Wax or Tail / Traction Pad - Do you need a tail pad?

So you're wondering whether or not you need a tail/traction pad on your surfboard? 

It's actually not that hard of a question to answer, both options have their pro's, and their con's, but ultimately it comes down to personal preference.

I'll dive in and explain the two, what they're the differences and the benefits of each and hopefully by the end of the article, you'll know exactly what you're looking for. 

Should I use wax?

To put it simply, surfboard wax goes on the deck of your board, it gives you traction from falling off on an otherwise - smooth surface.

Wax Or Tail / Traction Pad - Do You Need A Tail Pad

Photo Credit: learntosurfkona.com

The success of your wax application comes down to whether or not you have purchased the correct wax, and believe it or not, there are quite a few options to choose from. 

Getting the right wax

There are literally hundreds if not thousands of surf wax brands, each offering effectively the same thing, with different marketing strategies, there are "better" quality brands, but ultimately offering the same products.

Wax is sold based on the temperature of water you're intending on surfing, a cold wax will melt off the board before your eyes in the hot summer sun, so it's important to work out where it is you're going and work from there.

You can typically go to somewhere like swellnet reports and go to your local and it will tell you. 

Wax typically comes in the following:

  • Basecoat ( This won't melt, it's hard. Trust me )
  • Tropical ( 23 degrees and above )
  • Warm ( 17 - 23 degrees )
  • Cool ( 14 - 19 degrees )
  • Cold ( 15 degrees and below )

Each company has their slightly different temperature grade, it's important to read the box or the website you're buying it from to make sure you're getting what you need.


  • Wax is cheap and affordable and can be purchased in bulk
  • It's sticky, it works and if applied properly, reliable
  • There is no "wear and tear" on wax, simply scrape it off, and re-apply


  • Wax is super time consuming, getting old wax off and new wax on can take time
  • Wax can melt on hot days and can make a complete mess
  • It can be rather uncomfortable for barefoot riders offering no "cushion" 

Ultimately, the wax is pretty good and reliable if you have it down pat with the application process, a good wax comb, you'll find it's not all that hard to use.

Should I use a Tail Pad or Traction Pad?

Tail Pads offer their own unique pro's and con's, but ultimately, the better choice for most surfers, offering a long-lasting, high traction, no maintenance option over traditional wax.

Wax Or Tail / Traction Pad - Do You Need A Tail Pad

Tail pads come in hundreds of colours and designs, textures, and options for you to choose from which don't just offer you great traction but a character with the designs and colours.

Fortunately, you don't need to worry about the water temperature, or re-applying it all the time. 


  • No need to re-apply often like wax
  • Being made from foam they offer soft comfort for the foot
  • Beautiful colours & designs to choose from


  • Application position is super important, a wrong positioned tail pad won't work for most
  • Caring for your tail pad is important, they're hard to remove so looking after it is very important


So should you buy a tail pad? or use wax?

It still comes down to personal preference, if you're using wax already, stay with wax, a tail pad isn't going to offer you much more advantage, wax is, after all, stickier than a traction pad. 

However, if you're new to surfing and asking the same question, I'd suggest going with a tail pad for ease of use and less work.

Hopefully, you're questions are answered, if you have any further questions, just ask. 


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