Sandboarding is a recreational activity, an extreme sport, much like snowboarding but less widely available. It’s difficult to build a lift in the sand dunes making sandboarding less available. With all regards, it has become the deserts coolest sport and a draw for current skiers, snowboarders and even wakeboarders which resembles the motions of these sports. There are even a handful of organized sandboarding competitions around the world.
March 18, 2016, During my visit to Namibia and my safari through Etosha National Park and Swakopmund I had the option to do a little sandboarding. Just minutes away from the city of Swakopmund are the dunes of the Namib Desert. I had been contemplating about participating in the sport during my visit but had second thoughts when I arrived in the city. I had never skied or snowboarded and heard of the injuries people have suffered racing down the ski slopes so I had second thoughts. I talked myself into participating in this extreme sport by telling myself that sand is much softer and more giving than a snowpack. And, how often am I going to have the opportunity to participate in this. The dunes are only minutes from Swakopmund and I was on my way after a quick breakfast. After brief instructions, a snowboarding for dummies group conversation, from our instructor and choosing our equipment, we were on our way. The dune was approximately 300 feet high and very steep.
The walk to the top of the dune was grueling and the most difficult part of sandboarding. With no lift and the lack of machines like quads not available to help with the climb to the top, it made for a painful experience. The dunes were part of a protected national park and machines were not available. Looking down this steep dune could have weekend my resolve but for some reason I couldn’t wait to take my turn down the sand. I went second among the beginners of the group of about 40 people in total. My first run down the dune was fairly slow with multiple involuntary stops as this was my first time boarding, anywhere,… ever. After the initial run, I started the walk up to the dune for my second run and I realized that this would be the hardest part of the day. The sand acted like quicksand after every step with the large boarding boots.
The second run went much better with my speed increased along with my confidence but not without a couple of spills, landing on my ass. Before my third run I spotted my safari transport arriving to pick me up for the rest of my 4 day safari. I knew this 3rd run would be my last one and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do the lie-down board either. I had to make this one count. I dropped in and came to a quick unexpetected and involuntary stop, rooky mistake, so it didn’t start so well.
I restarted and I quickly picked up speed and the instructors notice my speed and cheered me on. My speed had improved exponentially which made my adrenaline sky rocket. With the speed came a higher chance of danger. Towards the bottom of dune, I had the biggest spill tumbling down the bottom of the hill and almost crashing into Nattia, a member of my safari group that I had planned the day with. That wouldn’t have gone well. This near miss gave us the opportunity to say our goodbyes as this was the end of my sandboarding experience.
My decision to sandboard was an undeniable success and one of the most thrilling experiences of my eventful trek through Africa. My experience was without any serious injuries and it gave me sense of accomplishment that I could do anything.
Disclosure: I take great pride in the fact that 99% of the photos on my blog are mine but for this article I had to rely on the photos from the tour group. I want to thank Alter Action Sandboarding for my experience on the dunes and for providing these photos.