The traction pad, which may also be known as deck grip or tail pad, aims to help surfers maximise their enjoyment on the waves by providing a perfectly positioned pad to place your foot on as you pop up.
What is a Traction Pad?
Sticking to your surfboard tends to be pretty beneficial when it comes to surfing, so any way we can maximise that is always going to be sought after. A traction pad sticks onto your surfboard and provides an extra layer of grip for your foot to stand on during your surf sessions. Some people prefer a traction pad over wax and one advantage you could consider is that it does offer more protection to the tail of your surfboard as you will avoid some of the wear and tear the border experience as the traction pad will absorb all of the impact your foot will make overtime.
How do I choose a Traction Pad?
One of the first things you need to do when choosing your traction pad is to consider the shape and size of the tail of your board in relation to the pad you wish to buy. Some surfboards have a wider tail therefore you might want to look at a wider fatter traction pad, whereas pin tail surfboards are a lot narrower, so will require something smaller as you don’t want your pad to be too close to the rail line. Ideally you want your surfboard traction pad to fit the tail of your board so that you can avoid any unnecessary cutting.
Another consideration will be the profile of the traction pad and by this I mean the thickness of the pad itself. Now you might be thinking, why is this important? Well everyone’s feet are different. As a runner, I need a structured trainer due to my high foot arch. When we transport that information across to the surfing world it means I benefit from a slightly thicker profile traction pad as it provides extra support for my foot whilst on the wave. For the flat footed surfer, you may prefer a slightly thinner traction pad as the extra padding isn’t necessary and will take some of the feel out of the wave.
Now, you could argue that a traction pad is not an essential purchase due to the fact that wax will provide your surfboard with adequate grip, however another decision to make when choosing the best traction pad will be the colour and design that suits your style and suit your surfboard. Some of my friends would not be seen dead without a traction pad and enjoy to customise each surfboard with different styles and designs. Luckily there are a multitude of colours from lightning bolts to camouflage…either way you’re able to pimp out your surfboard and make it look attractive on the eye.
Best Surfboard Traction Pads
Northcore Ultimate Grip Deck Traction Pad
- 3 piece pad
- 30mm Kick Tail
- Length 31cm x Width 32cm (at widest part)
- 5mm centre arch
This is a nice looking three piece pad that brightens up any surfboard. With 30mm raised kick tail your foot is secure while on the waves and allows for a solid push through your turns. The adhesive wired well when we trialed it, so there wasn’t any need for any extra glue. It’s got a soft feel to it so provides good all round protection for your foot.
Koalition Waikiki Hybrid 3 Piece Deck Grip
- 3 piece pad
- 30mm Kick Tail
- Length 30.5cm x Width 30.5cm
- 8mm high arch
A tropical 3 piece deck grip that has been designed with high quality materials. I like the design as it’s different to most other traction pads on the market and is one of my favourite traction pads. The diamond grooves provide a solid base for your foot and the adhesive worked perfectly well when securing it to a brand new board. It has a slightly different texture compared to most other boards, which is another unique facet on this deck grip.
Gorilla Grip The Jane Tail Pad
- 3 piece pad
- Copperhead Arch
- Medium Kick Rail
Made from lightweight EVA foam, this is a well designed pad that offers great grip under foot for all levels of ability, which is why this is a popular product on the market. The narrow ridge design means that this deck grip will suit a narrow/pin tail surfboard. You can obviously space it out to suit your needs so that you can have targeted pressure spots on the surfboard to help you utilise this traction pad for rapid turns.
FCS T3 Fish Deck Grip Pad
- 2/3 piece pad
- Ultra thin for sensitivity
- Sanded surface for extra grip
- Diamond Groove
As described by the name, a great traction pad for anyone who has a fishtail surfboard. You could also use this type of pad on a wide or narrow board if needed. We like this option on our own “Big Fish” as it complements the tail of the board. It is also thinner than a lot of other traction pads, which offers a bit more sensitivity for the ride, so you feel more in contact with the wave and the board.
