Surfing lives or dies by the ability of the surfer to stay on their board.
That means that in a slippery environment where pretty much everything is primed to separate the one from the other, anything that gives the surfer and their board the ability to stay together is worth more than its weight in gold.
Traction pads can make the difference between you staying on your board all the way till the end of the ride and you wiping right the heck out and looking like a newbie.
They’re usually simple pieces of textured foam that you add to the board to give you a fighting chance against the implacable, not to say occasionally perverse forces of nature.
Weirdly though, they can also help you develop a better stance and more stability when standing up to surf.
They’re not exactly the training wheels of the surfing world, because they have a totally legitimate purpose even for more experienced surfers, but if you’re new to the sport they can definitely help you get the stance, the experience of riding a wave, and the core strength you need to do it successfully.
Much more convenient than layer after layer after layer of wax, traction pads are more or less a universal surfing aid.
But considering the simplicity of the principle that makes them work, there are lots of different makes, shapes, and designs out there, and some will help you more than others.
If you were to just line them up side by side though, picking the great ones from the merely OK would be mind-bogglingly tough – and time and the waves are wastin’.
We’ve found five of the best surfboard traction pads, to help you buy the one (or more) that’s right for you.
In a hurry? Here’s our top pick.
OUR TOP PICK
Part of the joy of surging is getting close to nature, so it’s no surprise that a lot of surfers are green and planet-conscious in a big way.
If that’s you, you have a special reason to take a look at the Punt Surf Ripper traction pad.
Punt Surf products are environmentally friendly, and what’s more, the company donates a portion of its profits to organizations helping protect both the oceans and the environment as a whole.
So if you need an outside-the-surfing-experience reason to check out the Ripper, there you go.
But sure – if all you’re interested in is helping the planet, you can straight up donate to the charities, right? Why is the Ripper worth your green dollars?
It’s a three-piece pad that builds your confidence, because slipping off this thing would take extra-special effort. Plant your feet and there’s an immediate confidence boost that’s almost eerie.
The Ripper has you covered, so you almost straighten up mentally as well as physically – the parts of your brain that were previously overthinking the whole “Hope I don’t fall off” thought-loop feel like they’re freed up to feeling and judging the wave and your responses to it.
The Ripper is not just extremely effective in holding you on the board, it’s lightweight (which is cool both for board transport and for letting you react and maneuver with the wave).
And it also has a diamond-shaped groove, and adhesive from 3M, so once it’s on your board, it’s pretty much there for the life of the board.
That means you can look forward to years of properly planted surfing.
So much so in fact that Punt Surf offers a 100% money-back guarantee. If the pad comes away from the board at any point, you’re getting your money back, no hassle.
“But wait!” we hear you cry. “My board’s a non-standard size!”
No sweat. Being made in three parts means the Ripper is designed from the start to fit any board you care to stick it on.
You can place the adhesive pads exactly where you need them for your comfort and stability (though clearly, given the guaranteed stickiness of the 3M adhesive, it’s worth practicing this before you place them properly), and whatever size your board, whatever length your stance, the Ripper will have you covered.
- 3M adhesive means the Ripper traction pads will never come off your board
- The Ripper comes with a lifetime, no-quibble money-back guarantee to underscore its effectiveness
- The Ripper is suitable for all sizes of board
- Almost immediately, you gain confidence when standing on your board with the Ripper attached
- It’s a lightweight traction pad that won’t weigh you down, either in the water or when carrying your board on land
- The permanent stickiness of the traction pad means if you want to change the position of a pad once it’s been applied, you’re out of luck
- Similarly, if you decide you want to go pad-free… you’re probably buying another board
At first glance, you might struggle to tell the practical differences of the Ho Stevie! Premium from those of the Ripper.
There’s a good reason for that, too – the pads go toe to toe in quite a lot of their fundamental elements.
First of all, the Ho Stevie! Premium is a 3-piece, traction pads that’s designed to work with any board you have.
Second of all, let’s reflect on the fact that the same 3M adhesive is here, meaning you can trust the pad never to slip, slide or drift off into the sunset, leaving you slippery and suddenly on your butt in the surf.
