ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
After several competitions around the country, the 15 best fingerboarders were invited to the event on Friday, and reporter Sarah Reynolds was there.
SARAH REYNOLDS: Nineteen-year-old Taylor Rosenbauer of Harding Township, New Jersey, made it through the event gates early to practice before the big competition. Like most fingerboarders, Rosenbauer is a skateboarder too. He says it's like skateboarding without the balance or the fear factor.
TAYLOR ROSENBAUER: Fingerboarding is a way of taking my love for skateboarding, and, I guess, doing it when I can't skate.
REYNOLDS: Like when he broke his arm skateboarding and his parents told him to stop. This, he says, is when he first came across the tiny boards. Each board is about two-and-a-half inches long. And despite their size, they look just like skateboards. Some are wooden, some plastic, but they all have the sandpapery grip tape on the top and skateboard graphics underneath. They cost anywhere from a few bucks to more than $100. Rosenbauer says he owns hundreds, and even has a company sponsor, Blackriver Ramps. He pulled a board out of his pocket and showed me how it works.
ROSENBAUER: 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, I guess, a scissor kick motion with your two fingers. So your back finger slides back and your front finger goes forward.
REYNOLDS: It's pretty tough, but Rosenbauer says practice is the key. Other fingerboarders seem to agree. As soon as the event gates opened, they came running to find the skateboard tables hoping for room to practice their tricks. The finalists range in age between 14 and 24, and they all earned a free trip to the championship courtesy of Tech Deck, the sponsoring company.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got the national championship of the Tech Deck U.S. Fingerboarding Championship.
REYNOLDS: Tech Deck makes fingerboards, and they built four mini skate parks for the event, each one about the size of a dining room table. Each competitor moved from table to table, whizzing their board up tiny ramps and steps, guiding it with just two fingers. They'd flip up onto tiny metal handrails for slides and spin their board in the air, hoping for good landings. Their fingers look just like little legs on a skateboard. Competitors were scored on style, creativity and the difficulty of their tricks. Twenty-two-year-old Kyle Ballard was a finalist from Houston, Texas, and he said the tables were kind of fancy. He usually does his tricks off textbooks at home.
KYLE BALLARD: Well, this is like real wood, so it's like made for a real skateboard.
REYNOLDS: During the competition, each fingerboarder sat nearby, practicing their tricks on flag stands and bumps in the pavement.
MALE: One-minute jam. All right. Three, two, one, go.
REYNOLDS: In the end, 14-year-old Matty Taylor swept the championship after travelling all the way from California to compete. He won $5,000. So what does a kid do with this kind of money?
MATTY TAYLOR: Yeah. Probably buy some fingerboard stuff. Yeah. Maybe a new camera.
REYNOLDS: Tech Deck plans to make this an annual event, so Matty Taylor might have a chance to defend his title next year. For NPR News, I'm Sarah Reynolds in New York.
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