Ever wondered who came up with the idea of deck grip? Obviously some ou got gatvol of slipping off his board and decided there had to be a better way. That ou was surf legend Herbie Fletcher.
Fletcher developed his traction pad gear in his own lab and sold the first decks in his surf shop. Here’s what he had to say about Astrodeck’s early history:
“In 1976, I started playing around with a polyurethane elastomer foam, synthetic rubber. When the skin was lightly sanded it off exposed an open cell that acted like miniature suction cups that gripped your feet. Wow, was I stoked! I had these great sheets with pressure sensitive tape that would cover the whole deck. The stoke was short lived, surfers didn’t even want to give it a try. It was difficult to apply and they were used to using wax.”
Luckily some of his best mates just happened to be the best surfers in the world. Gerry Lopez, Rabbit, Mark Richards, Shaun Tomson, Michael Ho and Cheyne Horan thought it rocked. And what the main manne were ripping on, everyone wanted. Punk helped too.
"Punk was pretty heavy by then, so I made some little dots and squares, blacks and pinks and grays, and they started going off. Pac Man, Space Invaders, kids' stuff."
Things progressed, and Herbie started adding kicks, arches, and different surface patterns for ultimate grip and control until the designs evolved into the patented multi-gridllock high performance foot pad of today.
Interesting Herbie wasn’t the first guy looking for better grip. Surf inventor extraordinaire Tom Morey came up with something called Slipcheck. It came in a spray-on aerosol can, and no-one was into it. Just as well. Imagine trying to get the airlines to let you carry on your spray can…
Traction pads helped guys go harder, and higher. Arch bars and kickers meant your foot had some real estate to leverage off. And leverage they did. Surfers like Carrol and Kong lacerated wave faces from Kirra to Pipeline, and everywhere in between, and Pottz and Christian Fletcher took to the air. Everyone took notice. Everyone wanted to surf like them. So everyone went and bought a deck grip.
By the early '80s, every board had an Astrodeck on it. Some loved it so much they went full deck. Gotto love the eighties, man. Excess was so “in”. Dooma (aka Damien Hardman, above) and Barton Lynch won world titles in the late 80’s with full length deck grips.
Thankfully the full deck approach waned off in the 90’s, and today we’re in a mostly back pad era. Herbie’s son, Christian, still rocks the full deck. Like to see anyone diss him for doing it…
Like with anything that sells, soon everyone was making it. Everyone jumped onto the deck grip bandwagon and today pretty much every surf company has its own branded traction. Every pro surfer has a signature model. Walk into a surf shop and you’re confronted with a smorgasbord of grips. Arch bar or flat, kicker or not, boring black or neon. Stripes, dots, skulls, palm trees, you name it, they have it for you to stand on.
You try shoes on before you buy them, right? So test out that stomp pad. Chuck it on the floor and stick ya foot on it. Does it feel lekker? Guys with flat feet might find arch bars annoying. Those with high arches might like a bit of foam under there.
As with most things in life you get what you pay for. Go cheap, and the stuff will rip the skin off your knee in no time. Which is always a kak thing to discover when you’re on your first trip to a tropical paradise and have been able to ditch the wettie for the first time. The glory of surfing in boardies is soon replaced by the gory of having your grip cannabalise your knee cap. I still have the scar to prove it. Learnt my lesson too. Island Tribe, you will never grace my boards again.
So do yourself a favour, if you like your kneecap, give that grip a bit of a feel before you buy it. Soft is good. Soft is grippy. Soft doesn’t eat your knee. Pay for soft; it’s worth every cent!
If you’re really flush with cash, you can even buy one with a shark repellent built into the kick tail. That way you not only save your knee, but your leg too!
Now make sure you really, really like that pad. Happy with the colour? Check. Happy with the design? Check. Cos once that puppy is attached to your stick she ain’t coming off without some serious effort!
Just remember Rule #1 of traction pads. Take the time to apply ‘em properly. Do a rush job, and you’ll have it peeling up at the edge’s in a week. Getting your toes caught in the lil flappy bits as you’re getting to your feet is annoying as hell, especially if it means a barrel turns into a bog.
Clean that deck. New stick’s always have a bit of foam dust lurking about. If it’s a board you’re upgrading from wax to grip, there’ll still be some oily wax residue hiding here and there even after you’re scraped the wax off. Give it a wipe with some acetone, and then dry with some paper towel afterwards.
Now this is where things can go pear-shaped without some planning. Work out where you want to stick it before you start peeling the adhesive backing off. The length and type of board you’re riding will determine where you want to position it. Generally about 3cm (an inch) above your leash plug works for most standard boards. Good idea to mark the placement with a pencil if your hand-eye co-ordination sucks.
Peel the paper off the back and make 100% sure your positioning is right and then gently lay her down. Now give it a firm push along all the edges using the heel of your hand. Go round the whole grip doing this a coupla times, paying plenty of attention to the corners and the kicker. A few more general pushes all over the surface and you’re done.
Convention says you’re meant to wait 24 hours before you go rip on the new grip, but if you’ve pushed it on real good and made sure there’s no air bubbles you can probably hit the surf straight away if it’s cooking.