To Love or To Hate,
An age old debate of personal preference and functionality!
As Legend has it,
In 1975 a gentleman named Jim Van Vleck created a traction pad for your surfboard that would prevent slipping and having to constantly apply and layer surf wax to surfboards.
Jim named the traction and his company “Astrodeck!”
One year later Herbie Fletcher purchased the company from Jim,
Added his own creative twist to the concept and began distributing the Astrodeck worldwide.
The evolution of traction pads
Herbie embraced more than just the function of this traction,
Giving Astrodeck a personality all its own by designing a broad spectrum of different colors, shapes and graphics that were truly ahead of their time within the surfing industry.
It certainly didn’t hurt that the world’s elite professionals made up Herbie’s A Team,
And two of the Surfing World’s Demigods just so happen to be his two sons Christian and Nathan Fletcher!
Otherwise known as the “Godfather of Aerial Surfing,”
Was a pivotal force showcasing where Astrodeck could take your surfing.
Christian’s surfing strongly reflected that of skateboarding taking his surfboard in places the surfing world had never seen!
The style and maneuvers Christian carved out were all his own,
Introducing an unmatched bag of tricks that Astrodeck played a key part in taking credit for.
This became a family affair as younger brother Nathan was hot on Christian’s heels steadfast in mirroring the path his older brother had already paved.
Herbie’s stylish and progressive affair on his longboard also shined light on just how much control one could possess while using Astrodeck traction!
Traction pads and performance
Soon thereafter numerous other traction pads were born all under the inspiration of Jim’s creation and Herbie’s vision.
Not only used for providing traction,
These pads also served as a cushion to protect the fiberglass that surfboards are constructed from!
Now depending on who you talk to,
Some surfers believe that a traction pad takes away from just how lively your surfboard can perform.
Some surfers even swear it detracts from the speed on behalf of what little weight it provides on the tail of your surfboard to boot.
What these pads do do is prevent severe damage that comes from the weight of your heels when applying pressure and power courtesy of what’s been deemed “Back foot surfing,”
The constant pressure eventually wears and tears on the edges of the surfboard rail that is not covered by the traction pad and eventually leads to what most surfers know as “Tail cancer.”
This is where the constant cracking of the fiberglass eventually allows sea water to seep inside the foam softening up this crucial area of the surfboard and making it nearly impossible to salvage or fix,
Ultimately in due time ruining the overall performance of your surfboard.
From a performance perspective,
Traction pads unquestionably changed modern day surfing!
From the “Arch Bar” designed to comfortably & supportively mold to the arch of your foot,
To the “Kick Pad” and sizing of the “Kicker” that holds your backfoot in and from slipping off the back of your tail,
Saving your feet and legs from injuries on behalf of the tail of your surfboard and sharp fins lurking below.
These “Kickers” make performance surfing that much easier,
Absorbing impact upon landing big maneuvers above the lip and into the flats of the wave.
Introducing front grip
Nowadays there is an array of traction pads for your front foot also,
Saving time having to perpetually apply surf wax and also protects the upper portion of your surfboard while providing incredible grip for added control.
Front foot pads can be brutal as far as chafing and rashing your upper torso and nips,
Wetsuit season can save you from serious agony in regards.
Many swear by their traction and opt to permanently wear lycra or a t-shirt through those warm water summer months to extend water time and protect themselves from a rash they will soon never forget!
Deck grip options
This is where the Fun begins!
In today’s markets there are endless options for both front and back foot traction.
These brands allow you to purchase your favorite surfer’s “Signature Series” pads,
With countless color schemes from neon and bright to single color ways,
1 piece pads that are beginner friendly on one end of the spectrum to as many as 5 piece pads that you can cut, pull, paste, and customize!
We have eco-friendly pads made from recycled materials constructed by companies who are actively giving back to our planet with a small percentage of the proceeds from each pads sale.
Tractions made of recycled cork, eco-friendly foam and algae foam are spearheading the search for sourcing clean components.
Traction within the traction for gripping capabilities where there are patterns cut out as well as patterns applied on top of one another for the “multigrip” concepts.
Weight has always played a tremendous part in the World of traction pads,
Brands now offer pads 30% lighter allowing you to maintain a more ideal board weight exactly where you want it!
Signature pads and collaborations
Artist collaborations have become ever so popular,
Brand & personality collaborations are an ongoing concept also.
Professional Surfers have partnered up and started their own companies shielding themselves from the tyrannical corporate anarchy vibe,
Many of these brands give back & donate to conservationists and nonprofits quite regularly which is always welcome!
Traction pads have undoubtedly taken on an entire World of their own!
I find myself spending hours researching who’s offering new trends, materials, paying it forward to our planet, colorways, grip patterns and concepts, so on and so forth before pulling the trigger to traction up a new surfboard!
Many will argue that in the thriving market of the modern day “Fish” style surfboards,
And where professionals are able to take their surfing today on these retro style crafts,
Much has to do with traction pads specifically designed for the awkward shapes of the tail of a fish surfboard.
Pads placed on a fish have opened up new doors further accessing aggressive and raw surfing on a board meant to simply highline and cruise on.
Many brands have custom & signature tail pads to meet the diversity of these shapes that fit perfectly on the tails of these surfboards opening Pandora’s Box to limitless progressive surfing!
An entire modern day “Fish” movement has surfaced allowing a fun alternative for the everyday “shortboard” rider.
Herbie was one of the very first to cover his much longer and less maneuverable longboards in Astrodeck traction from tail to nose,
His surfing in itself sold endless pads being one of the most radical surfers of his era!
After watching surf videos and images of Herbie in surf mags there was no denying this traction movement,
Even throughout the fine art on longboard surfing.
Traction pads are here to stay
In my opinion there isn’t a surfboard that comes to mind that could not benefit from today’s modern traction application.
I can tell you this,
I have never,
And will never own or ride one of my personal surfboards without one,
Not a single one!
You become so dependent on that grip,
Comfort and functionality that riding a board without one for me personally,
Becomes a hazardous and dangerous nightmare furthering you to actually take your surfing down a notch to avoid any pesky injuries!
When purchasing a traction pad most price points are relatively the same give or take five to ten dollars.
The longevity a traction pad can add to your surfboard alone is worthy of the purchase!
If you’re not used to surfing with a traction pad the actual difference in weight isn’t much of a distraction,
However what becomes noticeable almost immediately is gaining the newfound confidence in your surfing courtesy of just how amazingly these very simple products perform.
Once you find your footing,
Arch snug neatly on that arch bar,
Foot securely pinned against the kicker and feet seamlessly glued to your traction of choice…
It is then your confidence in this product will actually subconsciously elevate your performance and maneuvers pulling you in as a traction pad “Lifer!”
Sessions, days, months, seasons, years and surfboards later…
You will be thankful you entertained the hype as will your surfing level!
My Utmost Thanks to the OG Pioneers and Lords of traction,
Mr. Jim Van Vleck for conceptualizing the gift of surf pads,
And Lord Herbie for taking what looked to be a very basic product,
To a stratosphere that has changed surfboards and surfing Forever!