Hey everyone, if you are worried about the snow melting and love to snowboard, don’t worry you can still go for it in the sand by sandboarding.
Sandboarding is a boardsport and extreme sport similar to snowboarding. It is a recreational activity and takes place on sand dunes rather than snow-covered mountains. It involves riding across or down a dune while standing with both feet strapped to a board, though some sandboarders use a board without bindings. Sandboarding can also be practiced sitting down or lying on the belly or the back. Typical sandboarding equipment usually involves a sandboard (although some sandboarders use sleds, surfboards, or snowboards), bindings, and possibly boots.
The sport that was never quite considered an “official sport” is usually practiced in large, steep coastal dunes, and even in hot deserts where oceans and water are only a mirage.
Sandboarding is a blend between surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding. Instead of descending water, asphalt, or snow, a sandboard rides down or across the dune’s face.
The lost art of sandboarding is an old practice, though. Believe it or not, the Ancient Egyptians already used wood planks to slide down the dunes and transport heavy cargo.
The sport, also known as dune surfing or sand surfing, requires a specially-shaped board, gloves, goggles, a helmet, knee and elbow pads. Some pilots also apply sandboard wax to increase grip.
Remember that the majority of dunes located in beaches are extremely sensitive. In many cases, sandboarding can destroy the fragile ecosystem and alter the sand movement dynamics of a particular area.
So, make sure you know where you’re carving the dune with your sandboard. The good news is that some of the best sandboarding spots in the world are located in regions where nature is not harmed when you enjoy the thrill of speed.
In sandboarding, the quality of the ride not only depends on dune steepness but also on the quality and type of sand. The equipment under your feet is also important.
There are sandboards of several sizes, but they often range from 4-to-6 feet. The most common templates are square tails, twin tips, and swallow tails. Formica and wood are the preferred core materials.
Sandboards usually include bindings, straps, or bungees, so that you never lose control of the plank. The world’s first sandboard park is located in Lane County, Central Oregon. The Sand Master Park offers lessons, rentals, ramps, sliders, and free ride zones.
The sport crowns its champions at the Sandboarding World Championships; Dune Riders International (DRI) is the governing body for all international competitions, which also includes a World Tour with several stages in North America and South America.
Best Places for Sandboarding
Huacachina is an oasis in the desert of Southern Peru. Far from Machu Picchu and the forests of the Amazon, this region of Western South America is well off the tourist trail. However, those who venture here find one of the world’s best sandboarding and skiing destinations. The dunes of Huacachina stretch all the way to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Not only are the steep slopes ideal for sand sports, but they are also very picturesque, with peaks and valleys that resemble sandy waves. In-the-know adventurers flock to Huacachina, and the small town’s economy is almost entirely focused on dune skiing and sandboarding. Dune buggies and 4×4 vehicles take thrill seekers to the highest peaks in the area. Sandboarding is a popular sport in Peru, and there are several areas besides Huacachina that draw athletes and even host competitions.
Point Mugu Sand Dunes, Calif.
The Point Mugu Sand Dunes are located just north of the famous California beach town of Malibu. The slopes are relatively gentle here compared to some of the other places on our list. However, the views are spectacular, and the runs are long. With the right equipment, boarders can still reach high speeds. Aside from thrill seekers, Mugu draws people who come to view dolphins and whales in the water off the coast. Because of its proximity to Los Angeles, this is a place where many people try sandboarding for the first time.
Negev Desert, Israel
With the Mediterranean Sea to the West and green mountains in the North, the Southern half of Israel is arid desert. The soft sand dunes of the Negev Desert provide ideal conditions for dune riders. Some of the best slopes are found in the desert outside the city of Beer Sheva. Tour companies often include a stop at the dunes on a jeep tour of the Negev, though it is also possible to head out to the slopes for some boarding action without a tour guide. Steep and speedy runs can be found here, as can gentler routes suitable for children. Young children can even give it a try by using a sit-down sled instead of a stand-up board.
Viña del Mar, Chile
Viña del Mar, Chile, is located on the picturesque Pacific Coast of South America. This place is the most accessible of several noteworthy Chilean sand-sport destinations. The high Atacama Desert draws adventurous boarders, while Punta de Choros also boasts steep slopes. A city of about 300,000, Viña del Mar is a dune destination that has plenty of other attractions as well. But the towering sand hills, raised to their impressive height by the endless winds that blow in from the Pacific, are certainly one of the most attractive features in the area. Both locals and tourists board here, so there is a lively and social atmosphere. The one drawback is that you have to climb to the top of the dunes on foot unless you have access to a four-wheeler.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colo.
Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park holds some of the most impressive landscapes in the United States. Wind has been funneled through the San Luis Valley for centuries, raising the sandy peaks of this southern section of Colorado to a height of more than 750 feet. Visitors are allowed to ski, sled or board anywhere in the dunes that is not covered by vegetation. As the temperatures drop each night, the winds pick up, covering tracks and removing any evidence of the previous day’s activities. As in Viña del Mar, you have to climb the hills on foot, which can be physically taxing for anyone who is not fit. However, many people liken the experience of skiing or boarding at Great Sand Dunes to back-country alpine sports. Simply grab your equipment and explore, seeking out the runs and lines that you think will provide the biggest thrills.
The Maldives is an island nation covered with white-sand beaches, surprisingly similar in color and softness to the powdery snow that alpine enthusiasts enjoy. This low-altitude country (which has long been in danger because of rising sea levels) does not have the highest sand slopes on earth, but there are some spots for skiing, sledding and boarding. The small island of Fuvahmulah, for example, boasts wide beaches that feature gently-sloping dunes. And unlike many of the best sandboarding and skiing spots, most of which are located in desolate desert landscapes, the Maldives has the added bonus of being an idyllic, tropical paradise.
