tom curren used to surf as good as anyone today without one, and they all have sponsorship deals so they all have to use them,they get paid to,plus everyone today grew up on them,so now it's also generational...if slater or fanning surfed wax-only all year and won or were terrible would be one way to find out,like if mrs.palmer's paid fanning a lot to not use one.all that being said,i'm not that good,i'm old,and i can't imagine it would make any difference for me,high-performance shortboard or not.
To each his own. But I use them, in fact won't surf my board til i put one on when its new so i dont have to try remove the wax for the pad to stick well. I use them because i dont have to worry that when i go to lay the thing on rail at the top of a section and have to push hard that my foot wont slip. I rarely/never slip on my back foot, mostly its on my front foot when i am really pushing/driving hard on the board. You get to the top of a wave set your rail then unleash a hard turn and my foot slips on the front sometimes but never the back, maybe its my technique but i would think the traction pad that has an arch bar to push on and raised traction helps my foot to stay on. I use them for function and typically try to buy a traction pad that blends in well with my board, in fact any sticks that i have that are all white i get an all white traciton pad. I hate the look of most pads, they have some crazy 80's colored theme nowadays and thats just not me.
Maybe its a head thing since i have used traciton pads for so long but i dont feel lke i can push nearly as hard on a board with wax in the back than i can on one with a traction pad.
Honestly if a front traction pad wouldnt rip my stomach and chest to shreds when paddling in boardshorts i might use one up front too, but i live in VA and i dont want to be in a rash gurad all summer cause i use a traction pad up front.