Traction Pads: The Essential Guide for Surfboards

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  08.02.2023
I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

What are traction pads on surfboards? They’re little pieces of foam that you glue to your board for extra grip. They’re also called tail pads, stomp pads, or trac pads.

Traction pads provide your back foot better grip than wax alone could provide, which is great for keeping your foot planted and secure when pumping or making “power turns.” These allow you to gain speed and momentum when trying to beat a section before it closes out (breaks in front of you).

They also keep you informed of where your foot is on the board. When standing up, your eyes are focused in the direction you’re heading and how you’re going to carve out a line. There’s no time to look at your feet but the feeling of the foam under your foot tells you that your stance is in the correct place.

In this article, I’ll discuss what traction pads are, when to use them, and how to choose the right one for you.

What are traction pads

What’s the Deal with Traction Pads?

What are Traction Pads?

Traction pads, also known as tail pads, stomp pads, or trac pads, are like little pieces of foam that you stick to your surfboard’s tail. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and have a pattern on them to help you get a better grip than you would with just wax.

Why Do You Need Traction Pads?

Traction pads are great for keeping your back foot planted firmly on your board when you’re pumping or making power turns. This helps you get more speed and momentum when you’re trying to beat a section before it closes out. Plus, you don’t have to take your eyes off the wave to check where your foot is, because you can feel the foam under your foot.

Newer surfers especially appreciate the help traction pads give them with their bottom turns.

The Bottom Line

Traction pads are a must-have for any surfer who wants to get the most out of their ride. They give you more control and speed, plus they make sure your foot is always in the right place. So if you want to make sure you’re always ready to shred, grab yourself a traction pad.

Should You Stick with Wax or Try a Traction Pad?

The Basics

Surfboards are slippery little buggers, and if you don’t want to end up in the drink every time you hit the waves, you’ll need to make sure you have some kind of grip on your board. That’s where traction pads come in. They’re designed to stick to the tail of your board and give your back foot something to hold on to. Alternatively, you can go with the classic surfboard wax.

The Pros and Cons

Traction pads come in a variety of colors and are made from non-slip, water-resistant materials. Plus, they don’t require any maintenance, and some have a raised kicktail at the back to help keep your foot from sliding too far back. On the downside, you have to make sure your placement is spot-on, and the kicktail can lead to stubbed toes.

Surfboard wax is a classic, and it does the job, but it can be a bit of a hassle. You have to reapply it every time you hit the waves, and it can be a bit of a mess if it melts in the sun.

Applying Traction Pads

If you decide to go with a traction pad, here’s what you need to do:

  • Make sure your board is clean and wax-free.
  • Lay out the pad and get it as far down the back of the board as you can.
  • Aim for the leg line or leash plug.
  • Let it dry for 24 hours before taking your board out.
  • Keep the pad towards the tail of the board.

At the end of the day, it’s all about personal preference. Some surfers swear by the extra grip of a traction pad, while others prefer the classic wax. Whichever you choose, just make sure you don’t end up in the drink!

Do I Need a Traction Pad on My Board?

Modern Shortboards

If you’re looking for a board that’ll help you make those sharp turns on steep waves, then you’ll probably want to get a traction pad. Performance-oriented boards under 7 feet are the perfect candidates for a traction pad. These boards usually come with a thruster (3 fins) or quad fin setup and a pointed nose.

Here’s why you’ll want a traction pad:

  • It’ll help you center your back foot over the fins for those quick, rail-to-rail turns.
  • It’ll give you the grip you need to generate power for those turns.
  • It’ll save you the hassle of having to wax your board every time you go out.

Eggs, Fishes and Retro Boards

If you’re looking for a board that’s fast, loose and sometimes hard to control, then you might want to consider getting a traction pad. These boards usually feature a round (or round-ish) nose and a lot of volume, and usually come with a single or twin fin setup.

Now, some people don’t think they need a traction pad on these boards. After all, they’re naturally loose and turn easily, so you don’t necessarily need to have your foot centered directly over the tail. But if you’re looking for extra grip and don’t want to have to wax your board every time you go out, then a traction pad might be the way to go.


Logs are boards that measure over 9+ feet. They usually have a round nose and either a single or 2+1 fin setup. Most surfers don’t think they need a traction pad on their longboard, and for good reason.

You only really need to place your foot on the tail when initiating a turn, and even then, your foot might be placed in front of where the traction pad would be attached. Plus, there’s already a traction pad’s worth of space between the tail and fin. So even if your foot is centered over the fin, it might not reach the tail pad.