The 3-piece design means you get a middle arch to support your foot and a kick-tail, just as you get in the Ripper, to allow you to lock your feet in place and still maneuver the board as the waves demand.
There’s a high comfort factor here, with the middle arch feeling pleasurable, rather than obtrusive as some can be (even the Ripper’s mid-bump takes a little getting used to, so in some respects the Ho Stevie! feels like a slightly more comfort-driven pad).
Interestingly though, while Punt Surf goes the whole way with its lifetime hassle-free money-back guarantee on the adhesive of its traction pad, Ho Stevie! gives you a 100% satisfaction guarantee… within 30 days of your purchase.
Given that both traction pads have 3M adhesive, you might find yourself wondering what gives in the discrepancy between the two guarantees.
We know we did, which is why you find the Ho Stevie! in second place in our list.
It’s also worth monitoring the stickiness of this traction pad on boards that have previously been waxed up to glory as a way of keeping you steady.
Sometimes – in fact, in the vast majority of times - the pad works fine, but we’ve seen a few occasions on wax-heavy boards where the combination of wax and wild wave action seemed to loosen the pad.
NB – that’s observational evidence, rather than scientific – it’s possible we saw a bad batch in action.
That said, it didn’t happen till significantly outside the 30-day period, which is where the difference in the two guarantees comes in hard and heavy.
Overall though, the Ho Stevie! pad was comfort-forward and steady as a rock, meaning in at least 9 cases out of 10, it earns its second place spot on our list.
- 3M adhesive means usually, once the pad is down, it’s not going anywhere
- The 3-part pad means you have great support for your feet
- The mid-bump is particularly comfortable
- The kick-tail helps you lock your feet without compromising maneuverability
- The guarantee lasts only 30 days, compared, for instance, with Punt Surf’s lifetime guarantee of adhesion
- There’s rare anecdotal evidence of the pad slipping off previously heavily-waxed boards
The simply-named Surf Squared Surfboard Traction Pad has a lot of the same characteristics as some of our highest rated pads.
Let’s start with 3M adhesive, so the pad is extremely unlikely to come loose or float off when you need it.
A diamond grip gives you better traction when practicing your maneuvers, and a kick tail helps you lock your feet for better firmness of position while guiding the board.
That all combines into an effective pad that lets you stand up with relative confidence and focus on the waves, rather than the possibility of falling off the board at the crucial moment – and perversely, the less you worry about falling off, the less likely it is to happen.
Surf Squared puts its traction pads through their paces with pro surfers before letting them loose on the market and whatever you can do with them, so there’s a certain reassurance factor when you buy them.
They’ve already been through a bunch of stuff in the testing phase, so you should have to work really hard to do anything untoward to the pads!
Naturally, as is becoming the norm, the Surf Squared pads are designed to fit any board you have, and with the combination of a steadying arch bar and the diamond patterned surface, they can keep you as anchored as you need to be while getting your confidence up on the waves.
And the point of doing all that testing is that not only can Surf Squared be reasonably confident that it’s giving its surfers the best product it can deliver, but it can also stand by its growing reputation for quality, offering a money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied for any reason.
There’s very little to quibble about with the Surf Squared pads or experience. Sticky as sticky can be, the only thing some surfers found is that the 5 mm arch bar was a little uncomfortable over time.
The issue there is that most people found it fine, so it’s likely to be a personal issue, rather than a manufacturing one.
For the most part you’re likely to be fine, but if you have particularly sensitive feet, maybe look at pads with a more comfort-forward arch bar.
- 3M adhesive means you’re unlikely ever to lose your trackpad once you’ve attached it
- Significant testing by pro surfers means the Surf Squared pads have engineered out many of the typical issues you face
- A diamond patterned grip helps you stay planted on your board
- A no-quibble money-back guarantee lets you buy with confidence
- If you have particularly sensitive feet, the arch bar might be painful or irritating
In the T3, FCS gives you a 3-piece pad that goes beyond some simple diamond-grooved pads.
Etched with both diamonds for grip and square grooves for options, it really is a pad with the design intention of helping every kind of surfer, from beginners to pros.
That’s no bad thing because it allows you to use the pad over the whole career of the board to which you intend to stick it.
