, used in temperatures from 50 °F (10 ℃) and below, used by arctic surfers.

As you can expect, cold water wax is incredibly prone to melting.

Therefore, storing your cold water wax away from hot places, such as your warm car, is important as this can cause an unpleasant mess and an unusable bar of surf wax.

The Difference Between Cold And Warm Water Wax

Now that we’ve looked at both types of wax separately, it’s time to take a closer look at the differences between cold and warm water surf wax.

The main difference between the two lies in the structure of the wax. While cold water surf wax is very soft and mouldable, making it easier to apply. Warm water wax is very hard and difficult to apply to your board.

This difference is due to a difference in chemical composition between the two types of wax.

The cold water wax uses very soft base paraffin to prevent the wax from hardening up. In contrast, the warm water wax uses harder base paraffin to prevent melting.

There is also a difference in natural oils and sticky agents, as cold water wax contains more oils and agents than warm water wax.

Generally, warm water wax requires less wax to be applied on your board to work properly. This is due to the before-mentioned difference in hardness, as the sticky and soft cold water wax will be used up rather quickly.

As you can imagine, applying the wrong type of wax for the current water temperature will adversely affect your surfing session.

Applying cold water wax in warm conditions will cause the wax to melt right off your board, leaving you with an equally slippery board as you started with.

Applying warm water wax in cold conditions will cause the wax to harden up, leaving you with a dirty and slippery board.


All in all, warm water surf wax is a harder type of wax used in temperatures around 68 °F (20 ℃) and above. This wax is designed to prevent melting in higher temperatures.

On the other hand, cold water wax is a softer wax used in temperatures well below 68 °F (20 ℃). This wax is specifically designed to prevent hardening up in colder conditions.

Be sure to use the suitable wax for the day, as failing to do so can seriously ruin your surf session!

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!
August 16, 2022
Published: August 16, 2022