If today Fingerboarding is well established and has a growing number of faithful practitioners around the world, it was not always the case. This stability that we know actually, we owe it in large part to a handful of activists and entrepreneurs who have worked with passion in accompanying the discipline in its evolution, in the ups and downs. And the downs... there have been some of them.
Our guest of the day is one of those few activists ! He is one of the most active and respected actor on the world scene. World champion in 2009 & creator of the ASI BERLIN SHOP : interview with Timo "TKY" Kranz !
Fingerboardz : Hi Timo ! Thanks for taking the time to answer this ITW, it's a great opportunity for me to talk about your background and the fingerboard history. Since the two are closely connected ! Before getting into the serious stuff, can you quickly introduce yourself ?
Timo "TKY" Kranz : Salut ! My name is Timo Kranz, nickname TKY. I’m from a small town in the middle of Germany and I’m a Skateboarder who started fbing eventually. I started Asi Berlin a long time ago and I’m running the Asi Berlin Shop in Berlin now.
FBZ : We'll come back to this later, but before the ASI team, before being World Champion in 2009 and creating the heaven on earth (aka ASI Berlin Shop)... There was a time when you started, where you were a rookie, right ?
TKY : Yes for sure like everyone I guess. For me was skateboarding which I stated in the late 80‘s the key to fbing. I always had these keychain mini skateboards which were available in some finer skate shops but never knew how to proper use these right like we do know now. As I wasn’t aware of any techniques back then but was building some scaled ramps already though. And I guess it was even more special coming from a super small farm village with not much connections back then in the pre-internet area. But I love coming from the area and even there skateboarding was everything my buddies and myself were thinking and dreaming about.
FBZ : Can you tell us a bit about it ? It seems to me that it all started after a nasty skateboarding injury 20 years ago, am I right ?
TKY : Yes somehow unfortunately. I had some bad knee surgeries in the late 90's by the time the first Tech Decks appeared on the market. I really wasn’t aware that you could use these with any kind of techniques. I usually used my two hands to imagine tricks I saw in skate videos and eventually wanted to improve for myself. Until some skate shop staff told me on the telephone how to actually Ollie with these small skateboards.
I guess that was right before I had to go to the hospital again for another knee surgery, and I took a Tech Deck and was probably practicing there lying in bed to jump over my body from one side to the other without using my other hand or thumb like I used to. And somehow there was this amazing moment we all knew, when I recognized that you can Ollie that thing legally and try tricks without that "helping hand" ! I was hooked ever since.
“Everything that happened with Fbing afterwards was probably the best I could get out of my big dream.”
FBZ : By the way, classic question : What was your very first board ?
TKY : The first real Skateboard was a Blockhead "Jim Gray" with that TV graphic on but I got some mall completes before that. For fingerboards I probably kept a Tech Deck of Geoff Rowley from Flip the longest of times until it was totally clued. Before TD it was these thick plastic boards with metal wheels and Zorlac graphics on most of the times.
FBZ : The context of the time was particular, just after the first wave of TechDeck (end of 90's, beginning of 2000) the hype fell down everywhere... Except in Germany ! Timo Lieben, Martin Ehrenberger, Martin Winkler and many others like you, have been working hard to create and produce stuff, by organizing events and pushing the discipline's limits further. All this effort and passion has made Germany the fingerboarding capital of the world. Which memory do you keep from all this ? What were the highlights for you in the first part of the 2000's ?
TKY : Definitely one of the best times I had. You know I just moved to Berlin and my biggest dream was still skateboarding either I knew I would never made it as a professional in skateboarding everything that happened with fbing afterwards was probably the best I could get out of my big dream. I mean we were touring the world had amazing times and met the greatest people and all in name of fingerboarding.
Best part of this time was to start working at Titus Berlin, the biggest German skate shop and starting Asi Berlin and becoming good friends with Timo Lieben. Also touring through Germany with great Skateboarders and Fingerboarders and being paid for it ! Working for Tech Deck with Dimitri (Schotthauer) was an outstanding experience, same as organizing the biggest events for fbing till date like the Battle at the Harrics which was just amazing.
FBZ : The next questions are for the World Champion! You have more than 20 years of riding behind you, you made the discipline evolve with lots of tricks and you continue to blow up the game regularly with your moves from outer space.
TKY : Thanks Dude, I really appreciate that !
FBZ : We can see that you still take so much pleasure in it ! How do you keep this motivation over time ? Has your practice evolved over time ?
TKY : I think what keeps me motivated is that there are still a lot more tricks out there which I still like to learn. My approach always was and still is to make it look like skateboarding and the more fingertips the better and there is still a lot room to improve with this in fingerboarding, but unfortunately I´m less fbing and more working with and for it atm.
FBZ : I guess you've checked off all the technical goals you've set for yourself over the years. After all this time you still find new things to do ?
TKY : I'm probably not known for being the most technical fingerboarder out there so yeah like I mentioned already there would be a lot more for me i could learn if i would like to and it's always an amazing and outstanding feeling to cancel another one from the bucket list.
FBZ : Between you and me, I promise I won't tell anyone... Nah ! Just kidding, I'll tell everyone : do you have a pet peeve ? A trick you have trouble with ?
