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.
Check out our recommendations for the best surfboard traction pads.
Types of Traction Pads
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.
Applying a Traction Pad to your Surfboard
The quality and longevity of your surfboard’s traction pad depends on its application.
To apply a traction pad to your surfboard:
- Remove any wax, old traction pad adhesive residue, salt crystals, and sand from the board. Wipe it down with some wax remover or something similar and dry completely.
- Remove the traction pad from its packaging and position it where you want it on your board. Trace some indicator marks to guide the placement if necessary.
- Peel the cover off the adhesive backing and stick it to the board.
- Press it down all over to insure a solid stick.
- Be sure to push out any air bubbles that may have formed.
- Wait at least 12 to 24 hours before surfing it. This is really important, and the longer you can wait, the better.
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.