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Culture

Bathtub boarding

Whether on snowy slopes, still waters or in trendy clubs - there are various ways of having fun with a board.

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Having fun wakeboarding

Big is beautiful - or so the saying goes. But take a walk around numerous German cities and you'll notice a rather strange phenomenon, especially in those places where the young people like to spend their free time, in parks, sports centres, and clubs.

Wednesday evening in a trendy night club, often frequented by students in Germany's capital: In the reddish glow of the lounge, a brightly lit table shows up against the surrounding darkness. The illuminated faces of those standing slightly bent over the tabletop are a picture of concentration,
furrowed brows glistening with beads of sweat. A closer look reveals a parcours of variously-sized wooden ramps sprawled across the table top, serving as a test of maneuverability for what look like matchbox cars, but are in reality mini-skateboards.

"Fingerboarding" is the name of the game and it's becoming more and more popular, especially with boarders, whether skate - or snowboarders. It was invented one rainy day by a couple of bored skateboarders who started skimming a plastic skateboard keyring up the walls of a bathtub, and it's actually been around for some time, despite it's growing popularity. Pierre, a student from Berlin says he made his first fingerboards out of model Wartburg-cars when he was out of skateboard action with a knee injury several years ago.

Fingerboarding is a pastime anyone can do, anywhere, whether at home or during long lectures - a philosophy which isn't unique to the fingerboarding community.

Sports student Ole's game, called "footbag," can also be played just about anywhere and without any special equipment. Gone are the days when you met your friends for a game of footie in the park. Today's kids still meet for a ball-game, only the ball is less than 10 centimetres across and filled with shredded plastic. Originally called "hackysacking," footbag has a long history: A similar game was popular in Asia more than 2,000 years ago. More recently, American physiotherapists have used footbags to aid knee rehabilitation. But it's only recently that footbag has made the jump from "a game for bored hippies" to a highly competitive sport.

Crossbody Soul Stall-ing


There are two styles of footbag: freestyle and court, but freestyling is more popular, which is hardly surprising given the 20,000 tricks you can do. Patience seems to be a major virtue for footbaggers, as does a certain bloody-mindedness: footbag incorporates a lot of jumps, twists and fancy footwork, and you can easily end up flat on your face doing a trick like the "Crossbody Soul Stall."

Footbag is now a highly competitive sport, and extremely popular - not only with Germany's sports students, who have already won numerous European and World championships. Some of the keenest competitors don't come from America, as you might have thought, but from Finland, which could be due to the way Finns like to train: Whereas Berlin's footbaggers prefer hip-hop while practising, the Finns prefer their national folk music.

Whether fingerboarding or footbag, both sports are great winter pastimes for boarding specialists of another kind: wakeboarders. This sport, which is similar to waterskiing on a snowboard, has increased tremendously in popularity during the last months. Germany is now one of the leading European countries in the international wakeboarding scene, around a third of the world's waterski lifts and numerous lakes offer perfect conditions for the latest sports trend.

Students from sunny Florida, the birthplace of the original wakeboard, no longer need to miss out on their favourite water sport when studying here in Germany: Active wakeboarders should though, buy or borrow a wetsuit: The water in Germany's lakes is definitely colder than back home!

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