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Surf Wax: How’s it Harmful?

Surf Wax: How’s it Harmful?
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photo by @vanessayeager in MAGDAKINEDESIGNS Rincon One-Piece

It’s in every surfer’s arsenal (a pseudonym for rolling around somewhere in your car) but did you know that the surf wax you’re using could be harming you and the ocean? Last year you switched to reef-safe sunscreen but now let's chat about surf wax.  How is it harmful?

The Main Ingredient: Paraffin

Paraffin is a byproduct of petroleum, and is the number one ingredient in nearly every commercial surf wax. If you’re not sure what paraffin is, think of that black gunk oozing out of the back of petroleum pipes you see in photos…yep, that’s the one.

The process of producing paraffin for the surf wax industry involves bleaching the grayish-black sludge and then adding chemicals to solidify it. The bleaching process uses a 100% strength bleach (compared to your 10% strength bleach used to do laundry) and emits high levels of dioxins into the environment. These dioxins have been known to cause cancer and reproductive problems to those who are exposed.

After bleaching, the paraffin is solidified by adding more petrochemicals to the sludge, with the most popular added chemical being acrolyn (another reported carcinogen.) But that’s not where the toxins stop. More chemicals like benzene and toluene are added, plus you know that fruity scent your surf wax has? Yep, another added chemical. 

The scary part is that 95% of all commercial surf waxes on the shelves contain these petrochemicals, which are not only toxic to you and the environment but chip off into the ocean where they may never biodegrade.

In general, we think it’s time to take a closer look at the sustainability of surfing and the impact our obsession with the ocean has on the ocean. And since surf wax is relatively cheap (less than $5 a bar) here's our challenge to you, try something new! Find our eco-surf wax recommendations here: Surf More Sustainably - An A-Z List of Eco-Friendly Surf Products and let us know your thoughts. 

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