Surfboard Traction Pads & Deck Grip

Obviously the only reasons you’re not landing those airs or making those XXL drops is because you’ve got the wrong traction pad…

Yeah, right.

While a traction pad probably won’t make you a better surfer, a good traction pad will last longer and give you the grip and leverage you need to stick different maneuvers and really engage your fins.

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What is a Traction Pad?

A traction pad, or stomp pad if you’re coming from the snowboarding world, for surfing is the area of permanent deck grip for your rear foot.

Traction pads, tails pads, or deck grip are patches of foam-type material that adheres to the deck of your surfboard to provide you with some extra grip and traction in place of surf wax.

You’ll often find traction pads on the tails of shortboards, hybrids, or any type of board that caters to vertical maneuvers, aerial surfing, and hard pivots.

Whether you need a traction pad or not really comes down to personal preference and the type of surfing you do.

It’s placed at the tail of your board, over your fins, to give you some extra grip and leverage so you can dig into turns more powerfully.

A good, properly positioned traction pad can give you some extra control over your board – depending on what you’re trying to do.

Types of Traction Pads for Surfing

Traction pads come in a variety of shapes, styles, and materials.

Most are made from some type of foam, but you can find an increasing amount of traction pads made from recycled materials and natural materials like cork.

Some traction pads are designed as one solid piece, while others come in sections that allow you to customize the spacing and orientation of your grip a bit.

Many traction pads feature a kick tail at the end that’s designed to give you a bit of extra leverage and a catch for your back foot for some more vertical and powerful maneuvers.

You can also find traction pads that are designed to be placed all over the board for both your front and back feet.

Traction pads allow you to skip waxing and re-waxing your surfboard in the spot where you put it. Which means you don’t have to worry about water temp for your wax or missing a spot in a critical area of your board.

Traction pads stick to your board with strong adhesive glue.

Where to put a traction pad on your surfboard?

The best placement for your surfboard’s traction pad is towards the tail, over the center of your fin cluster.

Placing it over the fins will give you more control through turns and provide you with a greater ability to engage your fins at different times.

How to Install Your Surfboard Traction Pad

The quality and longevity of your surfboard’s traction pad depends on its application.

The installation of your traction pad is the most crucial part of the process. Do this wrong, and it’ll start peeling off after only a few surfs – regardless of how “marine-grade” the adhesive is.

Here’s the best way to install your surfboard’s traction pad to make sure it sticks and stays stuck:

  • Ensure the area on your surfboard is completely clean and dry.
    • Remove any old adhesive (see below).
  • Before you remove the paper backing, test out where you want to position the pads. Play around with the placement if you have a multi-piece traction pad.
  • Mark a reference point if necessary.
  • Unpeel the paper backing from the adhesive and lay down the pad.
  • Start at one end and lower it down while applying pressure to avoid any potential air bubbles.
  • Here’s the most important part: WAIT BEFORE YOU SURF IT!
    • For the adhesive to fully stick, you’ll need to wait at least 24 hours before getting in the water with it. It’d always a good idea to install a new traction pad during a flat spell or when you know you won’t be surfing the board for a bit.

The most important part of installing a traction pad on your surfboard is the wait. You need to allow the adhesive enough time to completely cure before taking it into the water. Otherwise, you’ll find your traction pad starting to come loose and break off.

The best time to put on a new traction pad is probably when you know you’re not going to surf that board for a while. But, if that’s the case, you’re probably not installing a traction pad on the board in the first place.

Resit the urge to surf before your traction pad has had enough time to stick and it should last you a long time.

How to Remove Traction Pad Glue

To remove an old traction pad:

  • Peel off the old pads.
  • Remove any large chunks of adhesive glue.
  • Use an adhesive remover, like Goo-Gone, to remove the remaining glue.
  • Wipe down the area with some warm soapy water and allow to dry complete.
  • Install your new traction pad.

Surfboard Deck Grip

Full deck grip for your front font can be a great alternative to surf wax.

It saves you on surf wax, is less messy, and can provide some better grip for your front foot in some circumstances.

How to Install Full Deck Grip on your Surfboard

Installing deck grip, whether you go with standard traction pads or clear grip, is completed in the same way you would install a standard tail traction pad.

To install deck grip to your surfboard:

  • Remove any wax or old grip and clean the surface completely.
  • Layout where you want to position the grip.
  • Remove the backing from the adhesive and lay it on the board.
  • Press from the center out to avoid air bubbles.
  • Wait at least 24 hours before you get in the water.

Deck Grip vs. Surf Wax

What’s better: surf wax or deck grip?

The answer to that is really going to come down to personal preference and you specific circumstances, but some benefits of using deck grip over surf wax include:

  • No need to reapply wax before you surf.
  • No need to clean off old wax.
  • You won’t have to worry about wax melting off into your car or getting sand stuck in your wax job.

Deck grip can be useful if you have to store your board somewhere hot where your wax usually melts. It can also be good if you surf in booties.

Main downside to deck grip: you miss out on that sweet, sweet smell of a fresh coat of wax.

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