The sports industry worldwide faces major disruption due to the effects of global warming in the next decades, according to recent studies.

Snowsports such as snowboarding, downhill skiing and sledding are likely to be most affected by climate change due to temperatures rising and glaciers shrinking in size. Nearly one third of all glaciers in Peru have melted away in the past two decades – an area which is equivalent of 80.000 soccer fields – and scientists at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) in Germany are worried that the pace of ice melting in the region is growing faster by the year. But even though there are no winter resorts or ski locations in Peru, local action sport lovers have found new ways to chase thrills down hill: the country is a pioneer for new land-based sports such as sandboarding and sand skiing.

Sandboarding
Sandboarding in Anna Bay, New South Wales, Australia

Snowboarding, but in the desert

Sandboarding is a relatively new sport, although some track its origins back to Ancient Egypt. It was popularized in South America in the early 1990s, when farmer Matías Grados Mora organized the very first sandboarding championships in Huacachina, Peru. Shortly after, the sport found its way to North America thanks to the contribution of Lon Beale, owner of the Sand Master Park – the first sport facility entirely dedicated to sandsports (e.g. sand boarding, sledding and skiing). The park is located in the city of Florence, Oregon. Today, variants of sandboarding are practiced on every continent where there are sand dunes, with the practice being especially widespread in desert areas. Because sliding can only be done on steep dunes away from vegetation, the practice of sandboarding is restricted to few, specific locations – but climate change may help make the sport more widespread.

With global warming raising and glaciers melting, will sand become the new snow?

Desertification has been described as “the greatest environmental challenge of our time” and it’s quickly changing the landscape of our planet. Not only the snow is melting, but soil is gradually become more arid due to the scarcity of rainfall. Over the past century, the Sahara desert — the world’s largest hot desert ‘— has expanded by a farther 10 percent, and scientists believe climate change to be partly responsible.

Surf sports are also endangered

The future of winter sports looks gloomy, but recreational summer activities are also at risk. Climate change is expected to have catastrophic effects on the surf industry by year 2050, with many surf spots disappearing or becoming less viable due to rising sea levels and shifts in wind patterns. Increasingly high levels of ocean warming and acidification are also expected to contribute to a loss of surfing habitat and a cause of concern for surfers.

While still niche, emerging sport practices seem to favor the experimentation of surf-like practices on different types of grounds and landscapes: grassboarding, landboarding, sand kiting, and volcano surfing (i.e. sandboarding on active volcanos) all quickly gaining traction in the world of action sports — and that’s just to name a few. Whether intentionally or not, athletes worldwide are accommodating a changing climate, and sport as we know it may not be around for much longer.

Intrigued by these new practices?

HISTORY AND ORIGINS OF SANDBOARDING

MAP OF SANDBOARDING LOCATIONS WORLDWIDE

Volcano boarding: where and how to surf on active volcanos

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