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What Is A Surfboard Tail Pad & Where Should It Be Placed?

   October 5th, 2023   Posted In: Articles   Tags:

Surfing offers incredible thrills, especially when you have a surfboard that is perfectly set up to your liking. At the surface level, surfboards all look pretty similar, but there are many aspects that make each one different. Each measurement and part plays a crucial role in getting the perfect ride on a wave.

One component that is critical for control and performance is the surfboard tail pad. In this post, we’ll take a deep dive, thoroughly answering the questions, ‘What is a surfboard tail pad?’ ‘Why do surfers use tail pads?’ ‘And what is the best surfboard tail pad placement?’

What Is a Surfboard Tail Pad?

A surfboard tail pad is a piece of specialized equipment. It’s usually made of high-quality rubber or foam, that sits on the top of the surfboard to provide improved control and grip with your back foot. They are also known as traction pads or deck grips. Tail pads come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and designs depending on the preference of the surfer.

Parts of a Surfboard Tail Pad

Below are the parts of a surfboard tail pad and a little more detail on what they do!

  • Materials: Surfboard tail pads are generally made from rubber or EVA foam. EVA stands for Ethylene-vinyl acetate, which can also be referred to as poly. EVA foam is a high-quality material that is perfect for surfboard tail pads because it is durable, lightweight, and delivers excellent grip.
  • Patterns: Surfboard tail pads come in a variety of textures, sizes, and patterns. You can find them with simple grid patterns or more intricate designs, giving surfers a lot of choices based on personal style, skill level, and performance.
  • Arch Bars: surfboard tail pads that feature an arch bar have a raised arch in the center of the pad. This provides additional support and stability, making them ideal for surfers who want extra control over their board.
  • Kick: Many tail pads have a raised ‘kick’ at the back. This can also be called a kick tail or a tail kick. This helps surfers make sharp turns and other advanced maneuvers. The kick prevents your rear foot from flying off the board when making turns. The steeper the kick, the easier it is to jam your back foot against it to find quick stability. Higher kicks are designed for more aggressive surfers. For instance, a 20-degree kick is perfect for surfers who are riding slower, smaller waves. A kick between 45 degrees and fully vertical is perfect for surfers who are surfing fast, powerful waves and performing advanced maneuvers.

Why Do Surfers Use Tail Pads?

The main reason surfers use tail pads is to get better traction and control. A surfboard tail pad generally provides an enhanced grip compared to surfboard wax. This ensures that the surfer’s back foot stays firmly planted on the board during challenging maneuvers and critical sections of a wave. Surfboard tail pads can also provide better consistency when it comes to foot placement. Especially when they are pulling turns and maneuvers that require precise foot placement. 

Surfboard tail pads greatly reduce your dependency on wax, which saves you time. It also provides a more consistent grip, especially in warm climates where wax can become soft and slippery. However, surfboard wax will always be essential for providing grip on the upper part of your board where your front foot sits. There’s also an added level of comfort that comes with using a surfboard tail pad thanks to its cushioned surface. This can reduce fatigue in your back foot during long surf sessions in the water.

Where Should You Place a Surfboard Tail Pad?

Correct surfboard tail pad placement will maximize the benefits of using them. Here’s a quick guide to help you find the perfect surfboard tail pad placement:

Step 1: Back Foot Placement

Before attaching the tail pad, stand on your surfboard to determine the natural placement of your back foot while surfing. This position varies from surfer to surfer and can depend on your surfboard size and shape, skill level, and surfing style.

Step 2: Ideal Positioning

The tail pad should be positioned under your back foot’s arch and toes, ensuring that it provides maximum grip where you need it most. The kick, if your tail pad has one, should be aligned with the edge of the tail of your board.

Step 3: Centerline Alignment

Make sure your surfboard tail pad is aligned with the centerline of your surfboard. This ensures that your back foot remains centered on the board, giving you maximum stability and control.

Step 4: Careful Application

Your surfboard tail pad will come with manufacturer instructions for attaching it to your board.

This typically involves peeling off an adhesive backing and carefully pressing it onto a clean and dry surface. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully and do not skip any steps.

surfboard tail pad placement

One-Piece or Multiple Piece Tail Pads

Surfboard tail pads can come as a single piece or they can contain up to five different pieces.

A single-piece traction pad is easier to install but a two or three-piece traction pad allows for better customization. One-piece pads aren’t as common as they were a decade or two ago, however, they do seem to be making a modest comeback these days due to their added durability.

Three-piece surfboard tail pads are the most common, allowing for an even spread of grip and versatility for all board models. Five-piece tail pads are very similar to a three-piece grip but with two tabs that sit above the main area of the tail pad adding extra grip in bigger swell.


In the world of surfing, every piece of equipment matters, and the surfboard tail pad is no exception. It enhances traction, control, and comfort, enabling surfers to push their limits and ride waves with confidence. When you really nail the surfboard tail pad placement, it becomes an invaluable addition to your setup, making those exhilarating rides easier and more enjoyable. So, whether you’re a seasoned pro surfer or just starting your surfing journey, consider adding a quality tail pad to your gear arsenal for an improved surfing experience.

Wes Severson is a fitness enthusiast and bodyboarder from San Francisco, CA who is always at Ocean Beach hitting the waves. He is also an Emmy Award-winning broadcast news writer and producer and a recording artist who goes by the name Wes Magic.

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