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Best Traction Pads Surfboard

The best surfboard traction pads. Get a grip, brah.

The Inertia

Whenever you have the good fortune to get a new shortboard, you’ll get the pleasure of treating yourself to a brand new traction pad, too (and maybe a leash). Traction pads, stomp pads, deck pads, tail pads, grip, whatever you want to call them, are an essential piece of equipment for your board. Unless you’re a weirdo who likes only using wax, or a Gerry Lopez type who only gets barreled and nothing else, you’ll want something on the back of your board to keep your foot locked in as you push through turns.

Another less obvious benefit of the traction pad is that it helps with your foot placement. It’s easier to feel where your back foot is in relation to the board when you can tell your foot is off the traction pad, on the traction pad, or slammed against the raised kick of the pad. Developing an awareness of your foot placement according to what you’re trying to do on the wave will help progress your surfing by miles.

Read on for our top picks for surfboard traction pads, and for more detailed info check out our Buyer’s Guide and Comparison Table.

The Best Surfboard Traction Pads

Best Overall Traction Pad: FCS Julian Wilson Traction Pad
Most Comfortable Traction Pad: Octopus John Doe Corduroy Grip
Best Grip Traction Pad: Astrodeck 123 New Nathan
Best Budget Traction Pad: Ho Stevie! 3 Piece Traction
Best Flat Arch Traction Pad: Octopus Hobgood Hybrid
Best Eco-Friendly Traction Pad: Sympl – No5 Traction Pad

Best Overall

FCS Julian Traction Pad ($58)

FCS Julian Wilson Traction Pad

Pros: Channels and holes throughout for added grip, thin pad preserves board feel
Cons: Not the most comfortable, but not horrible

Construction: 3-Piece Pad
Arch: Trapeze Arch Bar
Kick: High Tail Kick
FCS traction pads are built first and foremost to be grippy, and the Julian Traction Pad, developed with pro surfer Julian Wilson, does not disappoint in that area. With the emphasis on grip, this pad wasn’t our top pick for comfort, but it wasn’t the lowest on the list, either. And you certainly won’t have to worry about your foot slipping off.

The Julian Wilson model has tons of features to help you stay on the board, such as channels and holes throughout for added grip. However, our favorite feature of this traction pad was its thinness. You won’t feel like you’re standing on a memory foam mattress with this pad. The thin deck pad lets you maintain board feel as you push through your fins on turns. Overall, this traction pad’s thinness helps you feel more in control and connected to your board.


Most Comfortable

Octopus John Doe Corduroy Grip ($46)

octopus traction pad

Pros: Low-profile corduroy grip won’t tear up your knees
Cons: Not as grippy as other pads we’ve tested

Construction: 2-Piece pad
Arch: No Arch
Kick: 50º tail kick

Surfboard traction pads have a bit of a catch-22 between comfort and grip. Improve one, and you’re almost guaranteed to be hurting the other metric. And while Octopus hasn’t come up with some new formula or done anything too out-of-the-blue, their John Doe corduroy pad delivers on comfort, and while it’s certainly not as grippy as other pads with burlier traction, it provides enough to keep your foot on the board. And if you need a bit more grip, you can always go for the wax-your-tailpad trick.


Best Grip

Astrodeck 123 New Nathan ($38)

Pros: Extremely grippyAstrodeck Traction Pad
Rubs shins/knees

Construction: 3-Piece pad
Arch: Built-in arch
Kick: 45º to vert kick

The OG deck traction pads. We find Astrodeck’s traction pads to be extremely grippy. So if you’re after pure traction, they can be a good choice. One thing to note about them, though, is that they can get too raw and grippy where it feels like you’re ripping the skin off of your shins and knees with every wave you catch. Remember what we said about the catch-22 for traction pads earlier? Where the John Doe leans towards comfort, the New Nathan opts for grippiness. Pick your poison.

CHECK PRICE ON astrodeck

Best Budget Traction Pad

Ho Stevie! 3 Piece Traction ($24)

Surfboard traction pad by Ho Stevie!

