Many foamies are now being made with wax free decks (such as Almond Surfboards R Series, South Bay Board Co and more) but there are many that aren’t which you’ll have a hard time staying on your board without wax. While you can certainly wax a soft top surfboard, many prefer the convenience and reliability of a traction pad.
Our guide looks at everything you need to know to install a traction pad on your softboard.
Best Surfboard Traction Pads for Soft Top Surfboards
Traction Pad vs wax surfboard
While you can certainly get by with using only wax to maintain your grip on a soft top surfboard, having a traction pad provides so many benefits, particularly on high performance boards which require more frequent turning off the back foot.
Traction pads make surfing easier and more enjoyable. They allow you to stand up faster, find your foot placement quicker (same spot every time), and aid in developing a stronger surfing stance. If you plan on doing manoeuvres and turns on the wave, then having a solidly planted back foot is a must. In this regard, a traction pad will provide plenty of value.
Even if you just want to stand up and cruise on a slightly longer board, these pads will still come in handy, however, are most commonly seen on shortboards. This is because there is less room to walk around on the board, so your stance is generally limited to a certain position. If you have a smaller board, a traction pad will help you to keep a solid position each time.
There aren’t really any negatives with a traction pad, and so they are suitable for any surfing situation. As long as you are planning on standing up, finding your balance and riding a wave, then using one of these grip pads is worth considering.
Lastly, perhaps the biggest benefit of a surfboard traction pad over wax only, is not having to re-wax before surfing each time. Further, no melting wax in the car is nice too!
Surfboard Traction Pad Placement
Placement of rear aka tail pad
Just like a regular shortboard, the correct position for a tail traction pad on a soft top is starting just in front of the leash plug, leaving some room for the leash to come up from the plug. Make sure it is straight and central.
The key points for placing your rear traction pad on your surfboard are the following:
- Place it over your fins, the back of it being over the central fin and the front end over the two side fins.
- Not too close to the leash – you want the pad to be as far back as possible but not right on top of the leash plug. To close and the leash will just damage the rear of the pad every time it gets pulled tight in that direction
Front traction pads are less common these days but if you’re putting them on your board you need to consider your front foot position. You will need to place the traction pad roughly where you would most usually place your front foot. Front pads are generally longer than rear traction pads so there’s a bit of give on this but you will want to have it in the right position. If you have no idea ask someone for some advice before applying it to the board.
How to Apply a Surfboard Traction Pad to a foamie
Applying a traction pad for a soft top surfboard is more or less the same as working with a traditional hard top surfboard.
Firstly, you will want to make sure the board’s surface where you will be applying the traction pad is clean. If you need to get off any residual wax, use a hairdryer to heat the wax for a few minutes or pour over some hot water. Once the wax has gone a bit soft you can remove it was a wax scraper / comb.
If you’ve got a small amount of wax still in place which you can’t scrape off try using a non toxic degreaser, citrus based cleaner or small amount of rubbing alcohol and apply with a cloth.
Lastly, you can lightly sand the area you will be applying your traction pad to the foamie with a fine grit sandpaper. Not everybody does this so it is optional but with some soft tops like Catch Surf it seems that a light sand helps the traction pad to more permanently stick in place.
Trace your template
Most people like to lightly mark the position of the traction pad by placing it on the board and marking around it in position so that when they remove the backing sticker you can correctly align the pad onto the surfboard deck.
Really this is a case of marking the four corners of the tail pad, as well as the center of the rear part of the pad and the center of the front part of the pad.
Having all 4 corners mapped out and straight should mean that you are able to put your traction pad on perfectly without issue.
As we noted previously the best place to install the traction pad is generally close to the leash plug (depending where it is located). The back of the traction pad should be as far back as possible so that when your foot is at the back of the pad it’s directly above or slightly behind the back fin. It should be close to the leash plug but not so close to be covering it or directly abutting it.
Stick down the traction pad
Peel off the backing sticker and align the center of your traction pad with the stringer or centreline of the soft top board. Don’t push it down too much, in case you need to make a few adjustments. Once you’ve stuck it down, it’s tough to pull the pad back up;
If you’ve got a three-piece traction pad, leave little gaps between all pads; You might find that your pad comes in multiple pieces of foam. If so, it’s really up to you whether you want to space them out a little or put them tight together.
I’ve seen surfers do it both ways without any bother but I always for go for sticking them tightly together on my surfboards.
Once you’ve finished, and if you’re happy with the final result, push everything down firmly to get that glue working between the deck and the surfboard;
For soft top surfboards with exposed fin plugs that come through to the deck
1) get a piece of paper and mark / circle where the plug tops are.
2) cut out those marks / circles
3) flip over the traction pads and place the template over it ( remember the alignment of left and right )
4) draw the outline for the plug holes to the back side of the pad
5) cut out the lines with a stanley knife or blade
6) alcohol wipe down the deck area before laying down the pad.
If your traction pad starts lifting
If you find the traction pad is coming away from the deck you will need to utilise a super glue to get it to fix in place. 3M 5200 Marine Layer Adhesive tends to work well for soft tops. Try and ensure you form an air tight seal around the edges of the traction pad to stop water from making its way under the pad, which will ensure its maximum longevity.
We hope you’ve learnt something form our traction pad for soft top surfboard guide. If you have any questions let us know in the comments below!