December 6

Surfboard Traction Pads: A Newbies Ultimate Guide + How To’s…

EQUIPMENT, SURF

If you want to know a thing or two about surfboard traction pads, then you're in the right place.

In this ultimate guide you'll learn:

  • What they do, how to avoid picking a dud, and how to choose the right one for your board.
  • What's better: Surfboard Wax or traction pads? We compare both.
  • How to install a traction pad - the right way - it's not as straightforward as you think.
  • What to look out for when buying a new grip, and what to avoid.
  • How, why, and where to place them on your surfboard.

And a whole bunch more...


WHAT IS A TRACTION PAD?

Traction pads, aka 'deck grips', or 'deck pads', are an alternative to surf wax used by surfers to add grip to their surfboards to stop their feet from sliding off. 

Traditionally made from EVM foam, surfers attach these traction pads to the deck of their surfboards.

Traction pads are most commonly used exclusively on the tail of the surfboard (known as tail pads), however, it is possible to get deck grips for the front foot too. 

A deck pad set-up with both back and front traction pads is known as a ‘full deck grip’.


DO YOU NEED A TRACTION PAD ON A SURFBOARD?

No. Traction pads are not essential to riding a surfboard, however many people prefer surfing with them.

Prior to their invention surfers would use surf wax exclusively, which is more than adequate, however traction pads do offer a number of advantages (more on that in a minute).


SURFBOARD TRACTION PADS VS WAX

Traction pads or wax? Which is better?

Lets take a closer look at each:


TRACTION PAD

PRO'S

  • Kick-Pad: Tail pads have what’s known a kicker on them, a raised wedge at the back of the grip that stops your foot from sliding off the back of the board.
  • Attach once, grip forever: Once a traction pad has been attached, that’s it. Unlike wax it’ll continue to provide grip forever.

CON'S

  • Upfront initial cost: Traction pads require an initial upfront investment of around $50+
  • Takes time to set up: It’s recommended that you wait 24hrs for the glue to set when applying a new deck pad.


SURF WAX

PRO'S

  • Cheap: Wax is cheap to buy and instant to apply, allowing you to surf immediately after buying a new board.

CON'S

  • Get’s dirty: Wax gets black and dirty over time. 
  • Needs replacing: Wax loses its traction quite quickly and needs to be re-applied before each surf.
  • Grip fluctuates with the temperature: The grippiness of your wax will vary depending upon the water temperature. Wax will need to be stripped off and replaced as the season’s change.

DO YOU NEED WAX WITH A TRACTION PAD

The answer is, it depends.

If you’re riding a full deck grip you should be ok without any wax, although even in these circumstances surfers will add additional wax to any areas that may need it just in case.

However, more commonly, surfers will ride with a tail pad only.  In these circumstances you’ll absolutely need to add wax to the rest of the surfboard for traction. 


TRACTION PAD PLACEMENT

Ok, I’ve seen some pretty wacky traction pad placement in my time, with bad placement being the hallmark of kookiness in the sport. 

So, use the placement guides below to make sure you get it right.


TAIL PAD PLACEMENT

As a rule of thumb, the tail pad should be placed as far back as possible, over the back centre fin.

Why? 

Well, the further back you can place your back foot through turns, the more drive and power you’ll have as a result.  


FRONT PAD PLACEMENT

The placement of a front traction pad serves two purposes.

  1. It’s needed for traction under foot when riding a wave.
  2. It’s required for traction when paddling. 

This means that it not only has to be placed where your front foot usually goes, but also needs to be placed such that your chest can grip the board when paddling too.

To find out where this location is, lie on your board without fins on.

Take note of your paddle position, as well as your feet position after pop up, then mark this zone with a pencil for reference.


HOW TO CHOOSE A TRACTION PAD FOR A SURFBOARD?

There are a few different traction pad designs that may influence your decision as to which is right for you. 

Here’s what to look out for:

ARCH BAR: An arch bar is where the centre piece of the tail pad will be raised to fit into the arch of your foot. 

FLAT GRIP: A flat deck grip will have no arch bar to speak of and be flat throughout.

NUMBER OF PIECES: Some grips will come as a single piece, and some with as many as 5 pieces or more. 

The number of pieces adds no performance enhancements whatsoever, but is just a case of personal preference.

GRIP SIZE: Deck grips will come in different sizes - width's & heights - so be sure to get the right fit for your board.

At the end of the day, traction pads are 'much of a muchness' if you ask me.

Sure, the brands will likely be trying to sell you on the newest innovation, but in all honesty, they're all pretty much the same, and do just as good a job as one another. 

It's mostly down to personal design preferences more than anything.

My one caveat though is the arch bar, this'll likely be the one thing that you'll notice most, and for what it's worth, I always prefer grips with an arch bar over flat ones.

Make of that what you will.


HOW TO INSTALL A SURFBOARD TRACTION PAD

Below is a step by step guide to installing a traction pad on a surfboard:


STEP 1: REMOVE WAX, DIRT & GRIME

The first step is to make sure you’re working with a clean surface, so be sure to remove all wax, dirt, and grime.

This can be done using a wax remover, or alternatively white spirits or turpentine will do the job just fine. 


STEP 2: ROUGHEN IT UP

Glue naturally adheres better to rough surfaces, so you’ll want to give your board a super light once-over with sandpaper to roughen things up ready for application.


STEP 3: LINE IT UP

Grab yourself a pencil, and without removing the adhesive covering, lay the traction pad on top of your surfboard. 

Make sure it’s centrally aligned down the stringer of the board, and make sure that the kick-pad is as far back as possible over the back fin. 

Once in place, mark out the edges with pencil.


STEP 4: CENTRE FIRST

Most traction pads come in three parts: One centre piece, and two sides. 

Align the centre piece first, then remove the top part of the adhesive tape, making sure not to remove it all at once. 

Bit by bit, remove the adhesive tape and stick the deck pad to the board and apply lots of pressure - being careful to avoid any air bubbles in the process. 

Continue this until the whole piece has been applied. 


STEP 5: NOW FOR THE EDGES

With the centre piece firmly in place and perfectly aligned, continue the same process with the two side pieces. 


STEP 6: THE WAITING GAME

Once applied, wait 24hrs for glue to dry before taking in the water.

*The recommended drying time is 24hrs, however most pro’s will typically slap a deck pad on and hit the surf instantly, so use the 24hr dry time as a guide if you can, rather than the rule.


WRAPPING IT UP

Deck pad, or no deck pad?

In truth, it’s all down to personal preference, with most people opting for a tail pad only setup, with wax on the rest of the board, but there is no right or wrong.

Different strokes, for different folks, hey!

Anyway, I hope this article answers all your questions and concerns, and for what it’s worth, I ride both a tail pad & wax setup, plus dabble in the full deck pad setup too. 

Just in case you wanted know...

Yew!

Rowan 🤙

ROWAN CLIFFORD

Rowan is the nerd behind the scenes.  But when he's not knee-deep in code, you'll find him immersed in the crypto-world or sending it at his local beachie.


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