Pros: Affordable, works well with wax
Not the grippiest pad, adhesive doesn’t last

Construction: 3-Piece Pad
Arch: Medium Arch
Kick: High Kick

Ho Stevie’s line of surf products is all about getting the best bang for your buck, and their traction pad is no different. This three-piece traction pad clocks in at half the price of other options on this list, and while it may not be as grippy as some of the higher-end options, it’s no slouch when it comes to performance.

The cross-style grip isn’t quite as “sticky” underfoot as the diamonds on a lot of the pads above, but they are a whole lot easier to wax. Call it overkill, but we like to add a bit of wax on my tail pad, and in fact with the Ho Stevie! pad we’d recommend it. Once you do so, this pad is just as grippy as any, and it won’t tear your skin up. The 3M adhesive works fairly well, but in our testing we’ve experienced some peeling around the raised arch over time.


Best Flat Arch Traction Pad

Octopus Hobgood Hybrid ($48)

Octopus CJ Hobgood Traction Pad

Pros: Top corduroy section isn’t abrasive, two-piece pad is easy to install  
No arch bar

Construction: Two-Piece Pad
Arch: No Arch
Kick: 25 mm Kick

If you’ve seen the clips Chippa Wilson or any of the other Octopus team riders have been putting out, you know that there’s some serious grip under their feet. We were a little skeptical of the Hobgood Hybrid since it doesn’t have an arch bar in the middle. But then again some of our favorite traction pads have lacked that too.

The cool thing about the Hobgood Hybrid is the different textures. The back has a more textured grip for better control through turns. But if you need to shuffle your back foot forward to pump through sections or barrels, you can easily feel where your foot is on the board. Not only do you get some help with your foot placement, but you can say goodbye to those summertime leg and knee rashes that come from the top of your traction pad since the top corduroy section is less abrasive. Plus, it’s a two-piece pad, which is easier to install on your board than the others on this list.


Best Eco-Friendly Traction Pad

Sympl No5 Traction Pad ($34)

Sympl Surfboard Traction Pad

Pros: Biodegradable
Adhesive could be stronger

Construction: 3-Piece Pad
Arch: Medium Arch
Kick: High Kick

Sympl Supply Co. seeks to make good products at a lower cost to the environment, and that holds true with their line of traction pads. Their pads are built to perform and last, but at the end of their lifetime will biodegrade rather than just sitting in the landfill for thousands of years.

The No5 is the classic three-piece pad with a medium arch, diamond-grip and a decent amount of kick at the back, but with a variety of options to choose from, whether you want diamonds for extra grip, grooves for comfort, need a front pad, or something that will fit a swallowtail, Sympl has got you covered.


Best of the Rest

Ocean and Earth Owen Wright Signature Series ($45)

Ocean and Earth Owen Wright Traction Pad

Pros: Soft and comfortable but plenty of grip
Cons: Kick is all one pad

Construction: 3-Piece Pad
Arch: 7 mm Arch
Kick: 25 mm Kick

Ocean and Earth makes soft traction pads that are comfortable under your feet. But just because you sacrifice some leg rash potential, doesn’t mean you’re also sacrificing potential grip. The Owen Wright Signature Series makes use of diamonds that are wider and flatter than many other traction pads. The result is comfort on your legs when you paddle and under your feet when you stand.

One thing that stands out about the Owen Wright Signature Series is the kick construction. Unlike most three-piece pads, the kick is all one pad. But, the kick has flex in it, which means you can get the ideal stick on your board, even with a rounded deck.


Creatures of Leisure Griffin Colapinto ($60)

Creatures of Leisure Griffin Colapinto Traction Pad

Pros: Stacked diamonds grip provides plenty of grip
Kick is very vertical

Construction: 3-Piece Pad
Arch: 7 mm Teardrop Arch
Kick: 30 mm Kick

Creatures of Leisure is known for having intricate textures on their deck pads. The Griffin Colapinto Signature Series is no different. Using stacking diamonds of descending size, this traction pad offers plenty of texture for you to find a secure footing. Plus, it’s relatively comfortable since the grip comes from the different sized spaces between different heights.

