This is the only reason I use one...I mean realistically they add no additional structural support/strength, wax provides as much traction if not more, and I find it incredibly odd to see a lot of guys waxing them up. However, tailblocks just give me a better sense of my foot placement...Case in point, I was always stepping off the back of mini simmons...as a result...I'm sad to say I cut up a friends old pad just for the block for that board (flame away....).
I think boards 6'10'' and over and guns shouldn't need a pad. First of all, your back foot rarely ever gets back that far, unless you're putting on the brakes into a barrel. Second, it would just look funny. Yes, pro longboarders I could see w/ pads on their logs. Also, I think fish's shouldn't have pads because since most fish tails are pretty wide, they would look a bit funny too. And you wouldn't really be following the style (thats dane's job) of fish boards. Traditional single fins also shouldn't have pads in my opinion. Right when I got my CI Gravy, I wanted to go for a surf and not have to wait for the pad to fully dry and stick on. I couldn't really feel a difference, of course I wasn't doing airs that day.
I have trac pads on most of my boards. I like them because it gives me a feel for where my back foot is on the tail of the board when I have to react fast. The only board I don't have one on is my barrel board. Its a nice rounded pin I strictly use for nasty screamers. Point aand shoot, no trac pad needed.
i feel as if it's just another "thing" the surf industry has cooked up to separate us from our $$. i mean, looking back, pads weren't widely used until the 90's. tom curren won 3 titles w/out pads, tom carroll won 2, etc...so many good surfers don't use them, but it seems like surfers now have come to think that having a pad on a hpsb is a necessity & i'm curious as to why that is. as other have commented, they don't really add any structural integrity to the board, & i definitely push my boards hard & i'm a big guy; it's pretty easy for me to make fins release.
an interesting tidbit that i learned back in 2010, when i was lucky enough to spend a week on a boat in the maldives: gary dunn, the rip curl international team manager, told me that many of the pros only use pads b/c they are under contract to use company x's accessories & have actually found that, on narrow tailed boards especially, pads can create drag. anyone remember kelly going padless on a few boards over the past few years?
the responses here have been pretty interesting (& a few hysterical)
Had one on my first board, a hayward thruster from 1986. I was foolish enough to earn on a short board. I have never used one since. When I was learning I was a knee dragging fool and that thing ate my foot up. Next board I just left it off and never looked back. I can see the need for the young floppy aerial guys... But not for us slater aged east coast slop riders.
I've tried them, but I don't really like them. I must admit, though, that I do not do air - I am a pretty old fashioned wave rider on both long and short board. All my boards are just waxed - just my personal preference.