TKY : You just need to ask the Berlin Shop locals. They all know that my Nollie or Switch Game isn't the best anymore and I would love to learn a propper No-Comply.
FBZ : In 2010 you brought a real phantasm to life : ASI Berlin Shop. Today your skateshop is the worldwide reference and people come from all over the world to visit it and meet you. You had this desire for a long time before its creation ? How did the opening go, was it a direct success ?
TKY : I was working in the skateboard retail business in Berlin since 2003 so I had some experience with that and in this time fbing was coming up and I think I had the first ideas of opening a fingerboard concept store when I was still working for Titus.
A few years later after some more jobs for skate shops or companies in Berlin I reached a point in my life where I needed to make a decision to try something new or to fall back into some older jobs. And I decided to try it with fingerboarding ! I opened the shop in cooperation with Blackriver Ramps and the opening went really well as it was kind of a magic moment for the scene to have a physical fingerboard shop at this time.
“Educate the kids and meeting people from all over the world who have dreamed for years to visit that place is a great benefit of this work.”
FBZ : Fingerboarding has had its ups and downs in terms of public interest. Damien Bernadet told us about it and explained that it was sometimes difficult for him. Was it also the case in Germany ?
TKY : I would say we had the first peak of interest already in the years 2001 to 2003 and in this period there were over 15 skate shops in Germany with fingerboard parks inside. In 2003 we had German championships with stops all over Germany. But shortly after this when fbing wasn't that popular anymore all these spots were gone fast but a scene was born and developed ever since and we reached the next peak around 2008 to 2010 when we opened the shop but popularity went down after this again.
FBZ : Do you think that the interest in fingersboarding is stabilizing on a global level and that the phenomenon will last, maybe even grow on a mainstream scale ? Or will the hype die down again like it did in the mid-2010s ?
TKY : I think we´re over that point now and it will never disappear from now on but maybe getting some unpopular years again but scenes and companies are establishing now all over the globe and this will affect others and the scene will grow the same as the acceptance of it in general.
FBZ : Working in your shop isn't the best job in the world ? It consists in advising and guiding kids, fingerboarding while having BBQ on the sidewalk with your buddies, right ? But seriously, can you tell us about what's going on there ? The atmosphere must be so cool, it's a real FB meeting place. It must encourage and help a lot the regulars of the store . On Instagram I saw 8 year olds with crazy levels in your shop !
TKY : This shop went through a lot of ups and downs in its eleven years of existence and there would be too many stories to tell here. For sure it 's my dream job but for sure it isn’t easy either. We would’ve seen more fingerboard stores like that over the last years if that’s an alright and easygoing business.
But yeah you’re right to educate the kids and meeting people from all over the world who have dreamed for years to visit that place is a great benefit of this work. And for sure all the bbq and beers with the homies who come around every day as well.
Also because the place is around for almost twelve years now it provides a super solid base for fbing here in Berlin and I would say we’re maybe the city with the most people with fingerboard experience in the world and with the best active fingerboarders living in it.
FBZ : The sanitary crisis was complicated for the shop, today things seem to be better ? You have completely updated your range of obstacles and ramps, there are other nice projects for the future ?
TKY : Because of the lockdowns and travel regulations we had to focus on our website and web sales and we put a lot of effort into this and made it work otherwise we would have been out of business already. And yeah for sure there are always "constructions" going on or problems which need to be solved, we’re always operating on a very small budget so it's never that easy i would say.
Right now while writing this interview I’m hiring new staff and have to take care about that. But you can also be sure that we´ll always try to surprise you with new stuff or events.
FBZ : Your shop does a lot for the small manufacturers (and for the buyers at the same time), you distribute brands from all over the world and it's a real chance for us, Europeans. In France currently the government has just put in place an important tax on absolutely all parcels coming from outside Europe. I predict that soon all eyes will turn to your shop to get American stuff for example. Can we expect your catalog to continue to grow ?
TKY : Thanks, that's nice to hear. Oh yes for sure we will always try to expand our product range with new exciting stuff doesn’t matter how big or small the brand is. Or we will do new and stunning collaborations but also we like to extend with our very own products like all the ramps, rails or boards and our clothing program. Unfortunately some stuff is too hard to get or just too expensive after shipping and taxes so it's not worth it.
FBZ : Let's finish with a more personal question. When you're not working at the shop or fingerboarding, what do you do for a living ? Do you have other passions ?
TKY : No there’s nothing else for me to earn money with but truly I have other passions in life like my family and kids and a big love for nature where i like to ride my bike a lot. Would love to have less responsibilities one day when the shop is running more stabilized to have more time to focus on the marketing or more free time to travel and visit old friends or discover new scenes around the world.
FBZ : Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions ! It's an honor to have been able to discuss with you. And now I'll let you finish the job, you have the last word !
TKY : Thank you very much for choosing me for this interview. It was nice answering these questions but I’m sorry it took me so long. I’ve always had a good connection to France and its people and we got a lot of loyal French webshop customers. I want to say Merci and Salut to everyone. I hope to meet you all in Berlin one day.
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