Well before EVA foam deck material made its splash in the boating industry, Scott “Butch” Bouchard was using X-Trak traction material on his surfboard. The former Florida pro wave rider wanted extra grip, and the foam material helped his feet stay planted. So, when he wanted decking for his center-console fishing boat, he went to the company that made X-Trak: SeaDek.
“I fish for tuna and wahoo a lot, and I run to the Bahamas. The comfort is phenomenal, and the traction—there’s nothing that compares,” says Bouchard, who adds that SeaDek reduces light refraction. When sun rays bounce off a light-colored nonskid or gelcoat, heat radiates. The foam material, by contrast, delivers a cooling effect. And because it’s literally padding, foam decking also dampens sound.
SeaDek now has many competitors, including OceanGrip, MarineMat, Aqua Marine Deck and others, making everything from helm pads to reel pads, and cellphone holders to highly customized stem-to-stern decking 20 mm or more in thickness. The average cost to cover the deck of an average 26-foot center-console boat ranges from about $2,000 to $3,000.
Material and Methods
Closed-cell, EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) foam—the material that comprises most decking products—comes in sheets. SeaDek says it uses a blend of closed-cell polyethylene and EVA because the product will last longer in harsh marine environments. The sheets come in standard thicknesses of 3, 5 or 10 mm, says Mark Maus, a tournament angler who started OceanGrip nine years ago. Sheets of different color foam can then be stacked to a desired thickness, and patterns are cut in the top sheet to reveal another color below.
OceanGrip, SeaDek and others have collected thousands of deck patterns over the years. If they don’t have the right one for a particular vessel, they digitize the measurements and then cut the foam sheets to fit. SeaDek says it works with more than 200 boatbuilders who install decking at their factories. SeaDek and others also design custom projects and sell material to do-it-yourselfers.
Maus says OceanGrip specializes in aftermarket work, letting boat owners decide if they want a dealer-installed decking package or would prefer to use a template kit and lay down the foam themselves.
Most boaters want logos, graphics, boat names or fish rulers cut or routed into the decking material. They also ask for angled edges around hatches and other detail effects. Standard color choices include gray-over-black or mocha-over-black. Brighter colors and other shades can be tough to match to hull colors, so boaters often choose a light gray, which works with nearly everything, Maus says.
SeaDek recently added eight new colors for a total of 35, yet the most popular still include storm gray and mocha. Textures include brushed or embossed.
Make It Last
EVA foam lasts from about three years to as many as seven, depending on where the boat is kept and whether it’s used seasonally or year-round.
Maus recommends cleaning EVA foam decking with boat soap and a pressure washer on a lower setting, like 1,000 psi. SeaDek even created its own cleaner called Dek Magic. Bouchard hoses down the decking at the beginning of the day and whenever he brings a fish aboard. At day’s end, he also uses a low-power pressure washer.