How to choose a tail pad / traction pad

Tail pads come in literally hundreds of thousands of shapes, sizes, textures, and brands, so how do you choose a tail pad? we're going to go through firstly what a tail pad is, what they're used for and how to ultimately come to a decision and buy the right one.

Let me start off by saying, as humans, we're creatures of habit and grabbing the grip we're used to or were advised by the junior at your local surf shop and used it ever since. 

It's possibly time for you to consider researching tail pads are nearly as important as knowing which fins to use, understanding and possibly changing to better your surfing experience and better your skills. 

Tail pads are not like fins or stickers, changing them isn't as easy as pulling them off, and putting your new ones on. Designed to stick, and stay stuck is what makes a good grip pad.

Let's dive in, take a look at the four most important components that make up a tail pads design.

Traction Pad

Photo Credit: Surfboard Warehouse Youtube


The kick is the degrees in which the "kick" in the pad sits, this can range from a smaller 20-degree kick, right up to a vertical kick.

Ultimately, the steeper your kick, the easier it is to put your foot in place to blow out a wave.

If you're a performance rider, you're most likely looking for something between 45 degrees and verticle. If you're riding a fish or a retro board, a mellow or flat tail pad is probably the best option for you.


An incredibly broad design element of a tail pad, the amount of arch you're looking for is completely variant on your foot size, and how much movement you're after.

A larger foot a longer and higher arch that runs the complete length of your foot, is what you're looking for.

Smaller feet you want something that has minimal arch would be the most ideal option.


Although most tail pads are universally compatible with most modern boards, they come between 1, and 5 pieces. 

Although 1 piece boards are now less common due to larger arches in modern boards, 1 piece tail pads are more reliable though due to their durability and simplicity of install. Like installing a sticker on a curved edge though, you're more prone to air bubbles and thus less board adhesion. 

The 2 piece was never used or widespread as what the three-piece was, a two-piece you'll find doesn't have an arch, and only comes in a mellow kick, although these do go well on a fish. 

Our recommendation is the three-piece, not only is it the most common, widely used and easiest to install, but offers great grip, versatility and works on any board.

Five-piece grips are basically a 3, but with an added two tabs that sit above the main pad adding extra grip, we'd suggest these for surfers in bigger swells.


This is referring to the type of texture used on your tail pad, most common to find traction is a diamond-shaped pattern. Higher end pads come with multi-layered grooves which offer a longer lasting pad.

Single grooved tractions are also starting to become popular with some manufacturers, although these tend to be on the cheaper end.

The deeper the grooves and the rougher the texture provides you with maximum resistance against slipping and superior traction. 

What tail pad should I buy?

We recommend a diamond textured traction, with a 3 piece design and a 30-45 degree kick. However, this is can be a personal preference based on your experience and the waves you're riding.

  • If you're riding large waves, and a shortboard, a three-piece or 5-piece would be ideal.
  • Consider your riding style, this will depend on your arch, and your kick.
  • Traction, and how much will depend on diamond or single groove tail pads.

Keep in mind, not all tail pads are manufactured the same, buy one from a reputable supplier, nothing is worse than cracking, bruising the foam or worse, peel due to lack of adhesion.