Fam, I am super stoked to announce a new addition to my quiver: A sweet beautiful 8’ 8” Cannibal CoreVac Assasin with a five piece FCS II finbox. I am ecstatic and can’t wait to make sweet tender love to mother ocean on this sherbert shred stick, but of course I must get it set up first with fins and traction. In this post I will discuss the decision making process for choosing the best SUP traction for my new board, the application process, and my review of the product. Skip to section 3 if you are just looking for my opinion on the product.
1. Deciding which SUP deck traction pads would be best for my new Stand Up Paddle Board:
Choosing the right traction for this board is critical for me. Although many SUP boards come with traction, mine does not. This is in part because it was hand made, and because it is intended for ocean use. My last board (9’6” Cannibal CoreVac Hybrid w/ Quad FCS fins) was pretty simple. It was half grey and half red, so it was easy to choose an all grey traction pad. However, this new board is a bit more unique with three neon lines on the belly and the black stripes down the rails. Thus, I was struggling to choose which traction pad would best complement this board while also providing me with awesome grip.
Naturally, I did what any modern day man would do: I googled “best SUP traction pads” and found a bunch of crappy blog posts and weak product offerings that were not that thrilling. Booooooooo internet and kooky online SUP shops. Can we step up the game here people!?
However, I did find some modern clear traction options that sparked my interest. So, I called my local shop, Longboard House and asked Bill if he had some experience riding the new clear traction. He said something to the extent of “Yeah I have tried it. It works man! The grip really activates once you are in the water.” I was very surprised about this response. Honestly, the skeptic in me was expecting him to say it sucked haha… I trust Bill and LBH. I also have some friends working at Rainbow Distributing and they confirmed that they also have had good experiences with this product. So, I began to ponder and weigh my options:
Option 1: Waxing a SUP (Stand Up Paddle Board)
- Pros: It appears many ocean riders are sticking to wax and rightfully so. It is cheap, easy to apply, very grippy, and can be removed easily for a recoat if need be. Or removed for resale if necessary.
- Cons: The obvious down side to wax on is that it melts if left in the sun and sand can get stuck in it. This isn’t a huge deal, but it’s a pet peeve for me. Further, it does require a level of upkeep and takes a little time to wax a big board before a session. Again, this isn’t a problem, I use wax on all of my short boards… but I do like the convenience of just grabbing my SUP board and hitting the water. When I SUP, occasionally I need to lower my center of gravity by sitting on my knees when paddling out; If I choose wax, this is going to be hard on the knees.
Option 2: Foam Deck Traction Pad for SUP (Stand Up Paddle Board)
- Pros: I already know this works well for me based on my previous board. The grip is appropriate, it is very convenient, and usually looks acceptable. Not to mention the foam is easy on the knees if I need to get down low.
- Cons: It is going to be hard (and expensive) to find a good match for the colorful resin art on my new board. Previous experience has also taught me that colored foam traction fades over time even if I find a color that matches! Foam deck traction pads can also be a huge pain to remove if necessary.
Option 3: Clear Deck Traction Pads for SUP (Stand Up Paddle Board)
- Pros: The Hawaiian hot grip wax mat is almost totally clear in color and should showcase the art. It also wouldn’t require any maintenance. It also comes in smaller pieces making it easy to lay each section down and customize the look. The price is relatively fair and affordable compared to foam traction pads. Plus this traction pad originates from the surf mecca HAWAII, so it must be awesome right? I mean if Hawaiians use it, its gotta be good… Just like spam… (the meat).
- Cons: I’ve never used clear SUP deck traction before so I have no guarantee that I will like it. The shape of the pieces are lame (in my opinion) and resemble tribal art or dragon scales. I also don’t know how it will really look once I lay everything down. There are many pieces and I could easily screw this up when applying the traction to the board. I don’t know how it will hold up in the long term.
Why I chose the Hawaiian Hot Grip Wax Mat:
I am honestly the worst decision maker ever, I need to go through the options roughly a million times before deciding on something like this. It may be lame, but the way my board looks is a big consideration for me. Buying a stand up paddleboard is a significant investment, and SUPs aren’t the type of board you swap out each year, they are more long term like a car. Knowing myself, I would be really annoyed if I am not happy with the aesthetic outcome of the traction on this board.
So, I went to the shop and played around with the different options to see what would look best on the board. I tried a handful of different foam traction pads and they just didn’t seem to do the board justice. Black and all other colors really seemed to distract from the boards wild color scheme. Further, the standard foam traction pads were so large that they covered the stripes on the rails which was also a big turn off for me.
Next I started to mess with the Hawaiian Hot Grips. At first I wasn’t thrilled with the look simply because of the shape of the pads. They just were not appealing to me. They also had a frosted look to them and they seemed very noticeable. On the flip side, I assumed these traction pads would be more clear once I put them on the board and I hoped they would be less noticeable (or maybe I would stop being so damn finicky and get over it). The shop didn’t have stock of a SUP kit in this material, so I bought a combo of kits to get all the pieces I thought I would need to cover the critical parts of my new board. I also grabbed a foam FCS short board tail pad because I wanted the added performance for my newer shorter SUP board.
