Sandboarding: A History and Learning the Basics

Sandboarding came about at around the same time as snowboarding, but failed to gain in popularity until about 10 years ago.

The winter season in many regions of the world means packing up snowboarding gear and heading to the closest ski resort. In other regions, the beach and warm temperatures characterize the season. For those who are interested in snowboarding but don’t live in or near the “proper” environment, sandboarding is another great option.

Rather than mountaintops, it’s sand dunes that are the home of this action sport. While coastal areas and deserts have helped establish the sport, there are also a number of man-made sandboarding parks that have been created as well. Unlike ski resorts that are only open during specific times of the year (at least for snowboarding), most sand dunes are available all year for use.

Though sandboarding first came about in the 1970s, it failed to really take off until about 10 years ago. For a while, people were trying to use the same boards that were meant for the snow, but encountered a number of problems such as lack of speed. This led to sandboard manufacturers focusing on technology specific to the sport.

A board with a much stronger base was created, made mostly of formica or laminex materials. Most of the terrain boards are made of hardwood ply, with full-size sandboards made of wood, fiber glass, or plastic composite. In order to glide effectively and reach maximum speed, boards must be waxed before a run, typically with a paraffin-based sandboard wax.

This is a unique sport that is only available in select environments, but the ones suited for it seem to have taken full advantage. Australia has a number of well-known sandboarding locations, but others include Egypt, Namibia, South Africa, Nicaragua, Peru, Chile, and Germany. In the United States, Florence, Oregon is the most popular because it houses the world’s first sandboard park—Sand Master Park. It has 40 acres of sculpted sand dunes and opened its doors in 2000. About 25,000 new people visit the park each year.

The sport has gained enough attention to merit a number of competitions including the Sandboarding World Championship, which was held each year in Germany until 2007, the Sand Master Jam, the Pan-American Sandboarding Challenge, and the Sand Sports Super Show.

Getting started

First, plan your sandboarding for either the early morning or early evening to avoid the high temperatures of the sand midday. Make sure to sandboard only in designated areas and where there is only sand, as the board will damage the roots of plants if they are scattered on the dunes. If you’re worried about sinking too much money into sandboarding, most places where the sport is popular have sandboard rentals. If it’s possible, call ahead to reserve your rental.

If you’re not only new to sandboarding, but have never tried snowboarding either, it might be in your best interest to either have a friend who is experienced in the sport tag along, or hire an instructor for an hour or so until you get the hang of it. The movement is almost identical—once you get accustomed to the sand—so snowboarders should find that adapting is somewhat simple. As with most new sports, start small. After you’ve mastered the small dunes, head to larger ones.

Probably the most difficult feature of sandboarding is the lack of lifts, like those that are present at ski resorts. Sandboarders must either hike back up to the top of the dune or employ the services of a dune buggy that can drive them back to the top after each run.

Check out the instructional video below that features Oregon’s Sand Master Park.

Image from Raphael Koerich on the Wikimedia Commons

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