When manufacturers choose their type of traction, whether it’s for surfboards, SUPs or kiteboards, they first make a known trade-off between durability and performance. The companies choose between a molded foam traction (which we’re going to call “hard traction”) or traction that is cut from sheets of foam (which we’ll call “soft traction”).
Hard traction, especially traction manufactured through heat molding, is very durable and looks nice and clean in the showroom. This is typical of the traction found on a lot of production kiteboards and SUPs. In addition to its durability, it comes in uniform pieces, is easy to apply to boards, and the manufacturer offers cool options for colours and graphics. The downside of being high-density and “hard” is that it’s typically quite slippery.
Soft traction is the standard most surf brands use for back foot traction pads. During manufacturing, a sheet of foam is fed through a machine that cuts a groove pattern through it in one direction. The foam is then reoriented in the opposite direction and fed back through the machine. The resulting pattern emerges with a series of shaped squares or diamonds, in either a symmetrical pattern or one that offers one grippy side and one less grippy side. Foam thickness, depth of the groove, cut pattern and spacing of the diamonds or squares all affect the pad’s grip and durability. Soft traction is inherently “softer” than hard traction, and while typically much more grippy, it is less durable.
WMFG worked with a supplier of EVA traction that builds pads for surf, kiteboard and SUP brands, and lovingly hand-cuts the foam in mainland China. We spent two years testing various foam thickness, groove patterns, orientations and groove depths—scrutinized down to the last fraction of a millimeter—to come up with the best performing pads possible. We demanded the absolute best 3M® adhesive backing available was applied to the pads. The pattern we chose, in the end, was the one that offered the best grip and feel while still remaining durable.
In choosing to go with cut foam pads, there is an inevitable trade-off. As with many things in life, great performance can come at the expense of durability; anyone who has broken a super-light board knows this. How much of an issue is it? That, of course, depends on how often you use the pads, and factors like how much you move your feet around, if you switch your feet in your turns, etcetera. Our final WMFG foam pattern is aimed to first and foremost deliver the highest possible performance in terms of grip and comfort, and is combined with, in our opinion, better than industry standard durability.
With significant use, at some point riders may start to wear off some of the diamonds. Fortunately, even after considerable wear, the pads will remain grippy, as the wear pattern is quite rough and takes on somewhat of a custom wear pattern to fit the rider’s feet.
We at WMFG feel we are making the best, grippiest (and good-looking) deck pads on the market. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns about deck pad wear and durability.