Fingerboard (skateboard)

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Underside of a fingerboard

A fingerboard is a working replica (about 1:8 scaled) of a skateboard that a person "rides" by replicating skateboarding maneuvers with their fingers. The device itself is a scaled-down skateboard with graphics, trucks and moving wheels.[1] A fingerboard is typically 100 millimeters (3.9 in) long with width ranging from 26 to 36 mm (1.0 to 1.4 in). Professional skateboarder Lance Mountain is widely credited for the first fingerboard, and his skit in Powell-Peralta's "Future Primitive" video brought fingerboarding to the skateboarders of the world in the mid-1980s. Around the same time, Mountain wrote an article on how to make fingerboards in TransWorld SKATEboarding magazine.[1]

Although fingerboarding was a novelty within the skateboarding industry for years, as skateboarding reached widespread popularity in the late 1990s, Canadian toy company Spin Master realised the potential for the fingerboards, specifically for products bearing the logos and branding of real skateboarding brands, and introduced the Tech Deck brand. Fingerboards caught on during this period and the brand has since grown into a widely recognized icon in the toy business. Toy fingerboards like Tech Decks are now available as inexpensive novelty toys as well as high-end collectibles, complete with accessories one would find in use with standard-size skateboards.[2][3][4] Fingerboards are also used by skateboarders as 3-D model visual aids to understand potential tricks and maneuvers;[5] many users make videos to document their efforts.

Similar to fingerboarding, hand boarding involves a scaled-down version of a skateboard that a user controls with their hands to achieve more intricate tricks and challenges.


Fingerboards first existed as homemade finger toys in the late 1960s and later became a novelty attached to keychains in skate shops (but were also mentioned as a model for a skateboard).[3] In the 1985 Powell-Peralta skateboarding video "Future Primitive," Lance Mountain rode a homemade fingerboard in a double-bin sink. It is widely accepted that this is where the idea for the ramp found in The Search for Animal Chin came from. Some consider this the earliest fingerboard footage available for public viewing. That homemade fingerboard was built from wood, tubes, and toy train axles.[1]

Somerville International's Fingerboard brand, established in 1987, was the first to mass-produce fingerboards with licensed-actual skateboard graphics with the introduction of the Pro-Precision board. [1] Since their introduction, the brand has undergone numerous changes in naming convention, product designs, and partnerships. Most notably their partnership with McDonalds to produce fingerboards for Happy Meal toys in the early 2000s. They produced a number of "finger sport" toys and also created the skateboarding action figure "Finger Boy" and "Finger Girl". They are also credited to the first mass-produced wooden fingerboard, utilizing parts from their 2nd generation fingerboards. One of the first companies to design and manufacture fingerboard ramps was Buckledown (Buckledown Products). Instead of a popular toy store, you had to get their products in skateboard equipment catalog such as CCS, or had to hope your local skateshop stocked a few. Buckledown holds the first U.S. Patent to a fingerboard ramp design. Shortly after, a brand called "Berzerk" by Hobbico produced fingerboard kit ramps out of a coroplast material. These ramps had an eerily strong resemblance to the Buckledown kit ramps. On the back of the Berzerk packaging, a website link that read "". What exactly ensued after their release is unclear, but finding these "lawsuit" era kit-ramps are few and far between. Shortly after in 1999, Tech Deck, now claimed by X-Concepts hit every toy store across the United States with a redesigned ramp kit, and a more accurate model of a skateboard compared to the Pro-Precision boards. X-Concepts followed Somerville's ideology with licensed pro graphics from major skateboard brands, as well as designs harnessed from entertainment properties such as "Speed Racer," "Woody Woodpecker," "NASCAR," "Heavy Metal," and "Crash Bandicoot." As fingerboards became more prominent outside the skateboarding community, in 1999 there was a Tech Deck fashion of collecting one of each design similar to the Beanie Baby fad months prior.[1] Entertainment-based fingerboard brands couldn't compete against the urban juggernaut, and eventually disappeared. Skateboard manufacturers also caught on to the opportunity. Think's Super Mini Boards, the Deluxe Finger Banger Boards, and Shorty's Digi Decks to name a few. Skateboard Clothing/Shoe companies such as DC Shoes and ZooYork included a fingerboard with their own branding as an extra when you purchased one of their products in the early 2000s.[1] They thus developed the fingerboard into a collectible toy and the practice into a "form of mental skating".[3]

