What is volcano boarding?

Volcano Boarding (also Volcano Surfing, or Lavaboarding) is an extreme sport performed sliding down volcano slopes. It is entirely similar to sandboarding except it is practiced on active volcanoes in which a recent eruption has generated a dune of ashes and hardened lava. It has become a popular activity and tourist attraction in many countries such as Nicaragua, Indonesia and Vanuatu.

File:Cerro Negro Volcano - Near Leon - Nicaragua - 06 (31609315435).jpg
Volcano boarders in Cerro Negro, Nicaragua. Photo courtesy of Adam Jones.

Is volcano boarding dangerous?

Sandboarding volcanos on days with no volcanic activity is relatively safe, but accidents are not uncommon. It goes without saying, but volcanic ashes and rocks are hot and more painful to crash on than soft sand. Boarding when a volcano is in activity is not recommended as it poses additional risks of being hit by flying molten lava, ash and debris, and inhaling toxic – and potentially lethal – volcanic gases. Injuries from volcano boarding can be very serious and lend you at the hospital.

Have there been any serious volcano boarding accidents or deaths?

As of 2020, there have been no reported deaths caused by volcano boarding, although accidents do happen sometimes. Keep in mind that volcano eruptions can happen quite suddenly and you should always rely on local government information regarding whether it is safe to visit a volcanic area or not at any given time. Furthermore, there have been cases of people dying while sandboarding on “regular” sand dunes – so make sure to always wear safety gear and adequate clothing, and to cautiously follow precaution guidelines from your instructors.

What should you wear when volcano boarding?

Compared to regular sandboarding clothing, wearing a protective suit and goggles is a must when surfing on active volcanos. Gloves, hiking boots, long pants, and long sleeves are recommended, as well as scarfs or similar cloth pieces that can be used to protect your mouth from flying debris while gliding down the volcano.

What precautions should I take before going volcano boarding?

Wherever you go volcano boarding, keep an eye on the local news and warning issues by the local authorities. They will usually track volcanic activities and advise tourists on whether  it is safe to visit the location and what distance to keep from the main crater. 

Volcano Boarding
Cerro Negro Volcano, Nicaragua. Photo courtesy of Ben Turnbull.

Where can you go volcano boarding in 2020?

1. Cerro Negro – Leon, Nicaragua.

Cerro Negro is an active volcano in the Cordillera de los Maribios mountain range in Nicaragua, about 10 km (6.2 mi) from the village of Malpaisillo. One of Nicaragua’s youngest and most active volcanoes, Cerro Negro (lit. “the black hill”) is currently the top destination for volcano boarding. It last erupted in 1999, when lava created what is now an ash-covered dune. In the early 2000s, someone had the crazy idea to try and slide down the volcano – on a mattress. Nowadays, you can rent a sandboard and join a tour.

Read more: Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua

2. Mount Bromo – East Java, Indonesia.

Mount Bromo is a more recent volcanoboarding destination, with its latest eruption dating 2015. Rather than a mount, it is a volcanic plateau, giving the suggestive feeling that you are skiing on the surface on the moon rather than on a deadly active volcano. It is located in the main Indonesian island of Java.

3. Mount Yasur – Tanna Island, Vanuatu.

The Republic of Vanuatu comprises a group of small islands in the pacific ocean. Despite its size, this country has not one, but nine (!) active volcanoes, some of which underwater. The volcanoes themselves are the main tourist attraction of Vanuatu, with Mount Yasur on Tanna Island being the most popular. 

4. Mount Etna – Catania, Italy.

The largest active volcano in Europe is located in the wonderful island of Sicily in Southern Italy. Skiing on Mt. Etna when it is covered in snow during the winter months is nothing new, but it’s only recently that people have started bringing their own sandboards to enjoy some summer gliding down volcanic ashes. Mind though – unlike other places in this list, there is no dedicated sport facility for sandboarding, which means you will have to go independently. For experts only!

5. Stromboli – Aeolian Islands, Italy.

Another Sicilian volcano, located in the Aeolian Island of the same name. There have been some successful attempts by amateurs to volcanoboard in Stromboli. As for Mount Etna, there are no official tours taking you to Stromboli and it is not reccommended to go there unless you know what you are doing. Stay safe.

Volcano surfing in Hawaii?

With the rise of volcano boarding as the latest crazy fad for adrenaline seekers, it may seem surprising that the Hawaiian sandboarding scene hasn’t grown more. The main island of Hawaii, after all, resulted from the eruption of five volcanos – two of which are still active! Unfortunately, no slopes on the island are currently suitable for volcano boarding: the peak of Mauna Kea is covered with snow and better suited for “winter” sports, while the one-million-years-old Kohala is covered in beautiful vegetation. Younger volcanoes in the achipelago – such as Loihi, Hualalai, and Haleakala – are active to date and could become potential volcano boarding destinations if a new eruption causes lava flow to generate a steep slope, similar to what happened in Cerro Negro in 1999. In the meanwhile, “sandboarding” is limited to smaller slopes of several hawaiaan beaches such as Sunset Beach, Big Beach Makena, Green Sand Beach – and it’s often practiced with a skimboard.

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