One thing you’ll notice when you get a new surfboard is how smooth and slippery the surface is.
Surfers usually apply wax to their surfboards to help improve their grip whilst they’re out on the waves. Although wax works well, there is another way in which surfers add grip.
A really easy and useful way to do this is by adding a traction pad underfoot. Not only can this help improve your grip, but it will also help to take your surfing skills to the next level.
In general, surfboard traction pads are super useful on short boards (under 7 foot long) or boards where foot placement is important. When popping up onto the board, moving your feet, or doing tricks, traction pads can help you quickly locate the most ideal foot positioning.
Where Is The Best Traction Pad Placement?
The most ideal place to put a traction pad is at the rear of your board, just in front of the leash plug. It’s important that you leave some room for the leash to come up from the plug. It’s also important to make sure that the pad is placed straight and central.
The most common traction pads are rear traction pads, or ‘tail pads’. But it’s important that you get a pad that suits your board. There are few finer details that we need to cover, which we’ll explore more after looking at some general traction pad placement tips.
General Traction Pad Placement Tips
As mentioned previously, there are a couple of different places where you can place a traction pad. There are two common types of traction pads:
- Tail Pads (most common): These are installed on the tail of your surfboard to provide traction for your back foot.
- Deck Pads (less common): These are installed on the deck of your surfboard and used to provide traction for your front foot.
Let’s look at some general placement tips:
Keep It Straight And Central
You ideally want your traction pads to be in line with the center of your surfboard. This means that you don’t want your traction pad to veer off to the side of your board as you need the pad to give you the right grip which depends on the angle of your board.
Most boards have a stringer down the middle – it is usually a brown color as they’re made of plywood. You can use the stringer as your center point so you can align your traction pad properly.
If your board is made of more modern technologies, it may not have a stringer, but don’t worry as you should still be able to center align your traction pad.
Most traction pad instructions advise you to place the pad on the deck of your surfboard and mark it’s placement using pencil before you peel off the cover and glue the pad on.
For this you just need to mark the four corners of the pad along with the center of the rear part and center of the front part of the pad.
Making sure you have all four corners mapped out will help you see if your pad is aligned properly and is straight and center.
Following these steps will help make sure your traction pad is aligned perfectly and should mean that you should have no issues when placing the traction pad. It’s worth mentioning that the rear of your board will be the same regardless of the board shapes.
Don’t worry too much about the front/top of the traction pad unless you’re riding a shortboard.
Multi-piece Traction Pads
Sometimes, traction pads will come in multiple pieces of foam. If that’s the case, it’s entirely up to you whether you decide to space them out a little or place them tight together. We do recommend, however, placing them tightly together.
This is because they will last longer, and have a bit more resistance when it comes to the traction pad being pushed around in different directions.
Rear Traction Pad / Tail Pad Placement
When it comes to placing a rear traction pad on your surfboard, there are a few key points: Place the traction pad over your fins, but don’t put it too close to the leash. You also need to think about how far back you want to place it to get the best use out of the kick.
Placing Traction Pad Over The Fins
One of the most important parts of placing a rear traction pad, is making sure you place it over the fins on your surfboard. Doing this correctly will mean that you will be able to turn your board properly.
If you place your traction pad too far forward, you run the risk of trying to turn off a point that is too far forward. So, when you try to pivot off a point that is in front of the fin, it will be very difficult to turn, and it will feel awkward.
It can be frustrating not being able to turn your board properly, and it’s not easy to take a traction pad off. Placing your traction pad too far forward can ruin your surfing experience, so make sure you have it lined up properly before you stick it into place.
When in doubt, put your traction pad as far back as you can, without covering the leash plug.
Don’t Put It Too Close To Leash Plug
Speaking of the traction pad’s proximity to the leash plug, you want to consider how close you place the pad to the rear of your board. You don’t want it too close as you need to allow room for the leash to work.
Quite often, people will place the pad too close to the leash plug which causes the leash to almost pull through the rear of the pad at certain angles.
Not only will this pull the tail of the pad off the board, you will then have to pull the rest of the traction pad off. This can be a slow (and painful) process, and you will most likely need to buy a new traction pad.
Make sure to leave around half an inch (1.25 cm) between the back of the rear traction pad and the leash plug. At this distance, your traction pad should be far enough back to work when turning, and it shouldn’t get in the way of your leash.