The kick on this pad is very vertical. This is good if your main worry is making sure that your traction pad can stop you from kicking your foot off your board. But, if you are looking for different ways to adjust your back foot for maximum comfort, you may not be able to with this deck pad.


Dakine John John Florence Pro Surf Traction Pad ($50)

Dakine John John Florence Traction Pad

Pros: Huge space for back foot, very grippy
Not the most durable

Construction: 5-Piece Pad
Arch: Arch
Kick: 25mm Kick

Dakine knows how to make traction pads that are extra grippy. The JJF Pro Surf Traction Pad is no different. With plenty of texture including cut-outs, the JJF Pro Surf Traction Pad offers plenty of grip and a soft comfortable surface for your back foot.

The 5-piece grip offers a huge space for any surfer to put their back foot. Whether you are trying to push through turns or shuffle your foot forward when pumping or trying to shoot through a barrel, you can trust your foot to not slip off.

We’ve had bad luck with Dakine traction pads in the past when it comes to durability. We like to keep the same pad on a board for a long time and we’ve noticed many of our Dakine pads start to peel up after a while around the edge. Despite that problem, we’ve definitely found their traction pads to be awesome for grip. Dakine leashes are nothing to sneeze at either – as that’s probably their strongest product category.


Best Traction Pads Comparison Table

Model Price Construction Arch Kick Features
FCS Julian Wilson $58 3-Piece Trapeze arch bar High tail kick Thin with channels and holes
Octopus John Doe Corduroy Grip $46 2-Piece No arch 50º tail kick Corduroy texture
Astrodeck 123 New Nathan $38 3-Piece Built-in arch 45º to vert kick Super grippy
Ho Stevie! 3 Piece $24 3-Piece Medium arch High kick Lowest price
Octopus Hobgood Hybrid $48 2-Piece No arch 25 mm kick Varied textures
Sympl No5 $34 3-Piece Medium arch High kick Biodegradable
Ocean and Earth Owen Wright Signature Series $45 3-Piece 7 mm arch 25 mm kick Wide, flat diamonds
Creatures of Leisure Griffin Colapinto $60 3-Piece 7 mm teardrop arch 30 mm kick Near-vertical kick
Dakine John John Pro Model $50 5-Piece Arch 25 mm kick 5 Piece

How We Tested The Best Surfboard Traction Pads

For this guide, we had gear tester and experienced surfer Jacob Holke get his hands on the best surfboard traction pads on the market based on our team’s knowledge of top-tier options out there as well as his own experience as a longtime surfer in the surf-industry mecca of Southern California. He got out there at his home break as well as other surf spots up and down the coast to test the efficacy of these pads, taking into account their comfort, grip, and durability, the three main features that make up a good surfboard traction pad.

We first published this article in the fall of 2020, and since then have worked to keep this article updated periodically with the latest and greatest traction pads to emerge onto the market. In 2021, we updated the article to include Ho Stevie!’s new traction pad as a “best budget” option. in 2022, we added the new Sympl Supply Co traction pad as a top-tier eco-friendly option. And in 2024 after testing the latest Octopus pads, we added the John Doe Corduroy Grip pad as the most comfortable option due to its super low-profile grip. We will continue to keep this article updated with the best traction pads available on the market as new options emerge and we are able to get our hands on them for testing.

Editor’s Note: For more in-depth reviews of the top surf gear in the industry, check out our guides to: We Reviewed the Best Surf Wax, The Best Surfboard Leashes of 2024, and The Best Surfboards to Buy Online (2023). Or, if you’re looking for gear to wear while you surf check out our The Best Surf Hats of 2024 (That Will Actually Stay Put), The Best Wetsuits for Surfing of 2024, and We Reviewed the Best Women’s Wetsuits of 2024

a traction pad on a surfboard

A grippy traction pad makes a world of difference. Photo: Rebecca Parsons//The Inertia

Surfboard Traction Pads Buyer’s Guide

Do I need a traction pad for my surfboard?