Northcore Twig Signature Deck Traction Pad
- 4 Piece Pad
- 25mm raised kick tail
- 37cm Length x 29cm Width
- 5mm centre arch
Northcore teamed up with Grant Twiggy Baker who is well known for his big wave riding antics. This 4 piece set up allows for good coverage and suits any style of board. The 2mm diamond grip profile gives your foot a solid base and was easy to install. If you are looking for a quality traction pad that is endorsed by a well known rider, then have a closer look at this Twig Deck from Northcore.
Gorilla Grip Phat 2 Tail Pad
- 2 Piece Pad
- Length 30cmx Width 32cm
- 20mm Kick Rail
- Centre plug cut out
The ideal set up if you want your traction pad right at the tail of your board. The cut out at the back of the pad allows you to go slightly further back as it won’t block your leash plug. This is important if you plan on adding your traction pad to a shortboard. It’s also useful as it allows more options for you to position it to suit your fin set up. If riding a thruster (3 fin) set up, having your traction pad right above the rear fin gives the best turning response – too far forward and you won’t get the steering at the optimal point. It’s grippy and with only two pieces to stick down – makes it even easier to install onto your surfboard.
Kanoa Traction Pad
- 3 piece pad
- 30mm Kick Tail
A really grippy traction pad that has a high arch to give greater traction when trying to perform tight turns at pace. It comes in three parts and is easy to install. The adhesive was very grippy so I don’t think you will have any issues with this staying on your board. It is lightweight and comes with a diamond pattern.
John John Florence Pro Surf Traction Pad
- 5 piece pad
- 25mm Kick Tail
- 7mm centre arch
This pad comes with Dakine Friendly Foam which is biodegradable – we like to know that we are doing our bit for the environment so this is mother nature’s first choice of traction pad. It’s a five piece pad so give great versatility for any user and is inspired by John John himself. There are holes in the kick tail to help reduce drag and the triple cut positraction grip pattern provide your foot with a stuck down feel you would want from your deck grip.
What’s the best way to install a traction pad?
Clean Your Board First
The first thing I recommend you do when installing your traction pad is to ensure that the board is nice and clean, so preparation is everything. Even if you’ve got a brand new surfboard, you might benefit from giving it a quick wipe down with some methylated spirit. This will make sure the surface is clean from any unwanted debris.
If your surfboard had previously been used and has wax on top of it, scrap off the majority of the wax with a plastic card or side of a wax comb to ensure you have a clean surface. Once the majority of the wax is of, use the methylated spirit to finish off the clean.
Once you’ve done this, wipe it dry and I advise waiting for 20 minutes to make sure everything is fully dry before the next step.
Get Your Placement
Some traction pads come as a one piece item whereas other pads are split into sections, so the first thing you need to do is find out which one you have. If it is a multiple section traction pad, pull them apart before you start the placing of your pad.
Now the key is to ensure that you don’t take off the adhesive backing section until you have found the perfect spot for your pad to go. When lining up your tail pad, I’d advise you to take it as far back as you can but ensure that you leave enough space for the leash plug. The best thing to do to ensure this is done correctly, is leave the string from your leash in the plug so that you don’t have any difficulties further down the line when you need to attach your leash.
As you have left the adhesive backing on, use your eye to find a good centre line and then use a pencil to gently mark out the corners of your pad. This will give you a good guide for when it’s time to stick down at the traction bad properly.
Once you are happy with the positioning of the traction pad it is time to peel back the adhesive fully. I advised peeling the adhesive back halfway so the front part is still covered as it will give you a chance to move it around to suit your needs. Once you’ve got it lined up with your pencil markings, peel the rest of the backing paper away and press down firmly. If it is a multi-section traction pad, repeat this process until all sections are stuck down and in place. Once you have got it stuck down, leave it for at least 24-hours so that you’ve given the glue time to go off as the last thing you want is the corrosive salt water getting underneath and spoiling all your hard work.
Hopefully everything went well and your traction pad is a perfect addition to your surfboard. If anything goes wrong you can always look to reapply the traction pad or break out the razor blade and try to edit the pad manually.