Best Surfboard Traction Pads

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

12 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
289 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best surfboard traction pads

Last Updated September 2020

Staying on a surfboard is a big part of being a successful surfer — perhaps the most important part. As a surfer, you need to keep your feet secure and avoid slipping on the board while riding the waves and battling the elements. There are two ways to make this easier: waxing your board or affixing a traction pad to it.

A surfboard traction pad is a long-term and potentially permanent solution. If you have a traction pad, you don’t have to wax your board every time you want to use it. These are foam pads with textures and patterns that maximize your foot’s ability to grip the board. They attach to the board courtesy of a waterproof, high-strength adhesive. Some traction pads also provide proper support for your foot arch. All of these features help you gain leverage and enjoy yourself when you’re riding the waves.

Because traction pads are extremely difficult to remove once secured to the board, your purchasing decision is critical. We’ll help you consider all the most important factors when shopping for a surfboard traction pad.

If you’re new to surfing, a traction pad is likely to be more accessible and accommodating than the time-consuming act of waxing your board.

Key considerations

Permanence

Surfboard traction pads are tough to remove, as well they should be — they need to stay tightly affixed to your board in spite of wear, tear, and water. Whereas wax is regularly removed and replaced, your traction pad will stay with your board for a long time. It’s true that you could remove the pad, but the process is time-consuming and requires care and precision. Fiberglass boards are particularly susceptible to damage when a pad is removed.

Number of pieces

A traction pad may come as one large, single piece or several smaller ones. The more pieces there are, the longer they will take to affix. That said, smaller pieces are also easier to handle. A single traction pad of a larger size requires more precision when placing it on the board.

More pieces also means the traction pad will accommodate boards of different sizes. Three-piece pads are most common and offer the most versatility, while five-piece pads provide the most comprehensive coverage.

Comfort and texture

Surfboard traction pads feature intricate patterns to create comfort and grip. The more involved the design, the more friction there is. However, while all pads are made of foam, not everyone finds them comfortable. Keep in mind that while your feet will touch the pad the majority of the time, your legs, stomach, chest, and arms may also come into contact with it at times.

Applying the traction pad

While the process of applying the traction pad isn’t complicated, it can be challenging. If you put it in the wrong position, you’ll likely find surfing uncomfortable or difficult. The traction pad should be as far back as your back foot will go on the surfboard. Leave at least an inch of open space on all sides of the board.

It’s best to find your ideal placement first, before you glue anything down. Trace the outline of the pad with a pencil or marker and use this as your guide. (But before you do that, make sure the board is free of wax, dust, and dirt.)

EXPERT TIP

If you need to remove your traction pad for any reason, grab a hair dryer. Focus the heat on the glue between the pad and board; the adhesive should dissolve in time.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Color and design

Surfboard traction pads come in a variety of colors and designs to complement your board and personality. The color of your traction pad doesn’t serve a functional purpose, but it can add a unique flair to your board.

Tail kick

Most traction pads feature a tail kick, which is essentially a raised rear area on the pad that keeps your back foot in place. This is particularly useful for advanced surfers when digging deep into big waves.

While the pad itself offers a comfortable grip, the tail kick offers added protection and cushion. Tail kicks come in a variety of angles; steeper angles are ideal for more intense surfing.

Center arch

Some surfboard traction pads feature a small, raised area in the middle of the pad to support your foot. The assumption is that most of the time, your foot will be in that area, and the raised arch will keep your food comfortable and safe. However, this only works if the arch height matches your foot arch. Those with flat feet will likely find this uncomfortable.

Environmentalism

Among surfers, there is a love and respect for nature, which is why several companies try to support environmental causes when they can. If you want your purchase to have a positive effect on the planet, look for those groups that may donate a portion of proceeds to an environmental charity — or ship and deliver your product in environmentally friendly packaging.

3M is the adhesive virtually all traction pads use to attach to the board, and for good reason. The adhesive is known for being lightweight, flexible, and strong.

Accessories

Though surfing is a fairly straightforward sport, there’s more to it than just you, your board, and the waves. Here are a few accessories to help you stay on the waves and keep your board pristine.

Surfboard leash: Ho Stevie! Premium Leash
All surfers, competitive and casual, need to stay attached to their board. This surfboard leash from the popular and established surfer brand Ho Stevie! will keep you secure and comfortable.

Surf travel bag: Pamgea Sock Cover
Protect both your board and your traction pad during transportation and storage with a travel bag. This will shield it from unwanted dust, debris, and damage. Pamgea’s sock cover is both lightweight and inexpensive.

Surfboard traction pad prices

Inexpensive: You’ll find the cheapest surfboard traction pads for under $25. These may have limited color options but should come in any number of pieces and various tail kick and arch sizes.

Mid-range: From $25 to $35, you’ll find quality surfboard traction pads in a wide range of textures, colors, and designs. Traction pads in this price range tend to come from well-regarded surfing product companies.

Expensive: Over $35, you will find many durable and comfortable traction pads. These will likely be in three-, four-, or five-piece designs. Many come with a manufacturer’s guarantee.

EXPERT TIP

Give your new pad some time to set before taking it for a spin. You’re advised to wait at least 24 hours before going in the water.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Consider your outfit. Pads create fiction for your feet, but when paddling and getting upright, other parts of your body may brush against the pad. If you have exposed skin, you may get a rash or abrasion.
  • Find what feels comfortable. You need to be able to rest your foot on your pad and brace yourself as you surf — so it should be comfortable above all else. Pay particular attention to the height of the arch pad, which should complement the arch of your foot.
  • Ask for help when applying. Because properly placing the surfboard traction pad is so vital, grab an extra set of eyes and hands if possible. Have someone hold the pad in place as your trace the outline.
  • Reconsider white. Over time, you’re going to get some discoloration and fading. White pads in particular attract more dirt and stain easily.

Other products we considered

There are a few worthwhile options beyond what we’ve included in the matrix. If you didn’t see one you’d prefer, check out Abahub’s three-piece traction pad. It comes with a few different colors, fits all surfboards, and sports a thick tail kick.

Sympl Supply Co. offers a three-piece Deck Pad that adheres to all boards. For a mid-range price, you can get this pad in one of a few different richly colored options.

Lastly, the three-piece FCS Traction Pad features a drop arch bar and tail kick. Its most notable feature is its limited-edition patriotic design showing off the colors of the American flag.

Our test process

FAQ

Q. Is a surfboard traction pad better than waxing?
A.
There is no one “best” way to get a grip on your board; it comes down to personal preference. Pads help you avoid the hassle of regularly applying wax, but they need to be carefully applied and are difficult to remove — so if it doesn’t feel comfortable initially, you’ve created a bigger problem. Traction pads often feature arches and tail kicks, which may or may not complement your foot and be necessary to the type of boarding you enjoy. Ultimately, it’s worth exploring both options to see what you like best.
 

Q. How should I maintain my traction pad?
A.
Keep your traction pad protected in the same ways you would protect your board. Store it in a cool, dry place. Use a cover or bag when transporting, and always be careful when moving or transporting the board to avoid running into anything that could scratch it. Rinse your board with fresh water after use to remove any excess salt, and keep your board out of the sun for extended periods when you’re not using it.
 

Q. Do surfboard traction pads work on all types of boards?
A.
Most traction pads should work on most types of surfboards. The manufacturer will likely list the types of boards the pad works with; this often includes longboards and skimboards. Some pads may also affix to kayaks to create a foothold, and some work with paddleboards for increased comfort and balance.

The team that worked on this review
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Kristin
    Kristin
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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