We Chat Fingerboarding with Timo from Asi Berlin
We all dig skateboarding here, but how familiar are you with fingerboarding? You know, those miniature skateboards that you move around with your fingers? There’s a whole world of fingerboarding that is worth exploring. Seriously, there’s more going on there than you could ever imagine. Do you have friends who create figurines for games like Warhammer or things of that ilk? It’s kind of like the skating equivalent of that. One of the pinnacle spots for fingerboarding is Asi Berlin in Germany. We decided to dive headfirst into this idiosyncratic world by talking to Timo Kranz, the proprietor of Asi Berlin. Timo spoke to us about the origins of fingerboarding, his interest in the hobby, and much more. Thanks to Timo for taking the time. If you are interested in fingerboarding – an activity that is tailor-made for quarantines and winter weather – definitely look into Asi Berlin!
Thanks for taking the time, Timo, let's start with your store name...how do you explain it to an English-speaking audience.
Hello, and thanks for having me!
Asi Berlin is short for 'alles schön in Berlin' which means something like 'everything’s nice in Berlin.' Founded in a brainstorming session in 2003 because we didn’t like our given name Titus Berlin Fingerboard Show Team, too much. Each of the OG team riders were involved, and everyone had his own meaning and a different short form for it, like 'Anonymous Skateboarder in Berlin' or 'Anarchistische Sieges Initiative Berlin' and so on... we had lots of fun doing that and A.S.I. Berlin was the most common, so we stuck with it.
Draw a picture of your store!
Like really drawing?! Uhh, lemme see...
As you can see, I’m a wizard with a pen, that’s from the outside.
What made you decide to make a living out of the fingerboarding business?
I guess I reached a point in my life where I was not given many opportunities to earn money, and I didn’t want to go back to jobs I’d done before. But fingerboarding was something that I really liked to do and I was part of the growing scene. It has always given me the opportunity to earn money here and there and I saw the potential in the scene here in Berlin, so I thought about it a lot and asked myself why not risk a bit more and try to make a living out of it. That was in 2009.
Tell us a bit about the history of fingerboarding
Fingerboards have always been around in the skateboard scene as keychains or other fun and collector's items more or less popular in the use as fingerboards as we know them now. A few rare individuals like Lance Mountain or Martin Winkler, built everything they needed themselves. But since Tech Decks became available, I think that was in 1998, it got bigger and more established.
How big is the Fingerboard community in Berlin?
The City of Berlin owns a big and great fingerboard community. One with the longest FBing history since 2003, with public events and meeting points. People are moving here to join that community and with the Asi Berlin Shop ahead it’s a worldwide matchless scene.
What makes fingerboarding so fascinating?
The moment when you discover that it’s way harder than it looks and that there must be a lot of skills involved you will either go for it or never try again.
And for me personally, it’s the moment when you perfectly landed a trick (after many many tries), that gives the most satisfaction.
Would you say there is such a thing as a stereotypical fingerboarder?
Maybe back then it was nerdier than it is nowadays; it’s way more established and accepted now with all kinds of people doing it. For me, it was and is impossible to do FBing without thinking about skateboarding in the moment, but I meet fingerboarders who have never skated or are even interested in it; this was really strange and curious to me.
Is it mainly a boy's domain or are girls into it as much too?
I’m not sure why it is like that but it feels like it’s very similar to the skateboard scene with a majority of boys and a minority of girls being active.
Fingers and feet couldn't be further apart right?.. so do fingerboarders and skateboarders have ANYTHING in common?
I guess we could have everything in common or nothing you know. Leading examples are famous professionals like Kader who even had a fingerboard graphic on his first pro model for Baker, or kids like Louie Lopez and Curren Capples who admired us, the professional fingerboarders, when they were younger (we met them in Barcelona back in the day). Or Elias Assmuth, the first fingerboard world champion who became professional for Yama Skateboards, the list goes on. But I guess there’s no need to prove anything. People should do what they love and not feel judged.
Who do you consider the greatest fingerboarder of all time?
It must be Martin Winkler and if Matt Hensley ever touched one he as well. But if you‘ve ever seen Dima (Dimitri Schotthauer) FBing in front of your eyes with a simple Tech Deck, you know that he‘s the uncrowned king and it can’t get much better than this.
I need some obstacles and ramps – how do you make me happy?
We‘ll get you an Asibrixx Kicker with the smoothest concrete and curb for your first steps or some bigger and more advanced stuff if you are already more into it! Everything is handmade in our basement.
What qualities do I need to be really good at it?
The development of the style in FBing comes with years of practicing! I guess it doesn’t need to be the most complicated trick combination which leads you to the pro ranks, it’s how you make it look that makes the difference.
Is it something done best alone in my bedroom or can I compete anywhere?
It’s something that can be done alone for sure but idk if that’s a good or a bad aspect of it as I’m enjoying the good session with friends way more.
Recommend a good playlist for a ripping session.
Should be some Punk and Metal involved for sure like Slime or Slayer. But with age, this can change into a classic music tune too.
Do you have any team riders?
Yes, we have an international Team for Asi Berlin and some local Shop Team riders. Shoutout to all the boys and girls - love you!
Let's talk tech... what's a good set up and how do I know which ones are good for me?
Get yourself some of the shop starter completes first! We sell these for 25€, make some experience with it and when you come back the next time, we‘ll get you some better stuff on your own preferences. And that will probably be a Kamelpro Deck, the Canadian's finest, some Oak wheels from Portugal with some “mucho feeling“ and maybe some fresh Dynamic trucks from the USA.
How much are people willing to pay for boards?
The average price range is from 20€ to 50€ for boards. But there are some people out there who are willing to pay much much more on eBay for a single wooden deck.
Got any stories from freaky collectors?
There have been a couple that helped us to survive some bad months here and there at the shop because they were collecting what their son was using. Unfortunately, he gave up FBing ;)
Let's talk Corona! Has it affected/changed/hurt the community or your business (for the better or worse) in any way?
As we’re one of the only physical fingerboard shops in the world, Covid-19 has affected our business a lot. We depended way more on our daily sales at the shop compared to our webshop sales before the pandemic. During the first lockdown we needed to rethink our whole business plan and focus way more on our website and the webshop sales and we gotta say it worked out somehow and that saved us from going out of business last year. Thanks to everyone who’s helping us to stay alive until we can open for public and under normal circumstances again. Looking forward to when you can all come and visit again!
Skaters have to spend more time indoors because of Covid…good for business?
Yes, FBing is getting back into the minds of a lot of people that need to stay at home and a lot of new people are discovering it atm. So I would say this very awful thing for humanity is affecting the popularity of FBing in a positive way!
Do you produce your own boards/ ramps or do collabs?
Yes, we’re trying to stay as independent as possible with our own concrete ramp production and own imports. We are working together with a street artist who silkscreen print our t-shirts in our basement and we've got lots of collaborations going on with national and international fingerboard companies and artists.
Timo (left) & Ramon from Asi Berlin
One last question: Who gets the girl at the party: the fingerboarder or the skateboarder?
Probably the fingerskateboarder when the girl finds out about his abilities!
Photography © BTK Dose Skateboarding