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Utah Man Masters Disability, Finds Joy In Building Custom Longboards

“Five Finger long boards, I started this… oh… probably about 4 years ago," Andy Giles said.

Giles’s garage is his workshop where he builds custom longboards.

One wall is covered in long planks of wood. There are dozens of different colors. One half of the garage is taken up with a large work bench. Another has a saw. As he cuts the wood into the shape of a board, the smell fills the air. It smells like a freshly sharpened pencil. Now he’ll continue to perfect the shape.

“I'll sand it all up and then it will be ready for finish," Giles said. "But I’ve probably got a couple hours of sanding and working on that to get that the final shape."

The wood is inlaid and laminated in dozens of designs.

“These are the skins. It’s glued up like this one that I call a random feather. It looks like a feather and that’s why it’s called that way," Giles said. "I’ve taken different woods. There’s walnut, mahogany, some maple in here.”

Giles tries to show off the craftsmanship of his boards, because he put so much effort into making the patterns. There’s no grip tape on the top of the boards.

“I actually put beaded glass, or crushed glass in the finish as I do it," Giles said. "Then that gives the board the texture, but then you don’t lose the look of the design in the board and all that.” 

After all this work, his daughter Zoe helps with the finishing touches.

“I’ll come out and mess around and help him," Zoe Giles said. "Mainly, I like to put the trucks and the wheels together. That’s really fun. I don’t know why, but that’s really fun for me to do.”

As Andy works, there’s one thing that could get in his way, but he refuses to let it.

"If I had two hands this would be easier, right Zoe?” Giles said to his daughter as he works on shaping the wood.

Andy was born without fingers on his right hand.

“The reason why I call it Five-Finger Longboard is I have a birth defect," Giles said. "And I started learning woodworking when I was 14 years old. I had a shop teacher that, pulled me aside  and was really concerned about my abilities of being able to work with one hand and being able to use the equipment.

"Sorry. I get emotional. But I never told him in his face. I says mentally, ‘You don’t know what I can do.’”

Andy has been woodworking for 30 years. He said he’s had a good career and a long life loving woodworking.

“I took it as a challenge, and so sometimes when you take a challenge and we succeed at it, then it becomes a great strength to us," Giles said.

He said he’s tried to keep a positive perspective while working.

“I’ll joke about it. I’m more on the positive side about my hand being more of a gift to me than a weakness. And so the reason why I come up with the longboard company is to hopefully get these kids that are struggling in life a little bit, to do something that they enjoy doing," Giles said. "Whether they have a disability or something like that. You can do whatever you want if you just put your mind to it.”