Last Updated on August 16, 2022

Sand surfing is a definitely a thing – and it’s more mainstream than you think.

Extreme sports have always been the result of adventurous people trying to challenge themselves out of their comfort zone and experiment with their surroundings in order to find new exciting and thrilling ways to have fun, and this is exactly how the sport of sand surfing was born.

Today, the niche sport of “sand boarding” is getting more and more traction, with riders sledging down sand dunes in exotic destinations all over the world.

Sandboarder in Cape Town, South Africa
Sandboarder near Cape Town, South Africa.

What is sand surfing?

Sand surfing (also dune surfing, desert surfing) is a generic term that describes the practice of gliding down sand dunes.

More specific names such as sandboarding, sand sledding, and sand skiing are often preferred depending on the kind of equipment used, but they all refer to a sport activity in which some kind of board is used to descend down sand dunes at high speed.

Sandboarding is what comes closest to actual surfing (or snowboarding), since sandboards are usually equipped with foot bindings and allow you to glide while standing. If you prefer bodyboarding, you can opt for a sandsled instead.

History of sand dune surfing

Sand Dune Surfing at Monahans Sand Dunes
Monahans Sand Surfing The Dunes. Photo courtesy of Josh Spencer.

Unsurprisingly, sand dunes surfing was born as a way for surfers in Brazil to spend time when the waters were too calm for them to ride real waves. The city of Florianopolis is where this sport is thought to have originated.

Going further back in time, historians suggest that a similar activity may have been practiced thousands of years ago in Ancient Egypt, with people descending on desert dunes using a tool similar to a snowboard.

Modern sandboarding developed as an adaptation of snowboarding on desert sand dunes, with several established communities of sand surfers in South America, and a growing following in the US and Australia.

It is unclear for how long sand surfing has been a recognized sport, but it was popularized only in the early 90s in the US and Peru, and it is still gaining popularity today across the world.

Sandboard used for sand surfing
Wooden sandboard used for sand surfing.

Sandsurfing boards and equipment

A sand surfing board is especially fabricated to glide on sand, a type of terrain which is normally not slippery. Do not attempt to use a regular surfboard on sand, because you will end up ruining it and it won’t be as effective.

Sandboards and sand sleds are usually made of a hardwood layer with a thick laminate base, on which sandboard wax needs to be applied before each ride.

The wax minimizes friction between sand and the board allowing you to surf on dunes. You can build your own sand surfing board (or modify your regular surfboard) or buy a commercial sandboard which already comes with food bindings (or seat pads if you decide to go for a sand sled).

Sand Surfing in Huacachina, Peru.

Sand Windsurfing

Windsurfing can also be practiced on sand, where it is also known with the name of sand kiting, sand kiteboarding, or sand kitesurfing. This variation is practiced with a mountainboard with wheels or a kite buggy and uses the power of wind to move.

Sand surfing destinations

Sand Dune Surfing at Monahans Sand Dunes
Monahans Sand Surfing The Dunes. Photo courtesy of Josh Spencer.

United States

There are plenty of great locations where you can surf on sand dunes across the United States.

The state of Oregon offers the most opportunities for sand surfing and other recreational sand activities across the coast, with the Sand Master Park in Florence being the first sport facility dedicated to sand boarding and sledding.

California’s Mojave Desert is also a top destination for desert surfing with plenty of surfable sand spots such as the Dumont Dunes and the Kelso Dunes, and there are plenty of coastal dunes for sand surfing around SoCal as well.

In Utah, the Coral Pink Dunes and Little Sahara Recreation Area are popular with sand surfers. And if you are planning to go sand surfing in Colorado you can have access to some of the largest dunes in North America – the Great Sand Dunes, of course.

Read more: Where to go sand surfing in the US


Peru is the one of the most sought-after sandsurfing destinations and the little natural oasis town of Huacachina (near the city of Ica) has become a hot spot for sand sports enthusiasts worldwide. This idylliac village oasis is not the only place in the country where this activity is practiced, but definitely one of the most memorable.

There are many sand surfing spots in Nazca, including the infamous Cerro Blanco – one of the most challenging peaks to slide on.

Read more: Sand Surfing in Peru


The UAE is home to what is undoubtedly one of the most famous deserts in the world – the whimsical Arabian Desert. The sand dunes surrounding Dubai and Abu Dhabi are also a popular recreational area for sand surfing and dune bashing, which attract thousands of extreme sports enthusiasts to the country all year round.

