Organic surf waxes have been around for a number of years, yet until recently, they never had a big impact on the surf wax market. One reason was the difficulty of making a high-quality organic wax.
“We just couldn’t get it to bead up the right way and stick the right way, because organic waxes are really oily and are totally different from petroleum-based wax,” explains Sciortino. “And really, a lot of the other organic waxes out there just aren’t that good. But we kept working at it, and after a lot of hard work we finally got it down. We made sure that ours is performance-based and just, well, gnarly.”
The problem was finding the right combination of beeswax, soy, and other vegetable oils and making them sticky enough. For one thing, the ingredients being all-natural, the batches of soy and beeswax vary in consistency and in compatibility with other ingredients. “You know, soy wax is a really greasy wax, and it didn’t really work that well,” says Sciortino, “so we had to start using combinations of soy wax, vegetable wax, and beeswax and start mixing everything together.”
The additional time and effort drives up the cost. A regular bar of wax sells at most surf shops for around one dollar and is typically applied each time before surfing. Most eco-friendly bars of wax sell for nearly three times more and are usually applied with the same frequency.
“This wax will go in the shops for retail at about three bucks, because it costs about 80 cents to make it, and then we have to package it and ship it,” Sciortino says.
While most of the companies producing organic brands of surf wax, such as Famous, are newer and smaller businesses, industry giant Sticky Bumps is also hopping on board. In March, the company shipped over 94,000 bars of its no-hydrocarbon, soy-based surf wax overseas. The new wax will be in San Diego surf shops in the summer.
“To really do this no-hydrocarbon wax sincerely, which is how we are going to do it, there’s a learning curve,” says Dahl. “I think it probably won’t be as good as our original formula, and it will cost a lot more, but it will be better on the environment. It will leave no carbon footprint — the buzz word for the day.”
Dahl, however, is not trying to compete with his own brand. His company’s soy product is for surfers willing to pay the extra price. He expects that the majority of wax sold will be the original, petroleum-based wax.
“People really have to make a conscientious choice about whether they would like to help the environment or save money,” says Trust of Surf eCo. “More people now are realizing their impacts on the environment and are choosing eco-friendly alternatives. Less than five years ago, I doubt that very many people would have paid almost double the price of surf wax for an option that protects the environment and the ocean.”
Matunas wax is the cheapest of the all-natural waxes on the market. Bars sell for around $1.50, barely higher than the price for petroleum-based surf wax. “With the volume we’re putting out,” says Mattoon, “we got the price down to where it is almost cheaper than any regular wax.”
Both Dahl and Sciortino, however, are skeptical. “I know what goes into making the organic wax,” says Sciortino, “and if you do it like we do, the right way, printing on 100 percent recycled paper and using all-natural products, there’s just no way. It’s not possible.”
According to Mattoon it’s a matter of finding the right connections and using the right ingredients. “We’ve been doing this wax for almost ten years. We don’t have any cost for packaging, all of our labels are from wind-powered factories up north, plus probably about 40 percent of the ingredients used in our wax comes from my family’s farm. At the end of the day, I’m paying way less than any of the other brands out there, and that’s why I can sell the bars for $1.50.”
Despite the high price of some organic brands, surfers appear open to using them. Artist and surfer Koniakowsky likes the changing tide of eco-friendly consumerism. “Surfers haven’t been that great about creating products with a sustainable type of vision,” he says. “Just look at surfboards and the foam they use. But I’d be into using an organic wax. There’s a lot of hype though, and I think you should do some research to make sure it really is green. I’m in graphic design, and sometimes it takes more work and exhausts more energy to recycle a single sheet of paper than it does to chop down a tree.”