If you've seen a skateboard, you've probably seen grip tape, the typically black, sandpaper-like covering that adheres to the top of the board. As its name reveals, grip tape helps to provide more traction for staying stable on the board. Australian skating outfit Ramshackel believes that the grip tape market is in need of an update, which it provides with a woven hemp kit.
Ramshackel says the problem with grip tape is inherent: It wasn't originally designed to cover skateboards but to line stairs and slippery floor surfaces. While it works okay for skateboarding, Ramshackel believes that it's time to move past some of grip tape's shortcomings by offering a traction pad meant for skateboarding, and only skateboarding.
Unlike standard paper grip tape, which can be torn or ripped by hand, Ramshackel FGT Series woven hemp is durable enough that anyone other than Wolverine will have trouble tearing through it without a blade of some kind. The added durability is designed for reliable, long-lasting performance.
Installation of Ramshackel grip tape is fairly work-intensive and time-consuming when compared to the peel-stick-cut nature of regular grip tape. It takes at least two days to get it done.
The kit starts with a two-sided tape that's placed on the deck and then cut to size. Up until that point, it plays out similarly to installing traditional grip tape, but the process is just getting started instead of being complete. The 18-step process outlined on Ramshackel's website includes sticking the hemp grip to the tape, adding three coats of non-slip liquid compound, sprinkling in one of several grades of included powdered grip aggregate, and cutting the hemp to size.
Those who want to ride barefoot without a gritty, rough surface have things a little easier in only needing two coats of non-slip compound and no powder, but it's still a time-consuming process.
Ramshackel grip certainly won't be great for those that want to slap on a gritty sticker and get out to the skatepark, but in addition to being more durable than other grip tapes, the grip is renewable. Once the grittiness wears off and the deck smooths out, the skater can simply add more compound and grip aggregate, rather than replacing the tape. Grip tape isn't necessarily expensive, but removing it can be a pain, so being able to "refresh" it should prove much easier to folks that regularly rip or wear out tape but don't want to constantly replace the whole deck.
Ramshackel was a finalist for an ISPO BrandNew Award for the FGT design. Its kits are available now in four colors: natural, black, blue tie dye and red tie dye. They retail for AUS$40 to $60 (about the same when converted to US dollars), depending upon size. Ramshackel also plans to expand its line with more colors and styles in the future.
The idea for a better, renewable grip tape sounds good, but the price seems steep. You can buy a new skate deck for the price Ramshackel is charging for its FGT kit and add a piece of grip tape for $5. And what happens if and when you break a deck with $40 worth of FGT hemp on it? Ramshackel's director Craig Harris confirmed that the company has not tried to remove an FGT grip from one skateboard and put it on another, so it's possible that a broken board will equate to a lost Ramshackel.
The quality seems like it's there, but Ramshackel may need to streamline the kit (by only offering one type of aggregate, for example) and bring the price down for it to catch on. Harris told us that Ramshackel is mindful of the price and is hoping to ramp up investment dollars to buy materials in bulk and/or license its design to a larger skate company to manufacture and distribute on its own.