Wax jobs: The ultimate weapon for success in snowboard cross racing
If you like high-speed, head-to-head action and a touch of carnage, then snowboard cross is the sport for you.
Snowboard cross first debuted back in 2006 as part of the Torino Games and has had the world’s attention ever since.
What appears to be a challenge of aggressive manpower – or womanpower – while racing down a course filled with turns, berms and jumps is actually far more scientific than the obvious brute force that is witnessed from afar.
Snowboard cross relies most heavily on one thing: a proper wax job.
Here are the boards to the men’s snowboard cross team. Nate Holland alone has eight boards, each one treated slightly different.
A properly waxed board is without a doubt the deciding factor in every single snowboard cross race, and the emphasis should be on the word “proper,” as not just any old waxed snowboard will win in such a race.
When it comes to waxing a board for snowboard cross, there is a very scientific process that is always evolving and is very particular to the conditions in which one is riding. That process can change significantly throughout the course of a single day’s worth of racing.
So what are the key components worth noting? Let’s start with the elements that go into deciding what type of wax to use for each scenario — later we will break down the process in which the wax is applied.
Andrew Buckley, or "Andy" if you are part of Team USA. This guy knows all the tricks to the trade of a proper wax job.
Tools of the trade. These two boxes contain all wax, overlays and other various tools used to keep Team USA riding at top speed.
NOTE: All information used in this report was gathered from expert snowboard wax technician Andy Buckley of Team USA. Don’t worry – although Buckley did break down the scientific process in which waxes are chosen and applied, he was adamant about not giving away the actual secrets, or tricks of the trade, that give him and his riders the competitive edge it takes to ultimately win the race. Rest assured, the below information, as technical as it may sound, is simply scratching the surface of this snowboard science.
Picking your wax:
1. The conditions of the snow.
- Is it overly cold and consisting of ice crystals?
- Is it hard-pack and cool?
- Is it coastal and full of more moisture (rather than frozen elements)?
- Does it consist of other materials found in the snow such as dirt, dye and various debris?
2. The material of the particular snowboard base.
- Snowboards are constructed with a wide variety of products, and depending on which ones the rider is using, that will ultimately dictate which kinds of wax will work best.
3. The styles of “grind” that the manufacturer incorporated into the board’s design. (This is literally the structure cut into the base material.)
- The grind is comparable to a tire’s tread. There are different treads, or grinds, for really cold, dry snow, while others are designed to work better with warmer, wet snow. Regardless of how cold the snow is, the friction from the board moving across the snow will melt a fraction of it, and moving that water is imperative in order to maintain speed as the water pooling creates suction.
So in actuality, it is a combination of the right wax, for the right conditions with the right grind in place on a specific base material.
The man behind the mystery, Andy Buckley, putting in the hard work and the hours. Don’t pay any attention to the color of the wax pictured - top secret.
This single box of top-shelf wax ranges in the $7,000 dollar range. Only a top-tier team like USA would be rolling with such premium product.
Confused yet? Hope not, because this is just the beginning. Next comes the application.
Application of wax:
1. Detune (unsharpen) the edges while looking for burs (nicks).
- Rather than overly sharp edges, which can make for unnecessary grabbing while riding, a subtly dull edge allows for the board to grab the snow with weight over the edge but also to ride friction-free when the board is flat.
2. Clean the entire base of the board with a variety of solvents.
- Most importantly, a clean base before the application of wax allows only the wax to sit on the board by removing various dirt and debris picked up from the snow as well as chemicals used to paint and create the course.
3. Drip the wax across the base of the board, applying the base wax.
- By pressing a bar of wax to a hot iron, wax is then dripped over the entire surface of the board, which is followed by the iron rubbed directly onto and across the base of the board to further allow the wax to seep into the pores of the board.
4. Scrape the excess wax from the board.
- Once wax has settled into the pours of the board, it is imperative to scrape every bit of excess wax from the surface of the board to create as flush of a surface as possible.
5. Brush and buff the base of the board.
- The remaining wax on the surface of the board must be brushed from the surfaces in conjuction with the direction of the grind, then buffed smooth to again create the most flush surface possible for the least amount of friction while riding. There are various combinations of brushes and buff pads similar to sand papers that are used in particular order.
6. Finally, apply the race wax or powder overlay.
- The last application of wax is sometimes a liquid but most commonly a powder that consists of fluorocarbons that coat the board. Race wax goes over that layer.
As you can see, it’s a complex process, and as a result, a proper wax job can truly make or break a racer’s day.
This is the board oven used to get the wax to melt at just the right temperature to best fuse within the pores of the snowboard base. This step can take between 6-10 hours.
Scraping the base coat of the wax is just one of the many steps required in a proper wax job. Again, the color of this wax should be ignored for Team USA’s book of secrets.
Best of Sochi