EVA Foam Decks: New Nonskid for Fishing Boats

EVA foam nonskid for fishing boats adds comfort, style and safety.


New-Age Nonskid

Nonskid soles — decks that enhance traction to minimize slips and tumbles, especially when wet — come in various iterations on saltwater fishing boats, including traditional teak and molded-fiberglass diamond or grit patterns. Yet in recent years, new synthetic materials have emerged. Among the most popular with boating anglers is textured, closed-cell EVA foam, which provides traction that equals or surpasses that of traditional decks, wet or dry, as well as cushioning to mitigate fatigue and sore muscles during long days on the water. Available in a variety of shades and multitone treatments, this lightweight stain-resistant material can also add a touch of color to match your boat’s interior and/or upholstery. You can also have it engraved with special designs such as your boat’s name. Companies such as OceanGrip and SeaDek work with boat manufacturers to provide nonskid decking for new boats, and offer custom aftermarket solutions, delivering precisely cut nonskid that can be installed by professional riggers or do-it-yourselfers. Photo courtesy SeaDek.Courtesy SeaDek

Soft, Colorful Boat Decks

Not all synthetic nonskid offers cushioning. Deck materials from companies such as Flexiteek and Nuteak, for example, have the look and texture of woods such as teak and holly, but there's little or no give underfoot. That’s fine for cocktail cruises, but anglers who are on their feet much of the day appreciate the benefits of a cushioned deck, hence the growing popularly of EVA foam decking on fishing boats. This softer material also proves kind to bare feet, protects the deck from scratches and chips, and helps cut down on interior noise, which can pay off when pursuing fish in shallow water. The thickness of the foam may vary, but the most popular decks are constructed from sheets consisting of two laminated layers in contrasting colors, according to Jason Gardner, vice president of advertising for Florida-based SeaDek. While the company offers 16 colors, the most popular combination is storm gray over black. “Laminating two colors gives beveled edges a classy look, and allows routered graphics like a stylized fish or boat name to stand out in a contrasting hue,” says Gardner. “It also lets us incorporate faux caulk lines that simulate the look of teak decking and help channel away water.” Shades such as light gray and brown hide dirt (versus a white deck) and stay relatively cool, dissipating heat on sunny days. These tones also cut down on glare from sunlight reflected off the deck. There are two popular textures — embossed dots and brushed wood grain. Both provide good traction whether wet or dry. The dot pattern is akin to a fiberglass nonskid texture. With the wood-grain pattern, engraved caulk lines offer a classic look that some boat owners prefer. If you’re worried about adding excessive weight to your boat, don’t be. Six square feet of SeaDek’s quarter-inch-thick nonskid deck material weighs only 13 ounces. And thanks to the closed-cell nature of the EVA, it will not gain weight by absorbing water or other liquids. Photo courtesy SeaDekCourtesy SeaDek

Keeping Your Boat Deck Clean

While closed-cell EVA foam nonskid is durable and resists stains and UV damage, scrubbing with soap and water after each outing helps maintain a like-new appearance and ensures a long service life. Lighter colors might look grimy after a while from fish blood or oil and grease tracked in from the street. In this case, a pressure washer at a self-service car wash or one you have at home (use a low-pressure setting to prevent damage to the foam) will restore the nonskid to its original color. Avoid using harsh chemicals such as acetone, alcohol, ammonia or chlorine on the nonskid. With the proper care, you can expect six to eight years of heavy-duty use. Photo courtesy SeaDekCourtesy SeaDek

Easy Installation

So let’s say you want EVA foam nonskid in your boat. If you’re buying a new vessel, ask if this deck material is available. A number of boat brands offer this as an option, which can be installed at the factory or dealership. If you have a boat and it's a recent model, companies such as OceanGrip or SeaDek might have a pattern already designed to fit. "We have over 1,000 pre-measured patterns in our catalog," says Sea Dek's Jason Gardner. You specify the colors, texture and graphics, and the nonskid deck is custom-made without even picking up a tape measure. For owners of older boats, you can order template kits from either -company. Costing $15, these consist of clear Mylar plastic sheets, an indelible marker, and instructions to create a pattern that you submit for a quote, and, with your approval, production of your nonskid deck. How much are we talking about here? While there are many variables, Gardner says the average price for a nonskid kit for the deck of an 18-foot flats boat is around $1,800. The cost of the template kit is credited toward
your purchase. Peel-and-stick pressure-sensitive adhesive backing from 3M creates an extremely strong bond with a properly cleaned deck. You can apply the material over metal or fiberglass, be it smooth or textured gelcoat. “The bond is so strong that if you try to pull off the pad, the foam will tear apart before the adhesive releases,” says Mark Maus of Florida-based OceanGrip. For DIY boat owners, SeaDek offers instructional online videos for creating templates and installing nonskid. Not handy? SeaDek also offers a list of dealers around the country who can help you. In Florida alone, the list exceeds 130 dealers. Discuss the labor price ahead of time with the installer, but expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $1,500, depending on the square footage of the boat deck. Photo courtesy SeaDek
Courtesy SeaDek

EVA Foam Mats and Accessories

OceanGrip and SeaDek have discovered other ways to use EVA foam on your boat. For example, you can have coaming bolsters made to match your nonskid. Or you might want to cover the inwales behind the undergunwale rod racks to prevent marring your reels or gelcoat. I've also seen this nonskid on covering boards and atop a helm with special cutouts to stash mobile phones. There are even fish rulers. If you don't want to have your entire deck done, you can get smaller nonskid pads for areas such as the bridge deck, a casting platform, swim platform or even a cooler, which doubles as a platform or seat, for extra cushion
and traction. Once you discover how great EVA foam feels underfoot, and how it enhances traction and spruces up your boat’s interior, it won’t be long before you’ll want the entire deck covered with new-age nonskid. Photo by Jim Hendricks
Jim Hendricks