Fingerboarding is popular in Europe, Singapore, Asia and the United States, and there is growing popularity in Eastern Europe.[3][6] Besides skate shops and the internet, Fingaspeak, a fingerboard store opened in Steyr, Austria although rumored to be the world's first fingerboard store, it joins a very small list of fingerboard stores that are available.[3] Although the sport of fingerboarding originated in the United States over 25 years ago it has really caught on fire in the European scene. The United States is following and it is estimated that although the popularity seems to be in favor of the Europeans, the American Fingerboard scene has equal sales. This may be due to the flooding of the market and the availability of resources in the United States. Fingerboarding has evolved from a hobby to a lifestyle for some people. Fingerboarders have regular "contests, fairs, workshops and other events". Example of these events are: FastFingers, and FlatFace Rendezvous.[1][3] Fingerboard-product sales were estimated at $120-million for 1999.[1]

Fingerboarding is a good match for videography as the action can be controlled and framing the activity offers opportunities for creativity.[7][failed verification] With the rise of the online video business from early 2006,[8] fueled, in part, because the feature that allows e-mailing clips to friends,[9] several thousand finger board and handboard videos can now be found on popular video-sharing sites such as YouTube. Thus even if the weather does not permit a skateboarder to practice outside they could try a potential trick with their scaled-down fingerboard and related items and share the video with whomever they wished.


A fingerboard approaching a ramp

Fingerboards are used by a range of people from those utilising them as toys to skateboarding and related sports professionals envisioning not only their own skating manoeuvres but for others as well and can include the use for planning out competition courses as skateboarding develops into an international sport. Similar to train enthusiasts building railway models, fingerboard hobbyists often construct and purchase reduced scale model figures that would be considered natural features to an urban skateboarder such as handrails, benches, and stairs they would be likely to encounter while riding. In addition users might build and buy items seen in a skatepark including half-pipes,[10] quarter pipes, trick boxes, vert ramps,[11] pyramids, banked ramps, full pipes, and any number of other trick-oriented objects.[12] These objects can be used simply for enjoyment and also to assist the visualisation of skateboarding tricks or the "flow" from one trick to the next (colloquially referred to as "lines"). Fingerboarding events feature some of the latest elaborate models and accessories; many of the manufacturers features photos and videos on their websites.


The parts of a fingerboard are: deck, grip tape (grip, rip tape, rubber tape), trucks, bushings, and wheels. The trucks and decks can easily be modified (modding) to reduce weight, improve smoothness or look better. The trucks are screwed to the deck by means of tiny screws. Modding tutorials can be found online. Decks are the major component of a board and where, on a standard skateboard, one would stand. There is a wide variety of decks with material ranging from wood to plastic. Most commonly, decks are made out of wood, as this gives it more "pop" and a more authentic feel. The average deck will have two kicks—a flared end used for leveraging the board—while some old-school models have only one end flared. During the early stages of the fingerboarding scene, decks traditionally had lower kicks like that of a Berlinwood Old Mold or a Tech Deck however, the "default" shape nowadays has medium kicks and low concave.