Given their unassuming and near-ubiquitous nature, it’s surprising how contentious of an issue traction pads are. Put one on the wrong surfboard, and you will be scorned as a kook. Put one too far up on the board – kook. Surfers never have been the easiest of crowds. If your board is a shortboard, you’ll probably want to add some traction. Mid-lengths and longboards definitely don’t need traction, and fishes are a bit of a grey area. Most go without traction on fish-style surfboards, but for higher-performance surfing they can be helpful. Just make sure to choose a pad that will work well with the swallowtail design.

How many pieces for your traction pad?

Grip pads come in a varying number of pieces. The most common set up is either a two-piece or a three-piece setup, but five pieces or more are not uncommon, and there are even a few one-piece pads floating around out there. Less pieces means an easier setup, but less customization. More pieces lets you spread things out a bit to fit the shape of your board better. However, this also means more variables that can go wrong in applying your traction, as well as more edges that could potentially peel up over time.

Raised arch or no raised arch?

The arch bar really comes down to personal preference. A raised arch is more comfortable when you have your foot slammed all the way to the back of the traction pad. It sits nestled under your foot’s arch and can help your rail-to-rail surfing as you roll from heel to toe. But, if you move your foot around while you surf, don’t always have your foot all the way back, or simply have flat feet, you might think about a pad with no raised arch. It will allow you more mobility with your back foot and simply be more comfortable for those who have no arch to begin with.

Surfing turn with tailpad traction

No one’s making a turn like this one without a traction pad. Photo: Surfing Croyde Bay//Unsplash

High kick versus low kick?

The kick is there to stop you from kicking your back foot off of your board when you attempt to turn. The height of your kick depends on what kind of surfing you want to do. More radical surfing? You’ll probably want a higher kick. If you ride a fish or midlength and just want to cruise, you can probably get away with a little kick on your traction pad. Otherwise, anything over 25mm should be fine.

Front deck grip or no deck grip?

Are you hucking huge airs? Do you hate wax? If you answered yes to either of those questions, a deck pad might be for you. If you’re like most surfers, though, you probably don’t need it.

If you look at the pros who use deck grip, most are air specialists. You can still rip on the face of the wave with a forward deck pad, but it’s in the air that you’ll find it more helpful.

One thing to note about deck grip is that it is likely to rip up your chest. If you thought the rash from wax was bad, you haven’t tried trunking it on a deck pad yet. If you live in a cold water place where you’re wearing a wetsuit all the time anyway, it’s a different story, and a front grip might be worth checking out.

How to Install Your Traction Pad

Installing your traction pad can be a tricky business. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, just get the guy at the shop to do it for you. If you want to do it yourself, (and depending on yourself is always the best bet) there are a few things you need to know that will help you.

The traction pad goes way further back than you’d expect. Don’t be like the guy on Craigslist who put the traction pad 6 to 10 inches forward of the tail. Place it just forward of the leash plug and above the back fin in a thruster setup. The back of your traction pad dictates how far back you can put your back foot. Your back foot is the spot you pivot from when you turn. If it’s too far forward, good luck trying to turn. Rookie mistake.

Line the pad up with your board’s stringer to get it straight. The stringer is one of the few straight lines on a board, so try to match it up as best as you can. If you’re riding a Firewire or some other stringerless, EPS construction, it can be tricky to end up with a tail pad that’s not crooked. It can be worth breaking out the ruler and pencil to make sure you get it right.

Don’t put the entire pad down at once. It will make it more likely that you’ll have air bubbles in your traction pad. Instead, put part of it down while holding the rest above the deck. Then slowly roll the rest of the pad onto your board’s deck.

Editor’s Note: Check out more gear reviews from The Inertia here as well as our guide to selecting the best beginner surfboard, the best surf books of all time, and the best earplugs for surfing.

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