If you’re still unsure about the distance, place the pad on your board before you glue it down, and try pulling the leash at different angles to see if the traction pad interferes with it.
Raised Kicks On Rear Traction Pads
Rear traction pads will have what is known as a raised “kick” at the back, which has a pretty similar shape to a skateboard. The kick is usually a raised piece of foam that is at an upward angle.
Kicks are most useful when doing aerial tricks, as it’s helpful to have something to push against. They’re also pretty useful to push back against during turns.
What Happens When You Put Your Traction Pad Over Your Leash Plug?
If you place your traction pad too close to your leash plug, it’s much easier to cut out the traction pad around the leash plug, instead of trying to unpeel your pad.
Front Traction Pads
Front traction pads were pretty popular in the 80s and 90s, but now they’re far less common.
In recent years, however, they’re made something of a resurgence. So, if you want to add a front traction pad to your board, here are the some tips on how to get the right positioning:
Front Foot Placement
If you’ve already put wax on your board and have already taken to the waves with it, you should be able to see where your front foot normally goes.
You can use that as a target area for where you’ll want to put your traction pad – you will need to clean your board thoroughly before you stick your pad to it.
Front traction pads tend to be quite long from the top to the bottom, so this will give you some leeway when it comes to placing your traction pad down. However, there are some aspects of a front traction pad design that you need to consider.
Tripping Over On Take-Off
You might find that your foot will catch on the edge of the traction pad when you take off. This is more of an issue to consider if you wear surf booties during the colder months. You’ll often find that your front foot can snag a little on the front pad, so it’s worth bearing that in mind.
You might also want to consider how the pad will sit against your chest when paddling out. Think about moving up and down your board as you climb on and get into the paddling position.
Will you chest snag or catch against the traction pad? Will it feel uncomfortable? Of course this only applies to front traction pads/deck pads – rear traction pads/tail pads will be on the rear of your board.
Width Of Front Traction Pads
It’s also worth considering the width of a front traction pad. If the edges are too close to the rail, this could interfere with your take-off when you place your hands on the deck.
Similarly, if your hands are half-on, half-off the edges of the front traction pad when you pop up, it might cause you to slip, or can feel plain awkward. It’s worth checking the width of a front traction pad before you purchase one.
Remember, using traction pads are completely up to you and your own personal preference, but there are a lot of pros to using one.
Pros Of Traction Pads
Variety Of Options
Traction pads come in a variety of different sizes, pieces, styles, materials and colors. Some people think there are too many different options, so here are a few different things you might want to consider when choosing a traction pad:
- Material: In general, traction pads are made from a grooved, water-resistant foam. The grooved/patterned surface adds grip, so that your feet don’t slide off the surface. In recent years, a lot of environmentally friendly materials have been used to create traction pads. The materials include eco-friendly foam, algae foam and recycled cork.
- Pieces: As mentioned earlier, traction pads can come in either single pieces or multiple pieces. If your traction pad has multiple pieces, it means you have more freedom to decide where you want to place them
- Styles: Most deck pads will sit flat on your board which will allow you to lie comfortably on top of them. Tails pads, however, come in a few different styles. They can be flat, come with or without an arch back, and will have varying degrees of a tail kick.
- Size: You can get both deck pads and tail pads in a variety of different sizes. The size will usually depend on how much of the area you want to cover in your board, so make sure you measure before you purchase a traction pad.
- Color: Adding a traction pad can actually help you to personalize your board, as there are so many color options. Do you want your traction pad to stand out, or blend in? Well, it’s entirely up to you!
Traction Pads Help With Foot Placement
As mentioned earlier, traction pads can help improve your grip and will also help you locate your foot placement.
On shorter boards, there is less margin for error when it comes to foot placement. So, when you pop up onto your feet, you can use a traction pad to “feel” for the spot in which you need to place your foot.
Also, a lot of surfers don’t put their back foot over the fins of the board. Positioning your foot correctly is important as it can make turning the surfboard easier. A tail pad will act as a physical reminder of where your back foot needs to be placed.
Traction Pads Are Easy To Install
Traction pads are relatively easy to install. Placing one on your board is like adding giant, thick stickers. One of the more challenging elements of installation is making sure you thoroughly clean the wax off your board first.
Traction Pads Protect Your Surfboard
As mentioned above, traction pads are like having giant, padded stickers on your surfboard.
The thickness of a traction pad can range anywhere between 2mm – 10mm and will provide an extra layer of protection from feet, knees, heel and anything else that will create dents on the deck of your board.
