Last Updated on August 7, 2023

Sand skiing is a sport that involves gliding down sand dunes on specially designed skis.

It is a relatively new sport, but it is quickly gaining popularity, especially in areas with large sand dunes, such as the Sahara Desert and the Namib Desert.

If sandboarding is somewhat already established – or at least, widely practiced – as a sport, sand skiing could very well become the next big thing after Swedish olympic freeskiers Jesper Tjäder and Emma Dahlström filmed themselves with a GoPro while skiing down Cerro Blanco, Peru’s tallest sand dune.

In Namibia, sand-skiing is already popular, thanks to the efforts of German-born Henrik May who has lived in the country for over 10 years and popularized the sport by setting a new Guiness World Record for speed while skiing down a dune back in 2010.

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Man sand skiing on sand dunes
Sand-skiing. Photo courtesy of Martin GH.

What is sand skiing

As the name suggests, sand-skiing is the practice of skiing on sand dunes, generally on beach or desert terrains.

This sport can be practiced with regular ski gear such as ski poles, or with a cable ski setup while being carried by a vehicle, similar to waterskiing.

Sand skiing is different from sandboarding (“dune surfing”) mainly in the type of equipment used (i.e. sandskis instead of sandboards).

Can you ski on sand?

Skiing on sand is totally doable! Like sandboarding and sand sledding, you will likely need to apply sand wax to the bottom of your ski poles in order to reduce friction.

Sand has a dynamic coefficient friction of 0.55 compared to snow’s 0.03, which makes it almost 20 times less slippery compared to snow.

You will damage your skis if you use them on dry sand without proper waxing, so make sure not to skip this essential step. 

Sand skiing vs snow skiing

There are two different ways you can practice sand skiing: sliding down a dune (sand dune skiing), or cable skiing across the land (desert skiing).

The former is virtually the same as sandboarding, except practiced with a pair of skis instead of a board.

As long as your equipment is properly waxed, sliding on sand shouldn’t feel too different from sliding on snow – except that you won’t be wearing heavy winter clothes.

Desert skiing with a rope will feel more similar to water skiing except that you won’t get wet, but rather covered in sand.

Sand kite surfing also often makes use of skis paired with a kite and the power of wind to move you across soft sand.

Desert skiing with a cable attached to a car.
Desert skiing is practiced with a cable attached to an off-road vehicle. Photo courtesy of Olivier Lepetit.

Is sandskiing dangerous?

There have been many reports of people having sandboarding accidents and even dying, therefore sand skiing poses some risks.

Whenever you go ski on sand dunes, make sure to follow local instructions, wear proper clothing and double check that your travel insurance covers sand skiing.

You can get a quote from, which covers a wide range of activities and extreme sports on sand, including sand-skiing, depending on your destination and country of residence. Make sure to double check that the coverage applies to your country of residence and destination.

We receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is not a recommendation to buy travel insurance. Activities covered may change based on your destination and country of residence.

Where can you ski on sand dunes

The aforementioned Huacachina oasis in Peru is easily one of the best spots for sand skiing (and any sand related activity, really).

That said, Namibia can possibly be considered the capital of sand skiing, it is there – on the dunes of Swakopmund, that the current Guinness World Record holder for faster sand-skiing got his achievement.

Other locations where sand skiing is practiced are Monte Kaolino in Germany – the only sport facility in the world dedicated to sand skiing – and in the Kalahari desert in southern Africa.

In the US, the man-made Sand Mountain near Fort Meade in Florida used to be a popular sand skiing spot in the 50s that unfortunately does not exist anymore.

Pretty much any other location where sand surfing and sledding are practiced is also suitable for sand skiing, and some people even attempted skiing on active volcanoes.

Man sand skiing on Monte Kaolino, Germany. Photo courtesy of Skinarr.

History of sand skiing

The earliest recorded attempt at sand skiing dates back to 1927 when French athlete and military aviator Marie Marvingt created special aluminum skis for an experimental medevac airplane to land in the Sahara desert.

Some time later, she started a ski school in Morocco, advocating for the use of aluminum skis on sand dunes.

More recently, German-born athlete Henrik May popularized the practice of dune-skiing in the country of Namibia, while at the same time the sport started trending across the United States, particuarly at the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado and Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

The rise and fall of sand skiing in Florida

Sand skiing was first introduced to Polk County in the early 1900s by a group of Norwegian immigrants. They used wooden skis and ropes to propel themselves down the sand dunes near Lake Wales.

In the 1940s, a large sand dune was created near Fort Meade as a byproduct of the phosphate mining industry. This dune, known as Sand Mountain, quickly became a popular spot for sand skiing.

In 1951 and 1952, Sand Mountain hosted the International Sand Ski Tournament. This event drew skiers from all over the world and helped to popularize sand skiing as a sport.

However, in the 1960s, new technology made it possible for the phosphate companies to extract more phosphate from the sand dunes. This led to the leveling of Sand Mountain, which effectively ended the era of sand skiing in Polk County.

Sand skiing equipment

Most regular skis aren’t really suitable for sliding down sand dunes, but they can still be used with a few modification or by applying a healthy dose of sand wax before hitting the dune.

Henrik May, who entered the Guinness World Record book for fastest skiing on sand in 2010, used a pair of HEAD skis with plenty of applied wax.

Keep in mind that sand skiing can ruin your skis, so it’s best to use an old pair you don’t care too much about (or that needs a good sanding).

The base of your ski will end up getting smoothed at every ride, wearing off gradually. The best way to slow down this process is to get your hands on a sand ski built with a laminated base that will resist sanding.

Where to buy sand skis

Metal Laminate Skis for Sand

Volkl 2021 Mantra 102 Skis

K2 Mindbender 99 Ti Skis 2021

Nordica 2021 Enforcer 94 Skis

Kastle 2019 MX 99 Skis

Sand skiing is still a very new and niche activity and because of this you will have a hard time finding commercial sand skis for either rent or sale.

You can make your own sand skis by adding a layer of Formica or similar laminate material at the bottom of an old pair of wooden skis (mind that this won’t prevent your skis from wearing out eventually, but it will make sliding much easier on sandy terrains). Sandboard wax still needs to be applied before every ride.

Intrigued? Check out Jesper Tjäder and Emma Dahlström’s awesome adventure skiing down Cerro Blanco:

Sand Skiing Destinations Worldwide


Sand Sledding
Volcano boarding

Sand Skiing
Sand Kiting

Desert Racing
Dune Bashing
Desert Hiking & Camping
Desert Travel
Desert Camping
Desert Running

Sand Skiing FAQs

What is sand skiing?

Sand skiing is a sport that involves gliding down sand dunes on specially designed skis.

It is a relatively new sport, but it is quickly gaining popularity, especially in areas with large sand dunes, such as the Sahara Desert and the Namib Desert.

What are sand skis?

Sand skis are a type of board that is used to slide down sand dunes.

They are similar to snow skis, but they have a different design that allows them to glide over sand more easily.

Sand skis are typically made of wood or fiberglass, and they have a smooth bottom that is waxed to reduce friction.

What is sand skiing wax?

Sand wax is a type of wax that is applied to the bottom of sand skis to reduce friction and improve glide.

Sand wax is typically made of paraffin wax, and it is available in a variety of hardness levels.

The hardness of the sand wax should be selected based on the type of sand and the weather conditions.


History Proves Skiers Will Ski on Anything — Especially Sand by Jeff Blumenfeld. Skiing History, March-April 2021.

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