Braw: Scottish company on a mission to make sustainable surf wax
“We are all going to plan this route / We will be taking it very soon / We polish our surfboards / We can’t wait to be in June / We will all be gone for the summer / We are on surfari to stay / Tell the teacher that we surf / Surfin ‘USA.
Thanks to the second verse of the Beach Boys ‘classic Surfin’ USA from 1963, the concept of waxing a surfboard is now familiar to millions of non-surfers around the world. The question of what exactly this process entails, however, does not seem to be so universally understood. Perhaps because skiers wax the soles of their skis to make them go faster, a lot of people mistakenly think it’s the same with surfing. (By the way, no shame if that was you: Longtime Hawaii resident Paul Theroux just released his first surf novel, Under the Wave in Waimea, and even he and his editors seem to have the feel like the purpose of surf wax is to make the boards faster.)
So, just to make sure we’re all on the same page: Surfers rub wax on the top of their boards (called decks) to give them grip in the water. Without wax, a surfboard’s surface would be about as slippery as an ice rink, and surfing would be the eighth wonder of the world. You can spend hundreds of dollars on a surfboard, but without a little bar of wax that costs a few dollars, you won’t get anywhere.
For decades, the surf wax market has been dominated by a few big brands, most of which like to riff on the onanistic undertones of applying wax to their packaging. Made in California since 1972, Mr. Zogg’s Sex Wax claims to be “the best for your stick” while Ms. Palmers, made in Australia, encourages users to “rub it – the feel just keeps getting better”. These traditional waxes are usually made from paraffin wax or soy wax, neither of which are renewable resources and both involve the use of petrochemicals in their manufacture. However, there are renewable alternatives, and a new Scottish company called Braw is looking to capitalize on this gap in the market while avoiding the questionable Carry On vibes.
Braw was founded in January 2020 by three surfers who met at Napier University and realized they had complementary skills: Donald Inglis, Tonie Nguyen and Oscar James. Inglis studied business and marketing in Napier; Nguyen is a designer, originally from Germany, who moved to Scotland to study and then stayed to work on Braw; and James’s background is in sports media, mainly photography and video work – we have to thank him for the smooth video footage from this year’s British Surfing Championships, which took place at Thurso East.
“We all met through the surf club at the college,” says James. “We went on vacation together to Spain – I think it was in the summer of 2019 – and we all got into surfing around the same time.
“The business idea only came last year,” he continues. “Duncan had lived in South Africa, and while he was there someone taught him a recipe for organic surf wax. Surfing in Scotland is still a niche, and a lot of the surf waxes you buy don’t really work here, even the cold water ones – when they get really cold they just get super hard and you can’t put them on. your board. It’s just one of those things everyone accepts about surfing in Scotland, but we thought we were going to try and do better. “
So, Braw’s goal is to make a wax that works in cold water and is also durable. Achieving this took a lot of careful research and development, and ultimately that meant finding ready product testers, waxing their boards with the latest prototypes, and then sending them to the North Sea. A video on the Braw site shows how a lot of work a test day is, not only for the surfers who test the different waxes – in this case Simon Olsson and Hugo Spinola – but also for the crew back on the trail. beach, which has wax. then re-circling the boards between surfs and also keeping meticulous notes on what worked and what didn’t.
“That day we had nine or ten variations,” says James. “It’s pretty tough for the boys – they surf a bit, get out of the water, grab their other boards that we’ve already waxed and then go straight in. That day they were surfing for about four hours.”
After testing “between 50 and 60 variations”, the Braw team has just launched a product they consider a winner: their brand new Celtic wax. Without revealing the secret recipe, James is able to tell me that it includes beeswax, either coconut oil or rapeseed oil, depending on availability, and pine resin. “Everything is done by hand,” he says. “All we need is a gas stove and we can make it pretty much anywhere. It’s not like we’re going to become a mass operation – we just wanted to see it. ‘it was possible to make it and if people would like to buy it, and so far it’s been going pretty well. “
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