coffee convo Hwilsin writing


There’s a reason the IG handle @ sadpads is amongst the best follows in the surfing sphere right now. One of the few pages I check weekly to get my fair dosage of chuckles, most of the stuff they post is worthy of sharing. The reason I bring this up, however, is because I want to talk about the deck pad in general.

The traction pad goes back to 1975 and the invention of Astrodeck, which was bought and taken over by Herbie Fletcher a year later. The rumor is in the 80’s, guys were rocking full traction boards, tail to nose. I’ve never seen evidence of this, but there definitely was front foot traction. With the inclusion of the Thruster surfboard to the mainstream, surfers needed some help keeping their back foot from sliding off, thus the kicks added to the pads – though Herbie has been quoted saying “Because I was always a skateboarder going to skateparks with my kids who surfed really good, I started putting kicks in the tail.” Sometime in the 90’s is when the front deck pads fell out of style, maybe after Damien Hardman’s 1991 World Title, but they have aggressively rebounded as of late. Technology and materials have now made leaps and bounds, resulting in today’s groove patterns, arch and kick heights, and bond strength (WOW !!). 

The deck pad itself though, the identity of a traction pad, is a funny thing. Not everyone uses one. Not every board is meant to adorn one. However, it demands a certain moxie to ride a shortboard sans deck grip. Did Tom Curren slap traction on the Black Beauty? The answer is no. Not even for the back foot; stepping to the plate without batting gloves. This is especially impressive with the absolute shredding he was throwing down. Hooks under the lip that would land a score on today’s tour. And while Mason Ho still has the spunk to go no deck pad and tear the roof off a joint today, he’s a rare breed. Name another surfer who consistently rips without traction.  

Mason Ho, no deck pad needed.

In our time and age, it’s almost silly if you see someone without at least one traction pad on a high performance shortboard. The whole story about “needing to feel the board” is horseshit. More than likely it is not going to be a surfer with a high talent level dawning the wax-only shred stick, possibly just someone newer to the scene who has watched one too many youtube surf vlogs. The deck pad really is a performance enhancer, and if you try to talk me out of that I won’t be having it. Your foot undeniably has more grip than with wax underneath, the kicker of the pad is a pivot point, and also a nice knee rest, you won’t step on your leash plug, and it’s much more efficient than waxing all the way down to the tail. I’m actually a bit uptight about the thought of waxing a longboard nose to tail – like 9 feet of wax, so fuckin’ heavy. That’s gotta be a couple days work. 

On the other end of the spectrum we see an increasing number of surfers, as well as every track pad company to exist, supporting the front traction resurgence. Like going gripless on the board, the front foot traction calls for audacity. In my own personal opinion, front grips are not cool. You know what is cool? Ripping. If you rip, do whatever you want to your board, I don’t care. Use the colored wax if you surf like Dusty Payne. If you are not boosting massive airs or charging slabs or getting 5 second barrels on reef breaks, please don’t throw an extra $40+ at your board that’s already expensive enough. I know what I said about traction being a performance enhancer, that’s strictly for the back foot. The pivot point, leash plug, knee rest, etc. The front foot is constantly shifting around. You don’t want some uneven foam surface under your chest. Once it’s placed, that’s where your foot better land every time you stand up. And lastly, it doesn’t even look cool. If you’re not surfing at a high high level, you better be rigid. No one minds if you’re gnarly or you rip.

@ sadpads posts some absolute laughers, most of them including front grip. Shoot a follow. I also saw this on a real website.

Can’t make this stuff up. This is the shit I’m talking about. Like I said, if you absolutely shred, your talent rises above anything – you and everything you do is cool. A board by itself, you can gauge with your own eyes. If your buddy wins local contests and has a front deck pad, and then you ask to ride his board, well, all of sudden it doesn’t look as cool with you flailing down the line like a baby duck. I’m tired of seeing very average surfers rocking two deck grips for absolutely no reason. Every front traction pad is a @ sadpad when the surfer riding it is a complete kook. If this post offended you, don’t be upset. Get better at surfing.



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