By Robb Bailey
Surf wax was designed to make the top surface of surfboards tacky. Although wax is a great way to keep the deck of a surfboard stickified, maintenance is a bit of a task (lazy surfers, right?). Wax requires constant re-application, and after a few sessions in the water it’s usually time to strip the old stuff off and start fresh. A more permanent solution is available with the use of deck grip.
Using deck grip or surf wax on a surfboard are equally effective methods to getting the tacky factor that surfers look for. In fact, most shortboarders use a traction pad for their rear foot and wax for the chest/front foot area, utilizing a combination of both. But there really is no “correct” or “right” way to get your board set up. It’s a personal choice, and every surfer will choose a slightly different setup depending on preference.
Traction pads and deck grip are used as a semi-permanent replacement for surf wax on surfboards. The purpose is to provide a non-slip surface and help keep the surfer’s feet firmly on the deck of the board. Made of a poly foam with some type of glue adhesive, deck grip us usually applied near the tail of the surfboard to provide more traction, stability, and friction against the surfer’s rear foot. Some grip is designed to be placed farther up the deck for longboards, but in general when surfers refer to Traction pads, they are referring to the grip piece that is near the tail of the board.
With shortboarders in particular, some of the more advanced maneuvers are enhanced by the use of traction pads. Aerials, tailslides, shove-its are examples of tricks that require significant use of the rear foot. Providing a surface to push against, traction pads have a kicktail (similar to the tail of a skateboard), which is made of a small block of foam attached to the rear edge of the tailpad.
Shortboard tricks warrant the need for more traction in comparison to doing something like tube riding at Pipeline — or longboarding at a mellow pointbreak — where the surfer’s weight is a little more evenly distributed on both feet while riding. In a case where a surfer may be tube riding or nose riding all day long, the need for a traction pad is almost none since that surfer may go the whole day without carving a single turn. Wax would be sufficient for rear-foot traction in this case.