Having a traction pad is pretty critical when it comes to turns and maneuvers or just for extra grip and traction in general. Like all surfboard accessories, there’s a huge variety; you may have even heard other names thrown around like tail pads or deck grips.
Put simply, traction pads are pieces of textured foam that stick onto your surfboard. Most commonly, and for this particular guide, is the back-traction pad, placed at the bottom of the board under your rear foot. Like anything with surfing, it all comes down to personal preference particularly with tail pads, but here are a few tips to make your decision a bit easier.
We've outlined a few simple tips to consider when looking for a suitable traction pad:
The main goal for having a traction pad is clear – traction. The best place to start is asking yourself a few questions about what kind of traction pad is going to work best for your board and for your surfing. The texture is also going to play a big part in what you get out of your tail pad. Typically, tail pads come in a diamond shape pattern. Multi-layer grooves are also available for higher end and longer lasting traction pads. While, singular grooved tractions are a simpler option. Deeper grooves and rougher textures are going to provide maximum resistance against slipping and superior traction.
The kick is the padding at the end of the tail pad which is elevated and plays a huge role when it comes to high performance surfing. It can be anything from a slight 20 degree rise to a completely vertical slope depending on what you need. A steeper kick will lock your foot in place when jamming the tail of the board in the lip of throwing the fins out. A flatter kick is going to work well on a fish or retro board or if you just need a bit more stability with your stance.
The arch runs down the middle of the pad and much like the kick can come in a range of elevations to suit. The size of your foot will be a good indicator to how much elevation you need. Longer foot? go with higher elevation, it’ll help with control and movement but again this one is mostly personal preference.
Tail Pads can come in anything from one to five pieces, which will slightly change how they work with the board. One- and two-piece pads are less common as they have less or no arch with minimal kick however can be a good pick for simple added traction. Three-pieces are the most coming and will work on almost any board, you’ll be able to slightly adjust your placement depending on what works best with your board. If you find your rear foot placement naturally higher, then a five piece is what you need as it’ll give the pad extra length at the top.
Tail pads should be fitted as close to the back of the board as possible without covering the leash plug. The idea being that the pad is directly above the fins so that when you apply pressure it works the axis of the fins making for more effective turns. You’ll get better placement and adhesion from a three or five piece since the breaks in the pad will be more friendly to the curve of the board.
Once your traction pad is on the board. Leave it. A good traction pad is designed to stick and stay stuck. Unlike fins or stickers changing them isn’t as easy as pulling it off and putting on a new one. To learn more about the features of a tail pad and how they can impact your surfing, such as the kick and arch variations, see our article on Tail Pad Characteristics.