Front pads preferred by some of the new aerial crew, but what about the rest of us?
Editor's Note: This article first appeared in May of last year, but as surfers gear up for summer with new board purchases, the idea of sticking a front foot pad on that new sled is not so far fetched. But do they work? Read on and find out if you are a front-pad enthusiast...
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 13 April, 2016 - Will Barton Lynch go down in history as the most accessorized pro ever? Think about it: Gath helmet, neoprene boardies and Gorrilla Grip front traction pad. In the years since Lynch’s 1988 world title, surfing has shed quite a few bits of equipment that seemed perfectly functional at the time - nose guards, webbed gloves and whatever else was in the discount bin at your local surf shop ten years ago.
But what about that front foot pad - that wax-replacing, nipple-chafing, impact-cushioning slice of adhesive foam? Is it really so passé?
Recently a few free-surfing pros have started to re-accessorize by utilizing front foot pads. Noa Deane, Ian Battrick, Hugues Oyarzabal, Kalani Robb and Dion Agius all swear by front foot pads.
“They are are way better for airs and landing airs because they can help absorb a bit of the shock,” says Dion Agius. “I really love how soft and grippy they are compared to wax. And I always forget wax so it makes my life way easier.”
Dion Agius framegrab
Steve Taylor of Let’s Party traction, who have launched a line of Kalani Robb signature front-foot traction pads, agrees the pads help with performance. “For anyone that does airs, the front pad feels like your cheating,” says Taylor. “It helps with feeling out the board for your landing, and it helps lock in with the ollie effect.”
Lineups are still 99% tail pad and wax, and surfers are notoriously slow to try new equipment. So who’s using front pads apart from salaried free surfers? Taylor says that for the most part it's riders that are doing progressive surfing that love the front pads. “Plus they just make you look gnarly like Christian Fletcher back in the day,” adds Taylor.
OK, so we’re talking about a small percentage of Noa Deane-level talent that like the front foot pads. But most of us pretty well suck at lofting airs.
Ian Battrick of Lunasurf - who were early proponents in the resurgence of the pads - is pragmatic in his appreciation of the pads, saying they’re not just for big airs.
“Front foot traction is a simple solution to a lot of things,” says Battrick. “From front foot and back foot denting, to never ever waxing your board again. No more melting wax in the sun going all over your car, the inside of your boardbag or wherever. No more waxing and de-waxing for different water temperatures or trips. Apart from being lighter, grippier, easier, it saves you a lot of time, just grab your board and go surf.”
Lunasurf say they have surfing, kite surfing, skim boarding, wake surfing and wake skating riders all over the world using their front grip. The company started with a 3-piece Hugues Oyarzabal signature front foot pad and have evolved the design further for another pad, a 6-piece set up.
And more companies are jumping in the pool: Ocean & Earth, OAM and of course Astrodek, all offer front grip with others having designs in the works. With so many accessories makers relighting the front foot pad, it’s only a matter of time before various team riders try them and like it. But stop right there. Right now no one is buying them.
“Sales for them so far are really slow,” says Taylor of Let’s Party. “I think the average surfer is afraid to try them, but our team riders have been all over it, so that should translate to sales next season when the customers keep seeing photos of riders like Pama Davies shredding the hell out of Bali and Oz with them.”
Ian Battrick with his fully kitted-out quiver
We’ve yet to see some form of front pad on the World Tour, but if the trend keeps up that might just be a matter of time. Battrick posed the question: “If Slater won the next comp on a front foot pad, how many full grip converts would you suddenly see?”
Battrick makes a good point. But there is one world champ ready to peel-and-stick a front foot pad on his next quiver.
“I loved them back in the day,” says Barton Lynch. “I stopped using deck grip after being dropped by Gorilla Grip many years ago. I have just inked an agreement with Komunity to release a full-deck grip and tail pad, so yes I will be riding them again. So great to hear it is coming back around.”
Pama Davies © Aquabumps/Let's Party