Meet San Diego Originals, The Dahl Family: Environmentalists, Community Activists And Global Surf Industry Leaders
Photo credit: Chad Thomas
The Dahl family is recognized world-wide for being at the forefront of wax research and application. From their “Sticky Bumps” surf wax – which actually feeds corral reefs – to non-toxic, high performance snow wax known as “Wend” Waxworks (used by the world’s best snowboarders and skiers), this family’s passion for the environment and thrilling rides is only surpassed by their humility and generosity.
John Dahl | Photo credit: Cris Dahl
Nearly 47 years ago, a San Diego man named John Baker started flirting with ways to formulate and mix wax to help surfers the world-over stick to their surf boards.
John started the company “Wax Research” which would become an umbrella company of sorts. Wax Research was created with friend and former co-worker Hylton Murphy in Encinitas in 1971 after leaving “Surf Research” – one of the first surf-accessory companies, anywhere.
John would later change his name from Baker to Dahl and his industry-changing formulas would become known as “Sticky Bumps“. His passion, not only for surfing and individual expression but to the ocean’s health, would continue to grow.
Having an epiphany during a ski trip, this La Jolla-raised gentleman realized he could manipulate wax for the reverse intention (on snow you want it for the “slide”). With the insight and inspiration of his wife, Cris (the “brains” of the operation, according to Mr. Dahl), they were off to the races.
At this point in surfing, people were using canning wax in an attempt to not slip off their boards. In the late 1960s, you could get one-pound of the wax for $.25; the newly released manufactured 5 oz. bar of “surf wax” for $.25 was not immediately accepted – it took some time.
The word slowly spread from continent to continent. Today Wax Research produces roughly 20,000 bars every eight hours, all by hand here in San Diego. Their Sticky Bumps brand is credited as a critical component in the evolution of surfing.
Alyssa getting some hands-on training from Dad circa 1978
From hobbyists to amateurs to the world’s top pros, Sticky Bumps is coveted by virtually all who seek the thrill of wave-riding.
The Dahl Family in 2017 (l-r) Ryan, Alyssa, Cris and John
By 1980 the entire Dahl family was working the shop floor. This includes son Ryan (now the CEO) and daughter Alyssa (now the VP of Global Sales and Marketing). When speaking to John about his daughter, he proudly announced “she’s done every job in this place, including driving the forklifts!”
The Dahl family’s impact doesn’t stop at the shoreline; their industry-leading snow/race wax is unsurpassed in both performance and environmental impact (or lack thereof).
While most high-grade race wax (for snow) contains some degree of toxic elements such as Fluoro, the Dahls have created/discovered an organic compound they call “Meadowfoam”. This discovery lead to improved on-snow performance while only leaving biodegradable residuals.
The world’s top performers ride on “Wend”. From skiers like Downhill and Super-G Olympian Daron Rahlves (one of the most decorated ski racers in History) to pro snowboarders like Olympian and 8-time X-Games gold medalist Lyndsey Jacobellis, it seems everybody’s gotten hip to Wax Research.
The Dahl’s are always pushing the limits of what can be done on all forms of H2O, while constantly shrinking their industrial footprint. Japan’s own giant-slayer, big mountain freerider Kazu Kokubo said “I’m really happy that John and family have welcomed me into the WEND family. I can’t wait for winter!”
Mr. Kokubo went on to say “I have tried so many waxes for so long, and for the first time I’ve noticed a huge difference in the way my board rides after using WEND this past summer in New Zealand. Whether it was a heli-trip in Methven or pipe training in Wanaka, every wax I tried was awesome.”
This man jumps off massive snow-covered cliffs for a living, so…
Always seeking new ideas and approaches, while supporting their neighbors and being stewards of the ocean, has lead this pioneering family into uncharted waters of several occasions. Often with astounding results.
Every wax company on the planet has been chasing the Dahl’s Sticky Bumps formula since the early ’90s, proof that compassion and responsibility can also be profitable.
Wax Research employs seventeen San Diegans, full-time. In addition, they sponsor nearly one-hundred local amateur surfers, helping them chase their dreams.
This one family has managed to support so many of our fellow neighbors it’s truly inspiring.
Cris and John Dahl at Wax Research HQ, San Diego
Quick 3 Questions
So what does a globe-trotting family do while home in San Diego? I asked John about their family favorites, here’s what she had to say:
1) Favorite local grub-spot?
2) Favorite beach?
Alyssa: Gotta be Beacons
3) Favorite thing(s) about living in San Diego?
Alyssa: Lot’s of surf, right out the front door