Waxing your boat for extra speed

Many people in different disciplines wax their boat to gain more speed or any other advantage. Does this waxing actually help or is it just a waste of money?

We’ll have to make a distinction between the different disciplines whether or not waxing helps. Starting off with racing, the main purpose of waxing the hull of your kayak is an increase in speed. Several tests have concluded that waxing by itself doesn’t really change much, however, if your boat has light scratches and dents, waxing the hull can make the surface smoother, which in turn results in more speed.
Another option is to just sand the surface and polish it to give it a smooth finish.

There are 2 type of hull finishes that do increase the speed of a kayak, but they have been banned by the ICF due to an illegal advantage. The first is a slimy polymer that dissolves in the water reducing drag locally round the hull. This leaves the water contaminated which isn’t a good thing.
A second thing is 3M drag reduction riblet film, which creates grooves on the hull in the direction of the water flow reducing drag significantly.

White water, freestyle and slalom have no real purpose when waxing a boat. The flow of the water is unpredictable anyways, and small scratches and dents will probably not impact the flow anyways.

Canoe polo is one are where wax can be used to reduce drag between 2 solid surfaces.
In previous examples, the purpose of the wax was to reduce the drag between the hull (solid) and the water (liquid) which doesn’t work.
However, in canoe polo, you sometimes want to reduce the friction between 2 solids. If you wax your kayak, it could make it easier to go over (or under) another boat.
Several tests have shown that this is actually the case! The downside though is that in some situations (for example, when an opponent tries to pass over your boat) you would want to increase the friction to stop them. It’s a matter of personal preference …