Bottom line: if you don’t feel like dealing with the hassle of putting on a traction pad, then you don’t have to. It’s totally up to you!

Getting to Grips With Traction Pads

With the surf market being as saturated as it is, it can be hard to know which traction pad is right for you. Let’s break it down into the four key components: surface, pieces, kick, and arch.


The surface of the foam is what determines how much grip it’ll give you. You’ll see diamond-shaped patterns, single or multi-layered grooves, and circular designs. The rougher the texture, the more traction it’ll provide. Multi-layered grooves offer the most grip, but single-layer designs don’t offer as much and can let your feet move around.


The kick is the raised surface on the back of the pad and can range from 20 degrees to almost vertical. The steeper the kick, the more you’ll be able to use your foot to jam the tail through the wave.


The arch bar runs through the center of the pad and can range from a few millimeters to 12. It’s designed to fit under the arch of your foot, so choose the thickness based on the size of your feet. The bigger your feet, the more arch you’ll need. However, a thicker arch will also create more of a disconnect between you and the board.


Stomp pads come in 1 to 5 pieces of varying shapes. Single-pieces used to be the norm but have since been replaced by 3 or 5 piece pads. These are great because they let you spread the grip to fit your tail shape.

So there you have it! Now you know the ins and outs of traction pads and can choose the right one for you.

Choosing the Right Traction Pad for Your Surfboard


For those of you who like to get a bit more aggressive and technical with your surfing, you’ll want to look for a 3-piece pad with plenty of kick and arch. If you’re a big wave surfer, you may want to opt for a 5-piece pad for extra grip.

Laidback Surfers

If you’re more of a laidback surfer, you’ll want to go for a pad with less traction, moderate arch (depending on your foot size), and a mellow kick. If you’re putting it on a fish/retro board, a one or two-piece design is usually the way to go, as it will give you more freedom to move your foot around.


For those of you who like to ride funboards, you don’t need too much traction or kick. The main purpose of a stomp pad on mid-lengths is to help you learn foot placement, so having an average amount of arch should do the trick.


If you’re just starting out, you’ll want to go for something with less traction, like single-layer grooves or a diamond pattern. This will give you the freedom to readjust your foot placement as you learn the ropes.

The Best Way to Choose

If you’re still not sure what kind of pad you should get, head to your local surf shop. They’ll usually let you test out the feel of the pad under your foot, and they can help you decide which pad has the right amount of grip, arch, and kick for you.

How to Install a Traction Pad on Your Surfboard

Clean the Tail

Before you can get your traction pad on the board, you need to make sure the tail is squeaky clean. If you’re new to this, you can leave your board in the sun for about 20 minutes and then scrape the wax off with a wax comb or even an old credit card. Once you’ve done that, give it a good wipe down with some glass cleaner and paper towels.

Line Up the Pads

Now it’s time to get your traction pad in place. Some people like to spread the pieces out to fit the shape of the tail, while others prefer to stick with the manufacturer’s shape. Either way, make sure there’s a tiny bit of room between the pieces.

Peel and Stick

Once you’ve got the pads lined up, it’s time to peel the backing off and stick them down. Start with the middle piece and make sure it’s aligned with the stringer. Don’t press down yet though – if you make a mistake, you can still lift the pad up and readjust it.

Press Down and Let it Rest

Once you’re happy with the placement, firmly press down to lock it in place. This will make it extremely hard to move. Now all you need to do is let it rest for 5 hours or more before taking it out in the water. This will give the adhesive time to bond before it gets wet.

The Bottom Line

Installing a traction pad on your board can be a great way to boost your performance in the water. It can give you more power in your stance, allowing you to make snappy turns and get more momentum when you’re charging down the line.

When picking out a pad, make sure you take into account the type of board and riding style you’ll be using. If you’re riding a longer board, you probably won’t need a traction pad. But if you’re using a retro or funboard, it might be worth investing in one. Ultimately, it all comes down to what makes you feel comfortable on the wave.


Traction pads are a great way to improve your surfing and keep your foot planted on the board. They provide better grip than wax alone and keep you informed of where your foot is on the board. So, don’t be afraid to give them a try!

Also read: these are the 6 best skimboard traction pads to get right now

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Kauai Surf Report is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new sports with everything surfing at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2019 to help loyal readers with surfing and water sporting tips.