Side Note: By this point I had pretty much decided that wax would be my last resort simply because I didn’t want to deal with it. When I surf my normal short surfboards, I usually go straight from my car (or home) into the water, and then straight back out when I am done. On the other hand, when I SUP I will probably spend more time on the beach socializing or letting my friends give it a go and may lay my board down in the sand during the intermediary time. Long and short, I don’t want to deal with sandy or melted wax if I can avoid it. So, I figured I could always try the HHG and remove it if I decided I hated it, or even wax over it.
2. How I applied my Hawaiian Hot Grip Wax Mat to my stand up paddle board:
Initial Wipe down and Tail Pad Application: First, I wiped my entire board with rubbing alcohol to clean any residue off the board. I then decided where to put my FCS tail pad, traced the outline with a pencil, and attached it. I’ve done this a handful of times with short boards, so this was no biggie.
Deciding on placement: I spent a considerable amount of time messing around with which pattern would be best given the various pieces and I was really struggling. I made some different orientations, took photos of each and couldn’t decide. The main struggle was that because this was a new board, I really wasn’t sure about where my foot placements would be. So I said f*** it and took it for a paddle without traction. It was super choppy and the current was a hassle. This was not an optimal test day, but I wanted to get this done. Once I was on the water, I evaluated my stance and estimate placement of the pad in comparison to the estimated distance between my feet and the handle in the middle of the board. I am glad I did this because it made me way more confident in the placement of my pads. Even if it meant slipping of the board a few times in the process.
So, I finished my session, and rinsed the board with fresh water. I then dried it, and gave it one final wipe down with rubbing alcohol. I started to mess with the pattern again and realized I needed a wider stance than the hot grips standard setup included. Thus, my solution was to use two 12” straight pieces in the middle, rather than the one shown on the packaging. Doing this meant I would be missing one 12” straight piece in the end, but I knew I could just go buy another pack. I was also concerned with how I would make sure everything would be straight on a stringer-less board. Then lightning struck me.
Taping off a stringer-less board: I grabbed some thin electric tape that would be roughly the distance I wanted between each pad. I would have preferred painters tape, but I didn’t have any so I figured this would get the job done. Note: I would advise against using any other tape than these two options. Using the boards rocker to my advantage, I attached one end of the tape to the center of the tail, and the other end to the center of the nose. I applied some tension while doing this to keep the tape from touching anything other than the 2 end points. Finally, I found the middle, pressed the tape down to the board, and gently followed my finger from the center to the tail. I repeated the process from the center of the board to the nose as well. The result was a straight line from the tail to the nose.
Applying the Hawaiian Hott Grip Deck Pad: I then removed the clear plastic backing from the pad that would be closest to the tail and lined up the Hot grip with the tape line I had created. Note, starting from the tail and working your way forward is easier than the opposite. My plan worked perfectly. I gently set down the side closest to the tape, pressing the first .5” down across the line. While holding the other end of the pad, I used the smooth side of the plastic backing to rub the adhesive down side to side until I reached the end opposite from the initial starting point. Using this method prevented me from creating any air bubbles in the process. Note: Using a hard rubber ball, or clean skateboard wheel can also help with preventing bubbling when putting on your deck traction.
I repeated this painstaking process with each piece of my HHG pads until completion. Note, I also added more tape to any other areas I wanted to create additional straight lines. In the end, I was satisfied to see that my efforts paid off. Everything was as close to perfect as it could be and the HHG was even more clear than I expected. I thought it looked sick!
3. Initial review of the Hawaiian Hott Grip Deck Pads:
Overall, I was happy with the Surfco Hawaiian Hot Grip Wax Mat. The first test was the next day when I hit the water. It was a relatively flat Sunday, but I was relieved to see that the HHG was very grippy. A few days later I took the board out on some chest-head high days and it performed as desired. It also seemed to offer more traction once I was moving on the wave compared to when I was paddling on flat water. I think Surfco could probably come up with something a bit more substantial for SUP surfing in particular but it gets the job done.
Ease of Application: 10/10. It is like putting on a sticker.
Screw-up Potential: 10/10. Take your time and tape off, or trace out any lines with pencil if necessary.
Customization Potential: 10/10. This product makes customizing your look and traction very easy. They have a bunch of different package options making it easy to pick and choose what you may need for your board.
Grip while on the wave: 9/10. For the most part this seems to feel great. This score may change over time with more use.
Grip on flat water 8/10. It seems less grippy when you are standing/paddling on flat water.
Color: 10/10. These are almost totally clear. This would be perfect for any board that has cool deck art or colors.
Shape: 5/10. I believe HHG can come up with something cooler than the current shape options. With that said, the shape does allow for great customization and covers the appropriate areas.
Areas of concern: This is a little hard on the knees compared to the foam pad I had on my previous board, but I am willing to accept this and live with it. In my opinion, it is still better than wax would be in this case. Sitting on your knees with this material can also be discomforting on the top knuckles of your feet. I am still deciding if this bothers me, it only seems to be a problem on rough days. I may purchase a small piece of foam traction for this small section near the tail of the board, but I haven’t decided yet. I will update this blog if I make this change. Also, I have heard this stuff gets black if you use it on a normal surfboard with a wetsuit. I have also heard you can clean this off with soap and water.