Sandboarding is relatively easy if you use proper equipment and follow a few basic steps. Surfing and sledding down sand dunes can feel like a daunting experience because of this type of terrain is not very slippery and as board friendly as, say, snow – but when done right, it turns out to be a lot of fun and will leave you thirsty for more.

Sandboarding checklist


Before your trip

  • Check for available sandboard rental stores near your destination
  • Alternatively, you can buy your own sandboard (for standing) or sand sled (for sitting / bodyboarding)
  • If bringing your own equipment don’t forget to bring sandboard wax
  • Check whether your travel insurance covers sandboarding 
  • Check what are the most appropriate sandboard-friendly clothes based on your location (desert or beach)
  • Check the weather. Even the driest locations can be occasionally hit by rain and wet sand makes sandboarding impraticable. Strong winds and sand storms can also ruin your plans, so watch out for weather alerts a few days before you leave.

At the site

  • Consider joining an organized tour if this is your first time sandboarding or if you are in a foreign location with very tall dunes or difficult types of terrain (e.g. if you are volcanoboarding).
  • If you have the option to, you can use a sand buggy or quad to climb on top of the dune. Otherwise, you’ll have to hike on foot.
  • Leave your belongings somewhere safe – including phone and wallet – and don’t wear anything that you care about. Anything that you have on yourself when dune surfing will end up lost or covered in sand!
  • Make sure to wear sunscreen and have access to plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.

On top of the dune

  • Place your sand board or sled on the ground, with the base facing you, and apply wax thoroughly to make it slippery. Covering every inch, including the edges. You don’t need to wax the top side of the board, only the base. Pour a bit of sand on the base with your hand to make sure that it doesn’t stick.
  • This is a good time to wear your goggles, face cover, and gloves if you have any.
  • For sandboarding: 
    • Place your feet on top of the board. Ideally your board will have sandboard bindings or foot straps. If not, stick to smaller dunes. 
    • Slightly bent your knees and use your dominant leg to push the board forward across the dune until you are finally off the edge, using your body weight as a motor.
  • For dune sledding: 
    • Either sit on the board (up to two people) or lay down on your belly. Some sleds come with hand grip holders – make use of them!
    • Whether you are sitting or lying on your belly, you can use both of your arms to push yourself off the dune.
    • Try to use your body to keep your weight centered while you are sliding. Raise your chin and legs to maintain balance.

After ride

  • Congratulations, you did it! Hopefully in one piece. Take some time to recharge, clean the sand off every inch of your being, and drink some water.
  • That was fun, wasn’t it? Time to do that all over again! Remember that you will have to hike back on top of the dune and re-wax your board after every ride.

Basic sandboarding maneuvers

Side Slipping

This simple exercise is good for two things when learning how to sandboard. Firstly to learn how to stop and secondly how to keep those edges up. Without knowing those two techniques you will be eating lots of sand.

Start on the slope of the dune standing with your toes pointing downhill. Dig your heels in and keep your toes up. You shouldn’t be going anywhere. Now drop your toes down so that the board is almost flat. You should start to slide down hill. Slow yourself down by lifting up your toes and digging your heels in. Then try that facing up the hill with your toes dug in the sand. Lower your heels to slide backwards and lift them up to slow down. Catching that edge can make you fall real hard so get it right.

Stopping

So you are riding straight now. You can’t continue to learn how to sandboard until you can to stop. Get some speed on a straight run which flattens out. As you hit the flat sand you are going to slide the back leg out so that you are facing down the slope.

To do this move your weight onto your front foot by pushing forward with your hips. Rotate your shoulders and hips frontside. Now Lift those toes and slide that backfoot out. When you are sliding centre your weight onto both feet and slide evenly. This takes a bit of practice to get this right. Don’t get into the habit of using this technique for slowing down whilst riding it tends to take the wax off the base really quickly. When you want to slow yourself down make small quick turns to slow down a little and bigger sharper turns to slow down a lot.

Turning

Now this can be the most difficult when learning how to sandboard. On some dunes where it is compact it is difficult and other dunes that are soft and aerated it is easy to turn.

When learning how to sandboard you will work out how sharp you can turn depending on the sand and its condition at that particular dune. Normally on dry sand you can dig your edges in deep and turn fairly sharp and on wet sand you can’t. If you turn too sharp you will wear your wax off on one edge of the base and it will start to grab making it difficult to go straight. The trick is to turn small amounts on either side of the board in difficult conditions.

Lets start turning. Start off by trying to turn one direction a time. Start riding straight down the hill. To turn on your toe side your weight must be centered now start the turn by pushing your knees forward and lifting your heel slightly. Hold it in this position and you will start to cut across the dune.

Your body position in sandboarding is extremely important. Stay in the upright centered position with your hips shoulders and eyes all in line with the board. With a sharp turn you will rotate your hips so that they are pointed in the direction of where you are turning and your body will lean into the turn. You body still stays upright, don’t bend your back at this point. This is a very fine movement and you don’t need to twist your body madly or slide your back foot to turn.

To turn on your heel side you will ride straight. Lift your toes to bring your board onto the heel edge. Keep your weight forward. Your hips and shoulders will turn slightly to the direction of the turn. Hold it there and you will turn. When turning there is a delay as you lift your board on edge, wait for it to ingage before you turn sharper. Note that your body is turning with the board so that your board shoulders and hips are all in one line.

Linking turns

When linking turns you are going to turn first to the left then the right.

Start of by turning onto your toe edge. You should be turning now and leaning slightly into the turn. Drop your heal edge and lift your toes. As your heal edge starts to turn you will lean into the turn. As you turn your hips shoulders and eyes follow the direction of the board. Now turn the other way.

It is important to remember when learning how to sandboard that you need to go on to your edge first before you lean into the turn but at the same time remaining upright through the whole movement.

Don’t ride too far on your back leg this gives you less control when turning and cause you to pick up speed quickly.

Ready for more advanced maneuvers? Learn about sandboarding jumps and tricks

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