FACT: STRENGTH BUILDS CONFIDENCE
Let’s face it, when it comes to climbing at your limit, finger strength is EVERYTHING!
Doing big moves on big holds is fun, but at some point we all realize the same thing, our fingers are the weakest link.
UNDOUBTEDLY, the best and most effective way to build finger strength is to weight them and stress them safely, multiple times per week. Kyle’s photo below from Hueco Tanks, illustrates exactly why weak fingers will make climbing feel harder, and strong fingers will make it feel easier. If you want to improve your rock climbing, focus on your finger strength. It’s the only way.
So, what is the V-Board? The V-Board is a fingerboard (or hangboard), which I designed over the last 10 years and built one by one. I’ve used hangboards my entire life, because like many climbers (and unlike some), if I wanted to climb well, I had to earn it by building up my contact strength.
The best way to do this, is by deadhanging on progressively worse holds. During the winter of 2000, I trained exclusively on a homemade fingerboard preparing myself for the next level. With a full time construction job, no gym membership and harsh Ontario winters, I needed to find a way to stay strong so I could climb my dream route, Chris Sharma’s Necessary Evil 5.14c. Ben Moon picture below. In one year I went from climbing one 5.14b, to climbing my dream route and then later my first 5.14d.
So, with little more than a few strips of wood from my dads basement, I built my first hangboard for about $20.00. The holds were made of solid oak and much sharper than I would have liked, so I sanded them down a tiny bit and hung and hung and hung. I barely did anything else. No pull ups, no climbing, no weights. I used the board after work about 4 times per week for three months, maybe 50 sessions in all. On my first trip to the Virgin River Gorge in March, I sent the route, and there’s no doubt in my mind, that it was all because of this thing. Below is the very first model V-Board, built in 2000.
What makes the V-Board different?
- Wood feels Good. First of all, the V-Board is handcrafted from hardwood, not poured from liquid plastic. So there’s no toxic chemicals in the product, but more importantly there’s no texture to “help” you cheat. The wood is Red Oak, so it’s built to last a lifetime, but it’s also very smooth and very slick, forcing you to ENGAGE all your little finger muscles and apply more FORCE to stay off the ground. It’s this extra force, that will give you the edge.
- Secondly, there are no weird or funky angles to create any overuse injuries in the wrist, elbows or shoulders. Many new boards today try to make their fingerboards look cool by adding big curves to them, great if you like the look, but not great if you want to get stronger safer and faster. On the V-board every hold is pulled on from a straight down position. So you can use it more often without any pain.
- Thirdly, there are NO pockets. In my experience, the curved sides of pockets make for another way to cheat. When you insert your finger and the side walls of the pocket GRAB your skin, that creates friction. This added friction is a crutch. Inversely, if you hang on flat edges, you eliminate the ability to cheat at all. Look at this picture of the late, great Wolfgang Gullich training mono’s. Not in a pocket, but on a flat edge, which is much harder to do – and harder is likely what made him stronger.
- Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, The V-Board is the first systematic finger board, what I mean is, it has been designed to create improvements whether you’re climbing 5.10 or 5.14. And even then, you’ll still be challenged by the V-Board. Nobody’s left behind. Look closely at the photo below and you’ll see the three different slopes cut into each rung. Imagine the same hold getting smaller and smaller and smaller - 9 times.
What does it look like? There is a warm up on the top, and two wooden strips to challenge yourself. Like a mini campus board, great for your dorm room, office or private dojo. The two edges get progressively smaller by exactly 1/4″ of an inch, and each edge contains 3 different curves or slopes, a.k.a round-overs. Each slope or round-over also gets progressively worse. So, as you master the first one, you can safely move onto the next, and the next, and so on and so fourth. The edges are curved, so it’s safe on your tendons as you evolve. Your fingers will get tired, but they won’t get injured. The smallest edge is 1/2″ on an inch with a 3/4″ round-over, so there’s really not much material left over to grab, which is precisely what we want when building finger strength.
Isn’t Hangboarding really boring? Well I suppose it could be, but so can falling off your dream project 200 times. I personally find it very motivating. It depends on how bad you want to improve. It doesn’t take much effort or time, starting with about two 30 minute sessions per week, and improving all the way up to 2 hours. The bottom line is, the sooner you get to work on the V-Board, the sooner you’ll develop more finger specific contact strength, more endurance and more confidence in your grip. The greatest benefit you’ll get from the V-Board is to use it sensibly, avoid injury, and gain strength over time. Imagine a year in quarters and months, not just days and weeks. Take your time and enjoy the process of getting stronger.
SIZE? Every board is cut precisely the exact same size. 27″ wide x 6.5″ tall x 2″ thick.
PRICE? To be announced. Price will include cost of shipping it to your front door anywhere in North America. For outside of the US or Canada, I will have to get you a quote. Please contact me with your mailing address. Pictured above and below is are examples of the V-Board system, each one is individually handcrafted here in Canmore, Alberta, Canada with solid cuts of Red Oak. When buying a finger board, and thinking about the cost of the board, think about it in terms of days, months and years. A gym membership costs $500 and lasts only one year.
CONTACT? – Please email me at email@example.com
DESIGN PHILOSOPHY AND INSPIRATION
I have loved climbing for as long as I can remember. When I think back to my teenage years, I recall flipping through old magazines and catalogs that featured amazing pictures of guys like Yvon Chouinard making their own pitons by hand. This concept captured me. After all, culture is driven by imagination.
As I discovered Yvon and his craftsmanship, I also discovered the world of surfing, and surfers who built their own surfboards. For years I have been in awe of guys like Gerry Lopez and Tom Wegener. Wegener turned me onto a culture of surfing artists who made wooden boards by hand, like Grain from Maine. Below is a happy Rick with a new Grain surfboard.
I love the idea that we don’t always have to buy the new, the complex, the toxic, the colorful, the plastic wrapped, but we can build something simple and beautiful and relatively organic with our own hands.
And so, between roadtrips and adventures, I began my journey to create a fingerboard that not only worked, but didn’t look half bad either. More and more friends began to email me, asking when they could have one. And finally, after more prototypes than I would like to remember, I finally unearthed the V-Board, and it’s exactly what I had hoped it would be.
photo collection by Andrew Burr
The V-Board name stems from the word VICE. Below are three reasons why…
- The first reason comes from my all-time climbing hero, the late Wolfgang Gullich. In his honorable biography at the front of the book, he’s quoted as saying something I’ll always remember – “We must ignore the notion of reaching for holds softly, because at our limit, there is nothing soft to reach for. Make your grip a vice, or forget it.” He was as smart as he was talented.
- The second reason is because we all have VICE’S in our lives. Some of us have multiple ones. Climbing could be a VICE, I am pretty sure it is for me:)
- Lastly, is because this particular VICE can actually increase your V grade as well. Not only that, but you can also use it as a tool to measure your bouldering progress.
So there you have it. Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, fire away.
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