Swakop sandboarding

Sandboarding is a popular activity in many countries these days. Pretty much everywhere you have dunes, you will find companies advertising sandboarding. There are a lot of varieties to this and the best one I’ve done was in Swakopmund, or Swakop, in Namibia.

It was all arranged via Alter Action. In the morning they brought a van to my hostel to pick me up and together with the other sandboarders I was driven into the desert. There were two options to choose from; standing up like a snowboard or lying down like on a water slide.

I chose the snowboard version as my main event, even though I had no real snowboarding experience. Time to pick up the gear and go. In the heavy snowboard boots, walking in the desert wasn’t easy. It was early in the morning, but sun was already bright and hot. Luckily it started to get a bit overcast. I dragged my snowboard up the 138m high dune. It was like I was climbing Dune 45 all over again.

Sandboarding in the dunes

Sandboarding in the dunes

At the top of the hill stood a big jar with wax. Before each ride the snowboard needed a thick layer of it. Snowboarding on a dune is quite different from on a mountain. The snow is slippery and fast, whereas the sand slows you down. You get stuck if you turn your board the wrong way. Balance is very important. Furthermore, sand is a whole lot more uncomfortable when it gets into your pants, boots and hair!

Before you know it you are at the bottom, looking up and thinking ‘why did I choose to do this again?’. The big climb is worse the second time, but it couldn’t stop me. As an alternative I also tried the lying down style. I was lying on top of a flexible piece of wood, head pointing down the hill. As you went down you had to tap your feet into the sand to control speed and hold the front of the board up with your hands. They clocked the speed; 65 km/h for me.

65 km/h down the hill

65 km/h down the hill

As if the adrenaline wasn’t pumping already, they’d built a ramp in the sand. I watched some people go, some people fall, and some people skip it. Even though my courage was trying to run away I did it anyway. My first attempt was a big fail before I even reached the ramp, but the second time was the winner. I launched myself, managed to keep standing and balancing, and landed it. Well… just after that I fell, but the glory wasn’t any less.

Yes, I'm leaning backwards. Road to failure

Yes, I’m leaning backwards. Road to failure

The price was that we were going back to the city and I got to take a nice cool shower to get rid of all the sand. Please try sandboarding on a snowboard. If you are ever in Swakop, this company is great. Expect victory, failure, fear and laughs. Most of all, expect sand in your ear as a souvenir to take home.

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