Griptape is the friction tape adhered to the topside of the deck to enable users to more easily maintain control of the board. There are many types of griptape. Some use standard skateboard griptape, although the griptape may wear out faster on fingerboards as they endure more moisture from the sweat and oils of a user's hands. There are also softer alternatives and grippy tape which is less harsh on a user's fingers allowing them to fingerboard for longer periods of time. Examples of this tape are Riptape, FBS Extra Smooth, No Comply Foamy Greatness, and Yellowood's Slim Tape. Most of these are made a thin layer of foam, with adhesive on the reverse. Trucks are the structures attached to the bottom of the deck that house the wheels and bushings. Some trucks are all one molded piece while others are scaled-down versions of regular skateboard trucks. Example: BRR Trucks, Y-Trucks. As fingerboarding has evolved "collector" and "pro" versions have emerged with some brands shaped using special instruments to make them lighter and look better. Bushings are pliable material that provide the cushion mechanism for turning a standard skateboard but on a fingerboard help stabilize the trucks thus keeping the wheels in the same position to enable stronger tricks and visual appeal. Collector and "pro" brand bushings are made from many different types of squishy material, usually rubberized plastic or rubber. The wheels can determine how smooth the ride is thus what kind of "flow" a user's ride can be. The professional brands are traditionally made out of a variety of different materials, and have small ball-bearings inside the bearings to enhance the smoothness. A couple examples of these wheels, Flatface Wheels, Ywheels, Oak Wheels, and Winkler Wheels.

Tech Deck makes hard plastic as well as wooden skateboards and borrows designs from many well-known skateboard manufacturers, such as Blind, Flip, and Element.[1] They use grip tape, and professional graphics on most of their decks. The stock trucks on Tech Decks are made of die-cast metal and have two separate axles for the wheels to roll on. The wheels are made out of plastic along with the bushings. Some fingerboarders prefer the feel and performance of decks made from wood. Wooden decks can be made from 3-7 plies of a given veneer; maple, walnut, and mahogany being the most popular. All of the hole-drilling and shaping is done by hand or with the aid of a machine, thus the price is higher. A wooden deck from a popular company can have a low to high price range usually depending on the quality of the deck one is to purchase, prices range from US$5 - US$60. Wooden fingerboard companies are now offering custom designs; the buyer can choose from their line of graphics or send in their own. The wooden boards come in a variety of widths from 26 – 36 mm and concave can vary greatly from maker to maker. Some companies offer even more customization options such as the choosing of the plies used to go into the deck, as well as the width/length of the deck.

Along with wooden decks, advanced fingerboarders also tend to prefer using wheels modeled on real skateboard wheels, made from sturdy compounds and outfitted with ball-bearings. Companies such as Oak Wheels, FlatFace Fingerboards and Joycult Wheels manufacture and sell bearing wheels that are made from a range of materials, including teflon, urethane, silicon, fiberglass, and even clay. The wheels are usually put into a lathe to ensure the best shape. Once the wheels have been readied, bearings are put into place to increase the smoothness of the wheels rolling on the axle. Tuning screws for the wheels cause the wheels to roll more smoothly.

Instead of using the stock axles and kingpins that come on Tech Deck trucks, some more advanced fingerboards use tuning screws, softer 'foam griptape' and custom kingpins to ensure that wheels and hangars are more properly secured. Blackriver Trucks, YTrucks and Dynamic Trucks are three brands that manufacture fingerboard trucks designed to work with more precision, allowing a fingerboarder to pivot quickly and do tricks without worrying that the trucks will come apart. These fingerboard trucks (and other specialty fingerboard products) are often sold at a much higher price compared to Tech Deck products.[13] Board rails can also be added to the deck bottom similar to those used on a standard skateboards. Fingerboards made with plastic are sometimes modified by heating the plastic to shape it, such as making the kicks higher or adding concavity.

Fingersnowboarding, handboards and fingersurfboards[edit]

A chicken on a mini-skateboard, similar to a handboard.

