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Fingerboarding: Skateboarding Without 'Fear Factor'

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Tech Deck, a manufacturer of 2 1/2-inch long skateboards — "fingerboards" — has spent the past five months hosting competitions in more than 10 cities to find the best fingerboarder in America.

Fingerboarding is a miniature version of skateboarding — people "skate" with their fingers on tiny skateboards. The boards are often made of wood or plastic and have a sandpapery grip tape on top and skateboard graphics underneath. They cost anywhere from a few bucks to more than $100.

The competition was held in New York City last weekend, where 14-year-old Matty Taylor from California was named national fingerboarding champion and awarded $5,000.

The 15 finalists ranged in age from 14 to 24 and earned a free trip to the Tech Deck U.S. Fingerboarding Championships on Sept. 2.

Nineteen-year-old Taylor Rosenbauer of Harding Township, N.J., made it through the event gates early to practice before the big competition. Like most fingerboarders, Rosenbauer is also a skateboarder. He compared it to skateboarding without the balance or fear factor.

"Fingerboarding is a way of, you know, taking my love for skateboarding and, I guess, doing it when I can't skate," Rosenbauer said.

Tech Deck makes fingerboards and built four mini-skate parks for the championships, which it plans to make an annual event. Each mini-skate park is the size of a dining room table; competitors moved from table to table, whizzing their boards up tiny ramps and steps, guiding them with just two fingers. They flipped up onto tiny metal handrails for slides and spun their boards in the air, hoping for good landings. Their fingers looked just like little legs on a skateboard. Competitors were scored on style, creativity and the difficulty of their tricks.

When Rosenbauer broke his arm skateboarding, his parents told him to stop, which is when he first discovered the tiny boards. He now owns hundreds of fingerboards and even has a company sponsor, Black River Ramps.

"Probably the first trick that most people learn when they first start fingerboarding is called just a shove-it. That's where you spin the board 180 degrees, by doing a scissor kick motion with your two fingers," Rosenbaur said.

Twenty-year-old Kyle Ballard, a finalist from Houston, said the wood tables at the event were an upgrade for him. He usually does his tricks off textbooks at home.

Taylor, the national champion, said he would use his prize money to buy more fingerboards and a new camera.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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