Dust Off That Old Tech Deck – Fingerboarding is Alive and Well

Remember Tech Decks? Those skateboards made of plastic shrunken down to a size you could ride with your fingers? Fingerboarding — a miniature-size skateboard that someone “rides” with their fingers rather than their feet.

Of course, you do. If you didn’t play with or own one back in junior high, you at least knew someone who did. Andrew Hook (@miniskatespot) got his first Tech Deck in seventh grade. In class, at lunch or during breaks in school, he and his friends would stack up their books and make miniature stair sets and attempt to ollie or kickflip off of their makeshift skate park. Hook took over a decade-long hiatus from fingerboarding, but now, at 36, he is three years back into the sport and says he will never quit. 

There’s a generous crossover between skateboarders and fingerboarders, understandably, given they are the same concept, save for which body part you use: feet or fingers. Because of this, the fingerboard community has the same kind of culture you see in skating – one that flourishes from the acceptance, freedom, creativity and risk.

Photo by Julia vonDreele

You may have lost your Tech Deck over time or don’t know anyone else that still fingerboards, and it may seem shocking, but fingerboarding is an alive-and-well sport with impressive advancements over the last several years and the Denver community exists with vibrancy.

Though, these days, fingerboarders aren’t really using Tech Decks anymore.

They are using boards made of the same materials seen in a traditional skateboard: wood, metal bearings and polyurethane for the mini wheels. This allows for better performance, easier use, and a real feel when trying tricks on the fingerboard, says Avery Davidson, a fingerboarder (@fbspliff) and co-founder of TH!S FB. Some of these products even sell for the same price as real skateboard parts.

Not only are the boards made of real materials, but oftentimes, the parks are too. Hook still creates parks, but not with middle school textbooks as staircases anymore. After his fingerboard hiatus, he was inspired to start making small parks, mini-features, deck racks and so on.

His creations eventually took over a bedroom in his house that became a workspace to build and sell fingerboarding items on Etsy.

In an effort to remain as true to real life as possible, Hook works with a variety of materials and different styles of approach that would help best emulate a real skate park: 3D printing, CNC laser cutting, concrete, wood, paint, tile and marble.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For every piece needed to construct a park or board, there is someone out there putting in the labor and attention to detail to create it. They are also probably marketing their products on Instagram and selling them on e-commerce websites.

Davidson said that Instagram has been a catalyst for a big push in the resurgence of fingerboarding. Many fingerboarders have separate Instagram accounts dedicated to posting their tricks, clips and products. The underground Internet community on Instagram has become a place where fingerboarders can find others involved in the sport, meet up, trade tricks and become friends in real life.

TH!S is an art, print and design studio located in Lakewood that officially started in 2012. They work with small businesses, musicians, local artists, among many others to make designs and prints such as shirts, stickers, banners and more. TH!S FB (the fingerboard store) came about when Mike Sherrill a.k.a. Cube (@cube_co.fb), the owner of TH!S asked Davidson to help open and facilitate a fingerboarding branch of the business (@this_fb) a few years ago.

“[It] really started as a social media page and snowballed out of control from there,” Cube said in an email. “I don’t think we ever really planned to open a fingerboard spot per say, just sort of ended up like that (which is awesome actually haha).”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Prior, Davidson was selling fingerboards out of a kiosk at Park Meadows. However, since closing that kiosk and focusing on TH!S FB, the store has become an epicenter for fingerboarding in Denver and nationwide Davidson says, as there are only a few brick-and-mortar shops where you can “physically go buy products and shred the parks.”

A lot of people are doing this at their desk at home, so for us to be fostering this physical location is definitely against the grain, but it’s working very well, and we have a really strong community here,” Davidson said. “We’re really thankful that Cube has shared his print shop and let us have this space to meet new people and share ideas and have little celebrations.”

Photo by Julia vonDreele

TH!S FB frequently hosts hangouts or events. Anywhere around 10-30 people or more generally attend, and ages five to fifty can ride with each other, try new tricks, play a game of skate, win giveaways from sponsors and more.

“Fingerboarding is really easygoing. Not only is it a good stress reliever, but it gets you off your phone. It brings artistic, creative people to the same place talking to each other,” said Davidson. “A lot of the time I’m there on a Friday night, people will be gathered around, congregated, just talking. They’re playing with their fingerboards at the same time, but it’s like they’re just hanging out. Just talking, getting to know each other and sharing ideas.”

Last month, TH!S FB held an event, “For The Causa,” in support of a member of their community, Eberth Bedia (@eibisi_studios), who recently moved here from Peru for safety — in hopes of bettering his life. Through “For The Causa,” the Denver fingerboarding community was able to come together and fundraise to help Bedia raise money for his community back home dealing with political unrest.

Photo by Julia vonDreele

TH!S FB also hosts an annual event called Throwdown.

Fingerboarders from around the state and country take road trips in order to attend.

“Most people from Colorado come out for this one, and a bunch from other surrounding states and farther parts of the country for sure,” Cube said. “It’s really when Colorado as a whole gets together for fingerboarding.”

Hook found TH!S FB through their second annual Throwdown.

“I drove down there and hung out for the day, and all those guys are super rad. The whole vibe of the fingerboard community, everyone’s just full of so much kindness and love,” Hook said. “That’s what really sent it all the way for me. I was like, ‘Wow, this is super fun. I’m for sure going to keep doing this.'”

And while many of those who skate also fingerboard, they are not mutually exclusive. Not everyone who fingerboards is a skater or vice versa, but it is a great alternative for those who wish they could skate but face limitations.

“We have a guy who used to serve in the military. He has one amputated leg, and he really wishes he could skateboard still, but fingerboarding becomes the emulation of that,” Davidson said. “Or you have guys that are skateboard nerds, but they’re not ready to put their body on the line like that because they have kids and a family or something.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fingerboarding has evolved into something a whole lot more nuanced, even though it all started with plastic skateboards, trying to find a distraction in school, or just fidgeting with a toy. The advancements in the elements of the boards and parks are nothing short of impressive, and that’s because of the passion of the creators, the riders and the support of the community.

It sounds awesome to land a new trick or build a new feature, but it seems like what really motivates the fingerboarding scene is being a part of something: an “open arms community,” a judgment-free zone. It’s about improvement, progression, art, creativity and fun — but also heart.

All photography by Julia vonDreele.