Similar to fingerboarding, fingersnowboarding is snowboarding on a small-scale snowboard controlled with one's fingers. In December 1999 the first-ever World Snowboard Fingerboard Championships was held with a cash prize of C$1,000.00.[14] Sponsored by companies such as Gravity Fingerboards, Transworld Snowboarding and Snowboard Life magazines and others the competition featured twenty competitors utilizing a custom "fingerboard snowboard park."[14] Tom Sims, a world champion of snowboarding,[15] ended his run by landing his fingersnowboard into a flaming shotglass of Sambuka; he was treated for minor burns and donated his winning prize to Surfrider Foundation's Snowrider Project and to Board AID.[14]

Handboards, similar to fingerboards, are a scaled-down version of a skateboard roughly half to a third of the size of a standard skateboard (29 centimeters or 11 in) and utilizes a person's hands rather than just their fingers to control the board and perform tricks and maneuvers. Handboards, because of their larger size, more closely match details of a standard skateboard. For instance a skateboard truck, the wheel structure, would more likely to match part for part an actual skateboard truck rather than be a cast one-piece construction or otherwise simplified. If a user preferred a particular type of wood or decorative style that could also more easily resemble a full-scale skateboard.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Waters, Mark (2000-03-03). "The Fingerboard Controversy: Are toy-skateboard makers promoting skateboarding or just profiting?". Transworld Business. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
  2. ^ Hocking, Justin; Jeff Knutson; Jared Jacang Maher; Jocko Weyland (2004). " Life and Limb: Skateboarders Write from the Deep End. Soft Skull Press. ISBN 978-1-932360-28-8. Retrieved 2007-12-25.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "About Fingerboarding". Blackriver Ramps. 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-12-27. Retrieved 2007-12-25.
  4. ^ "Fingerboard Tuning". 2007. Retrieved 2008-12-25.
  5. ^ Mullen, Rodney; Sean Mortimer (2004). skateboard&pg=PA49 The Mutt: How to Skateboard and Not Kill Yourself Check |url= value (help). HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-055618-1. Retrieved 2007-12-25.
  6. ^ "Fingerboard Events Forum". 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-25.
  7. ^ Vienne, Véronique (2003). Fresh Dialogue 3: New Voices in Graphic Design. Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN 978-1-56898-417-9. Retrieved 2007-12-25.
  8. ^ Perez, Juan Carlos (September 13, 2007). "US online video popularity keeps climbing". MacWorld. Retrieved 2007-09-15.
  9. ^ Zawadski, Alison (September 13, 2007). "A Work in Progress". Le Provocateur. Retrieved 2007-09-15.
  10. ^ Halford, Wayne; Eric SodKar Fai; Steven Moran (2000-08-03). "Roll-up halfpipe for miniature toy skateboard". Mattel, Inc. Retrieved 2007-12-25. Patent number: 6350174; Filing date: Aug 3, 2000; Issue date: Feb 26, 2002.
  11. ^ Labelson, Ross; Timothy J. Klima (19 July 1999). "Amusement ramp and method for constructing same". Pillsbury Winthrop LLP. Retrieved 2007-12-25. Patent number: 6623367, Filing date: Jul 17, 1999; Issue date: Sep 23, 2003.
  12. ^ Hull, Everett (10 December 2004). "Reciprocating plaything and method for playing". Thomas L. Adams. Retrieved 2007-12-25. Patent number: 7261613; Filing date: Dec 10, 2004; Issue date: Aug 28, 2007
  13. ^ "Why Do Fingerboard Trucks Like Blackriver Cost So Much?". Longboarder Labs. June 23, 2019. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  14. ^ a b c Stouffer, John (17 December 1999). "Snowtopia 99: Tom Sims Wins World Fingersnowboard Championships". Transworld Business. Retrieved 2007-12-25.
  15. ^ "Snowboarders Finally in Olympics, But Are Conforming Grudgingly", Salt Lake Tribune, February 8, 1998.

Further reading[edit]

  • Finger Skate Board Tricks and Tips Prepack by Susan Buntrock (2000); Scholastic, Incorporated - ISBN 0-439-21714-8.
  • Life and Limb: Skateboarders Write from the Deep End by Justin Hocking, Jeff Knutson, Jared Jacang Maher (2004); Soft Skull Press - ISBN 1-932360-28-X. (See Whaling chapter by Justin Hocking).