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Selecting the Right Tail Pad

The amount of tail pads out on the market currently is crazy! And with more brands coming out daily, it really gives surfers an awful lot of traction options to choose from. More often than not, when we treat ourselves to a new stick, we instantly become creatures of habit, reverting to the comforts that we know with the attitude of “yeah that will do.” I guess you're reading this and thinking, “well actually I just grab the one I like.” When in-fact there’s more to it. Each pad has its own purpose, and the design of them actually benefits your surfing.

Unlike Surfboard Fins, we don’t have the liberty to change our tail pads regularly. We’ve compiled a little insight list to give you some clues in what to look for when buying a new grip.

The Four Essential Components to Tail Pads


The degrees in which the kick in the pad sits, ranges anywhere between a mellow 20 degrees right up to vertical and steep kicks. The steeper the kick, the easier it is to jam your back foot in place to blow the back of the wave out. If its vertical and performance surfing you like, a kick between 45 degrees to vertical is perfect for your needs. If it’s a pad you need for a fish/retro board, a mellow flat tail pad is your answer.


The amount of difference in arch design alone is incredibly broad. However, it all comes down to the size of your foot and how much movement you like to have. If you’ve got smaller feet, a pad with a small to minimal arch would be best. However if you’ve got a big foot, then look for something with a longer higher arch that nearly runs the length of the tail pad.

mick fanning attaching a tail pad to his surfboard
Mick carefully applying a tail pad to his DHD surfboard.

Number of Pieces

From one piece to five pieces, they’re designed to effectively be usable on most boards.

  • One piece pads aren’t as common nowadays as they were a good 10+ years ago, however they have made a come back recently for their durability.
  • For a while the two piece pads were seen as the weird uncle to the three pieces. Featuring no arch and a mellow kick, these pads are great if your throwing something down on the rear of your fish.
  • 3 pieces are the most common grips, allowing for an even spread of grip and versatility for all board models.
  • 5 pieces are effectively the 3 piece grip but with two tabs that sit above the main area of the tail pad adding extra grip in bigger swell.


The grooves themselves are more often than not shaped like diamonds and some feature multi layered grooves while others feature a single layer groove. Circular designed traction are also starting to make an appearance amongst some manufactures. However, the basic rule of thumb is the rougher the grooves, the greater the traction. This provides maximum resistance against slipping and maximum grip, but will still allow you to move your foot about when needed.

A single layer groove generally is a straightforward design that allows both grip and movement. A multi layered groove looks like a diamond with another diamond on top. These are the grippiest of the grippy. Once your foot is down it isn’t moving anytime soon. And if it does, it’s against its own free will.

So What’s The Best Tail Pad For Me?

surfer bottom turning

More often than not, it’s personal preference of what works best for you. However, consider the board you want to apply it to as the basis for your decision.

How many pieces do I need?

11/11/2018 9:35 PM