There are just a few components that go into making up a paddleboard aside from the complex construction or materials inside the board. The leash plugs, fin boxes, and maybe a GoPro mount are embedded into the paddleboard, but the deck pad is probably the most noticeable because it covers such a large area on the board.
Paddleboard deck pads serve two main functions: keeping your feet from getting tired and sore, and keeping you from sliding off of your paddleboard. But there are a number of different kinds of traction pads out there.
Most new paddleboards come with a deck pad installed. But there are aftermarket traction pads available if you want a change. You can normally remove the old one with a hair dryer and Goo Gone (or the like) to get the glue residue off. Most deck pads have a peel and stick backing making them easy to put on. You just have to make sure it is lined up correctly and there are no air bubbles trapped underneath.
Most deck pads are made of EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate), a material similar to rubber but more porous and soft, and with much better durability. Deck pads usually cover half to three quarters of the top of the board, but some board have a full-length covering. You can also add a smaller pad to the front section of your board if you paddle with a pet or children so that they don’t slide off.
Surf traction pads normally have a more aggressive, diamond pattern that helps prevent your feet from slipping. You are constantly moving around, weighting and unweighting your edges when SUP surfing and there is always a lot of water on the deck- so you need that extra traction. Some surfers like to wax the front part of the deck so they can step up to nose ride. If you are using your board for flat water paddling AND surfing aggressive diamond pattern pads can be a good option.
In addition to diamond shaped patterns there are also less aggressive traction pads that are nice for flat-water pursuits. Ridged traction pads have a straight-line pattern (stripes) that run lengthwise down the board and can help in channeling water off the deck. They may feel a little more comfortable than some hard and aggressive pads but they provide ample traction just the same.
Alligator skin pads are the least aggressive. They are usually found on racing and downwinding paddleboards because they are very thin and save weight. They have good grip to move around on, and are soft enough to be comfortable when you’re out paddling for a long time.
There are also different thicknesses and densities of EVA deck pads. The thicker ones will add more weight to the board, but offer better traction and be more comfortable. Beginners may benefit from a softer pad until they build up enough strength in their feet to not get sore.
Deck pads can also be cut into patterns to channel water off the board and save some weight. Whatever paddleboard you are interested in keep in mind that you can change the traction pad if you want.