As you get better and more confident as a wave-rider, and as the maneuvers under your belt grow increasingly complex, the T3 can take the journey with you.
That makes it a lot better than some traction pads that focus wholly on new surfers, because sure, they’re useful for that period of your life, but the fact that the pad is adhered to your surfboard sometimes gives you nowhere to go with an otherwise great board if and when you outgrown the particular designs of a novice pad.
The T3 gives you none of that frustration, and allows you to grow into the sport without jeopardizing an otherwise perfectly good board.
That said, if you are new to surfing, the T3 has you covered too. Sanded surfaces give you extra grip where you need it and a drop arch bar means you can keep your feet where they should be if you want to avoid repetitive wipe-out syndrome.
The T3 is not by any means the cheapest traction pad you can buy. But it is one that both offers immediate benefits in your surfing confidence levels, and will get more valuable to you over time as your stance, style and expertise on the water grows.
- The combination of groove patterns means it can show you where to put your feet as a novice, and offer you options as you get better
- It represents good value for money and should give you longer service than some pads
- Sanded surfaces help newcomers especially to stay where they need to be long enough to fall in love with surfing
- The price may be off-putting to some novice surfers trying to get everything they need
What’s in a name, right?
Well, actually, more than you might think. Griffin Colapinto is a champion surfer with titles and trophies (and relatively recent ones at that) to his name, so by lending his name to a traction pad, he’s putting it out there that this is a pad that champions can use and endorse.
You can at least sort of see why. Another 3-piece traction pad, this has a 7 mm teardrop arch bar, which is enough to make its presence well and truly felt.
Depending on your own feet and their sensitivity, this is either going to be the Hail Mary tweak you’ve been waiting for all your surfing life (even if you’re new to the sport) or a what-the-hell addition that turns you right off.
One thing it will do is give you a good foot position for your maneuvering. With the Colapinto signature pad you should be able to get an easy stance, and an extra push in your drive.
Naturally, there’s a diamond groove-pattern here, but you’re paying for a unique pattern that gives you extra texture and grip to keep you on your board where others would lose you.
You also get a 28mm ramp kick at the back to give you maneuvers and tricky opportunities some other pads can’t get you anywhere near.
Need we mention the pad is made of premium EVA for lightness and flexibility, and the adhesive is from… guess who? Yep – 3M, for the least likelihood of slippage once it’s applied.
All ways round, it’s a heck of a pad, more than deserving of a place on our list.
Surfboard Traction Pad Buying Guide
When you’re buying a surfboard traction pad, there are a handful of things to look out for.
Bits And Pieces
How many pieces your pad comes in can be a big issue. There are 1-piece pads out there that cut out a lot of hassle and simply fit on your board where you put them.
And they’re fine.
It’s no accident that every pad on our list is a 3-piece, though.
With a 3-piece, you can position the pieces where they’re most useful to your individual height, center of gravity and individuality of feet.
That allows you a kind of personalization that the 1-piece options just can’t give you.
Depending on the shape of your board’s tail, the 3-piece options can also give you much more stability during maneuvers.
Naturally with surfing, you want pads that are made of the lightest materials you can find, but that still deliver maximum grip and confidence.
Look to the types of foam your pad is made of.
Just as much though is the importance of your adhesive. Quite a few of the pads on our list use 3M adhesive, which is a kind of benchmark for stickiness in the face of the rigors of surfing.
With very few exceptions, if you see 3M listed as the adhesive, you can be you’re your pad is not about to move under you and ditch you in the water.
There are a wide range of grip patterns on traction pads – diamonds, double-diamonds, diamonds and squares, etc.
The pattern you want will be the one that gives you the best confidence boost to stand up and surf, over the longest period of time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Traction Pads Hard To Apply?
Not really, but it’s worth working out in advance where you want to position them, because the adhesive is obviously water-resistant, so you’re unlikely to get a second chance at applying them once you go sticky.
Are Traction Pads Useful On A Foam Surfboard?
No. By virtue of being made of foam, foam surfboards provide enough traction in themselves, so you don’t need to add a traction pad.
How Long Can I Expect Traction Pads To Last?
With reasonable storage and care, they should last you as long as the board to which you stick them.