Fingerboards are usually synonymous with the famous fingerboard brand “Tech Decks.” The culture of fingerboards and their history go a lot deeper than that, however. While Tech Decks were invented in the mid 90s, as early as the 70s kids around the country were cutting skateboard shapes out of cardboard and putting Hot Wheels under them to simulate tiny skateboards. Today we’ll take a quick look at the phenomenon of fingerboarding and the ripples in culture that are left from it.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were Tech Decks. The most accepted narrative is that in the 50s surfers wanted to make something that made them feel like they were surfing without actually being on the waves. Things resembling skateboards, like Radio Flyer wagons, emerged even earlier than that. Skateboarding slowly became the cultural phenomenon that we know it as today and began to take other forms.
The earliest fingerboard footage that I can find was in the famous Powell Peralta skate video called Future Primitive. A pro skater named Lance Mountain uses a fingerboard that he seems to have fashioned himself. The video came out in 1985, around 13 years before Tech Decks arrived in toy stores around the world.
In the late 90s, Peter Asher noticed his middle school aged son making small skateboards with scraps of paper, and a literal million dollar idea popped into his head.
In their first year of production, Tech Decks flew off the shelves. Skate brands saw this as a huge promotional opportunity and soon enough, deals were struck.Tech Decks began brandishing logos and graphics from skateboarding companies like World Industries. Just as quickly as Tech Decks became a hit, a real fingerboarding community began to grow amongst the fans of the new toy.
For decades at this point it had been a common practice in the skate industry to promote products using the proverbial “Skate Video.” Fingerboarding followed suit about a year after being created. In 1999, 411 Video Magazine released what would be the first-ever fingerboard video. The aptly named Fingers of Fury is a 15-minute showcase of the most hard-core fingerboarding that's ever been put to film. Just like real skate videos, Fingers of Fury makes use of DIY obstacles like duct-taped quarter pipes and homemade rails and ledges.
Fast forward 20-something years and now you’ve got fingerboarders making videos with finger pants and finger shoes. There are dozens of companies making their own wooden fingerboards that have modified, improved, and updated fingerboards to their preferences, and the scene shows no sign of slowing down. Pro fingerboarders upload their favorite clips to Instagram on a daily basis, and fingerboarding YouTubers continue to upload videos about their favorite activity.
Looking at fingerboards we thought, “how did they do that?” Fingerboarders forged their own community and world through building skateparks, throwing demos, and most of all embracing their creativity and sharing what they loved with the world. The story of fingerboards and the DIY spirit around the sport inspired us to try our hand (no pun intended) at it and make our own. What better way to wind down and blow off some steam than to do some kickflips in the comfort of your home? All you need is a fingerboard and an eye for new obstacles.