Back in the 1980′s, a wondrous substance was invented that has gone by the brand names of track top, astro deck, gorilla grip, and others. It is a way overpriced spongy type of grip tape that you can use to put on your surfboard, skimboard, or windsurfer to keep you from slipping off the slippery surface.
When I was a professional skimboarder I had my skimboard or my surfboard in my car at all times. In fact I still do.
Traditional paraffin wax on surf or skimboards works great, but has the unbelievably expensive habit of coming off in your car when it gets hot.
If that happens then the wax melts off onto your car, clothes, seats, or whatever is underneath it.
In fact, if you have two boards next to each other and you get the hot wax from one on the bottom of the other it is totally no bueno.
The one thing I don’t like about this stuff is that it is a major expensive cost. To cover an entire longboard can easily cost you $150 just in track top, which is basically a piece of squishy sponge with heavy duty adhesive on the bottom. Oh, by the way, if you get the great idea of trying another substance and just gluing it on it probably won’t work. We tried dozens of combinations of soft squishy substances and gluing them on skimboards, but inevitably they just came off. The reason the stuff is so expensive is that you need to make a fancy mold to make it. So, while each piece is cheap to make, creating the process that makes them is very expensive.
The fun thing about this stuff is that most people totally miss an inexpensive way to use it.
These days hardcore surfers will put a tail shaped patch on the tails of their boards called a stomp pad. It is very helpful for doing big aerials.
Luckily, there is a tremendous amount of scrap track top that gets thrown out that can be had for a tiny fraction of the cost of buying it new, and works just as well.
I bought the girlfriend and her kids new skimboards. I refuse to put wax on them as I described before. Luckily, when I was at Victoria skimboards they had a basket of pieces that were left over from covering other boards. The pieces were still fresh. So, they are funny shapes, and you could see where they were cut out before. Nobody had touched them for a few years, but the adhesive was still great.
Another time I got a hold of about 300 little jelly bean shaped pieces that were punched out of another person’s track top where they wanted little holes in them. By the way, the same thing exists for grip tape, although grip tape is a lot less expensive so probably not worth it.
Here’s how I suggest applying track top:
Clean your board really well. The best time to do this is when the board is brand new. Once you have started using it, there can be body oil, sunscreen and other stuff which will make the track top not stick. If you have put wax on the board even once it will totally wreck getting the track top to stick.
If you do have wax on your board, what I do is use a blow dryer gently on the board and wipe it off with paper towels. I have been told that once all the wax is gone to use paint thinner or nail polish remover to get rid of the final wax. I have never tried paint thinner or nail polish remover, but instead have only put track top on when the board is new.
First off, don’t try to make it too perfect. You are only going to do this once a year or so, so you are never going to be an expert and get it perfect. Once you get the sticky stuff stuck, it is going to stay stuck, and you can’t move it again.
Lay the pieces out on the board roughly how you are going to put them. Draw any designs roughly on the back of the piece.
When you design the layout, never leave a gap between pieces of more than about half an inch. If the gap is too big, there will be a place where a toe or heel could be during a turn, where you will slip.
I always leave a space of about a half inch from the edges without track top on it. The reason for this is that those places are often under water when you need speed the most. My theory is that the track top in the water will cause drag and slow you down. When I was skimboarding professionally, I would leave even more space about 2 or 3 inches from the edge along the widest part of the board for maximum speed when going down the line.
I don’t suggest having any really thin pieces as they can peel off easier. I would not have pieces narrower than about an inch wide. If you have a corner, I suggest cutting them round so that the corners don’t get peeled off.
When it is time to put the stuff on, remove the paper back from just a corner of the piece, stick it down good, and then look at the piece and the way it is attached. If it does not look good, you should still be able to remove that piece, but don’t expect that corner to ever stick again. Once you have the corner stuck, then you can remove the rest of the piece of paper. I get one corner stuck, then slowly peel back a little paper, then get that part to stick, then peel back a little more paper and get that part to stick.
Each time I push more down, I am careful to avoid big air bubbles. Once it is all down, I put it down on a carpeted floor and walk on it for 20 minutes concentrating on the edges of the pieces so the adhesive really makes good contact with the board. Once it is on it will stay on for years and possibly even decades. If you used sharp corners or put the stuff on a dirty board, it may start coming off within a few weeks or less.