Traction Pads Help Save Money On Wax
If you install a traction pad to your surfboard, you won’t need to add wax as regularly. If you’re using a tail pad, you also won’t have to apply wax to that section of the board.
You will, of course, have to keep applying and removing wax to the exposed areas of your board but you will save money on wax over a long period of time as you won’t need to use as much.
Traction Pads Are Relatively Inexpensive
When you factor in all of the benefits of having a traction pad, such as adding protection, less wax and helping with foot positioning, they’re a relatively inexpensive investment.
The average starting price for a traction pad is around $35. You can buy tail pads and deck pads both individually or as a set, which will cover the majority of your board.
Traction Pads Makes Duck Diving Easier
With a traction pad, it can be easier to duck dive under the water. You can use a tail pad to get some extra leverage by using your foot or knee to push down on the pad to submerge your board.
Cons Of Traction Pads
Just like there are many positives to using a traction pad, there are also a few cons to them you should consider.
Traction Pads Don’t Move
Traction pads have a grippy surface so that your feet don’t move around and cause the sticky bottom of the pad to come away from the board. If your traction pad is installed correctly, it shouldn’t move.
Although this can be a good thing, it’s not great for longer boards where foot placement doesn’t matter as much. If you move up and down your board a lot, you’ll want to be able to walk or shuffle without a traction pad in your way.
Many surfers aren’t keen on having an immovable foam on top of their board and prefer the flexibility of a waxed surface instead.
Traction Pads Aren’t Necessary on Longer Boards
As mentioned previously, for boards that are over seven feet long, foot placement is not as important. On longer boards, surfers tend to shuffle up and down their boards a lot, and a traction pad will just get in the way.
Also, if you’re considering adding a traction pad to a soft top surfboard, there may be some issues when it comes to the adhesiveness of the traction pad and the foam of the surfboard.
Traction Pads Can Be Difficult To Remove
Although you don’t want your traction pad to move, once you’ve stuck it down it can be difficult to pull back up so it’s important that you’ve lined it up properly before you stick it down.
How To Install A Traction Pad
Now you have all the tips and information you need, you should be ready to install the traction pad. You will need a cloth, surfboard cleanser or wax remover and a knife to remove the wax from your board.
Remove all of the dirt, dust and wax from your board, taking extra care at the tail. Once the surface of your board is clean, it will already be prepped for the glue from the traction pad.
Line your pad up before you attach it to the surfboard. Make sure it is half an inch away from the leash plug, and you place it over the fins of your board. Use the stringer to help make sure that the traction pad is straight and central.
Mark the corners and the top and end of your traction pad with a pencil. Remove the traction pad and check to see if it’s aligned properly.
Once you’ve lined up the traction pad, peel off the back sticker and begin to place it down on the surface of your board. Do not press it down too much in case you need to make adjustments as once you’ve stuck the traction pad down it’ll be tough to pull it back up.
Once you’re happy with the placement, push down on everything firmly to make sure the glue is working between the pad and your surfboard.
Leave your board to rest for around 2-4 hours to give the glue a chance to settle before you hit the surf.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Put A Traction Pad On A Foam Top / Soft-top Board?
Unfortunately, you cannot put a traction pad on a foam board as the surface is not perfectly smooth. Because of this, your pad won’t be able to stick properly, and will most likely come off if you use it.
However, there are some foam board models that come with a pre attached traction pad (WaveStorm), so you can always look into purchasing one of these if you prefer foam top boards.
Should You Add A Traction Pad To A Fish Board?
If you have a fish surfboard, it’s definitely worth adding a traction pad as it will provide you with some added grip when you’re making turns. Just be sure to use a rear traction pad that will fit the tail of your board – measure first.
If you own a twin-fin surfboard that has a massive swallowtail, you can actually get traction pads that are made specifically for them.
Regardless of whether you’re a pro surfer or just a beginner, a traction pad can be really helpful if you’re looking for some added grip, but choosing to use one is completely up to you.
Some surfers prefer to use wax for grip, but others can’t live without a traction pad. As we mentioned briefly, they’re pretty useful if you’re looking to perform some aerial maneuvers.
It’s definitely worth investing in a tail pad, more than a deck pad, as deck pads can get in the way when you’re trying to paddle, or get on to your board. When adding a tail pad to your board, just remember not to put it too close to the leash plug, and make sure you’re placing it over the fins.