Cerro Negro, Nicaragua, offers a different kind of setting for sandboarding. This is a very active volcano, which last erupted in 1999. Boarding takes place on the cinder cone, which is covered with black pebbles and ash from past eruptions. The surface is a bit harder than that of a sand dune, leading many boarders to wear knee and elbow pads or even helmets. Several companies offer sandboarding tours of Cerro Negro. These usually include boards and safety equipment. But some visitors simply slide down on a piece of cardboard or even run down the steep slopes on foot.
Sand Master Park, Ore.
Sand Master Park, in Florence, Oregon, is one of the first sport-specific parks in the world for sandboarding. Many runs and features are sprawled over this 40-acre park, which sits near the Pacific Ocean. The annual Sand Master Jam competition takes place each summer, drawing the best freestyle boarders on earth. An onsite pro shop and optional sandboarding lessons make Sand Master Park a great place for novices. Meanwhile, ramps, rails and other “trick” features mean that the world’s best boarders have plenty of options for displaying their skills.
The sandboard base is much harder than a snowboard and is built mostly out of formica or laminex with special base materials now being made for this sport. To glide in the sand, the board bottom is often waxed, usually with a paraffin-based sandboard wax, before a run. Afterwards, the bottom of the board may have a lightly sanded look to it, while ‘Race Base’ tends to polish smoother and glossier with use. Most terrain sandboards are composed of hardwood ply, while ‘full-size’ sandboards are a wood, fiber glass, and plastic composite. However, a snowboarding base will sometimes work on steeper dunes.
Sandboarding World Championship – The SWC was held annually in Hirschau (until 2007), Germany at Monte Kaolino, currently also the site of Europe’s largest sand hill. Riders can board down dunes over 300 feet (91 m) tall, riding into a water landing site at the base of the hill. It has a sand lift, the only one in the world. Events include slalom (akin to snowboarding’s parallel giant slalom), freestyle (similar to freestyle snowboarding) and sandboard cross (cf. snowboard cross).
Sand Master Jam – Annual sandboarding event that takes place in Florence, Oregon at Sand Master Park. This event occurs in late spring or early summer. The Sand Master Jam has been held since 1996.
Pan-American Sandboarding Challenge – This event takes place in July in Aquiraz, Ceara, Brazil at Prainha’s Beach. It features amateurs and professionals who wish to compete in freestyle and jump events.
Sand Sports Super Show – Annual outdoor event for all sand sports, including sandboarding. This three-day event takes place in September in Costa Mesa, California at the Orange County Fair and Expo Center.
Sandboarding is a great option when the surf’s poor, the snow’s gone, or the skateboarding areas are crowded. This activity combines elements of snowboarding, surfing, and skating, allowing you to board on sand dunes instead of snow or water. To sandboard, start by getting the proper board and protective gear. Then, find sand dunes nearby and do a first run. You can also try stopping and turning on a sandboard. With enough practice, you’ll be boarding down the dunes with ease in no time.
Rent a sandboard at a facility close to a sand dune. Many areas with sand dunes offer a rental service where you can rent a sandboard for a small fee, usually around $20-$25 USD. Check if there is a rental area in spots near you with sand dunes or in areas you are planning to visit. Renting a sandboard may be a good option if you do not want to have to buy a sandboard right away.
Repurpose a snowboard or surfboard you don’t plan on using again. In a pinch, you can use a snowboard or surfboard you already own to try sandboarding. A snowboard with a square or twin tail is ideal. A smaller surfboard, sometimes called a boogie board, is good for sandboarding, as it will not be too long. Make sure the snowboard or surfboard is smooth on both sides, so it will glide well on the sand.
Buy a sandboard at a local surf shop or online. Sandboards are usually made of wood, metal, or plastic. They should be about 9 to 12 millimetres (0.35 to 0.47 in) thick, 140 to 160 centimetres (55 to 63 in) wide, and 100 to 120 centimetres (39 to 47 in) long. Get a longer or shorter board based on your size and height. Look for a board with a square or twin tail so it glides nicely on the sand.
Sandboards can be pricy, ranging from $150-$200 USD.
Get a sandboard with bindings if you plan to board standing up. Bindings are straps that are attached to the board and are designed to hold your feet in place when you are on the board. If you prefer to glide down the dunes on your stomach, you do not need a board with bindings.
Most surf shops, and some snowboard shops, will offer sandboards. Talk to a sale representative in the store to find the right board for you.
Wear a helmet and protective gear. You can go fairly fast on a sandboard, especially if you find a good dune that slopes downhill. Make sure you always wear a helmet and elbow pads to protect your head and arms. You can also wear knee pads if you are riding the sandboard standing up.
You should also wear sunscreen with at least 15 SPF, sunglasses, preferably with anti-glare, and long sleeves to protect yourself from the sun when you are out on the dunes.
Head out to the sand dunes early in the morning to avoid the heat. Aim to be out on the dunes by 8-9 am so you can enjoy a few hours of sandboarding before the day heats up. Going to the sand dunes early can also help you avoid sandstorms and bad weather that tends to hit in the midafternoon in desert areas. In the spring, it can get pretty windy in the afternoons around sand dunes. Avoid going out in the afternoons in the spring if you want to have a few good runs on the sandboard.
If you haven’t tried it, sandboarding is a blast, and as fun as snowboarding or surfing in its own way!