Read more: Sand Surfing in Dubai


Sand surfing is a very popular recreational activity on the coasts of Australia, particularly in the NSW area with the infamous Stockton Beach near Port Stephens. Other popular sandboarding destinations are the Lancelin Sand Dunes in Western Australia and Little Sahara in Kangaroo Island.

Read more: Sand Surfing in Australia

Southern Africa

South Africa has recently seen a boom of sand surfing tours and facilities. There are countless beach dunes around Cape Town and all around the country, including both coastal dunes, artificial sand hills, and dunes in the Kalahari desert.

It is also possible to sandboard on desert sand dunes at the Witsand Nature Reserve, which shares part of the Kalahari desert with the neighbouring country of Namibia, another country where sandboarding is extremely popular, and people also enjoy sand skiing.

Read more: Sand Surfing in South Africa


One of the fastest-growing new destinations for sand surfing is Israel, a country with over half of its territory covered by the Negev desert. The area in Ramat Negev, close to Beer Sheva and Mitzpe Ramon, is quickly becoming a new hotspot for sandboarders woldwide.

Read more: Sand Surfing in Israel

Girl sandboarding / sandsurfing in the desert
Woman sand surfing in the desert. Photo by Misho Cha on

Sandboards for Sale

Slip Face Sandboards Diamondback Board
Slip Face Sandboards’
Diamond Back Terrain Sandboard
– 9 ply maple veneer deck
– High pressure laminate base, high gloss
– Dakine adjustable foot straps
– Slip Face Sandboards multi-positionable foot pads
– Swallow tail design

Slip Face Sandboard Kestrel WingTail
Slip Face Sandboards’
Kestrel Wing 127
– 9 ply maple veneer deck
– Low friction base
– Dakine adjustable foot straps
– Slip Face Sandboards multi-positionable foot pads
– Swallow tail design

Browse more sandboards and sandsleds

Sand Surfing FAQs

Can you surf on sand?

Sand surfing (or sandboarding) is a popular recreational activity and one of the coolest new sports out there. Special sand surfing boards are built in a way that minimizes friction with sand with the aid of wax, allowing for smooth rides on desert and beach dunes.

Sand dune surfing is growing in popularity worldwide, but especially in desert locations across the US, South America, the UAE and Australia.

Sandsurfing at Huacachina Oasis, Peru
Sandboarding jump.

Sand surfing in the desert

Most hot deserts have locations suitable for dune surfing, there you can find the best rides thanks to the dry environmental conditions, soft sand and tall, steep dunes.

The deserts in South America, Africa and the Middle East are especially suited for this as they are rarely covered in vegetation.

Sand surfing at the beach

Sandboarding is widely practiced on beach dunes as well, especially in Australia and New Zealand.

Coastal dunes are usually shorter and less steep and better suited for dune sledding, but sand surfing can be a lot of fun there nonetheless (and it requires less hiking back on top of the dune).

In certain areas of Brazil and Hawaii it is possible to surf both on sand and water with a skim board.

Sand surfing on volcanos

You can surf on active volcanos where the lava from a recent eruption generated a slope. This sport takes the name of volcano boarding (or ash boarding) and it can only be practiced on a handful of locations worldwide: Nicaragua, Guatemala, Italy, Indonesia, Vanuatu and Japan.

What is sand sledding?

Sand sledding is an activity that involves the use of sleds to go down sand dunes while sitting or laying down on your belly, similarly to bodyboarding. Sand sleds, also called bumsleds or sand toboggans, are usually made of the same material as sandboards but smaller and wider in size.

What is sandboard wax?

Sandboard wax is a fat-based substance meant to reduce friction between your sand surfing board and the terrain. It needs to be applied to the base of your board before every ride. Most sandboard waxes are made of paraffin or beeswax with the addition of various scents.

Sand Surfing on Dunes in Brazil
Woman sandsurfing in Brazil. Photo courtesy of Namastê… ॐ.

Is sand surfing fun?

Sand surfing can be an incredibly fun and enjoyable experience, even for beginners. The location, quality of the board, waxing procedure, weather and terrain conditions all contribute to how enjoyable a ride can be.

Very steep and tall dunes are the most fun to slide on, but they are also require the most effort in terms of hiking. This can be addressed by combining sandboarding with a quad bike or dune buggy tour which will help you to reach the top of a dune.

Is sand surfing easy?

Sand surfing is not difficult if you have proper equipment and wax your board thoroughly. A good quality sandboard, sandboarding wax and dry environmental condition are essential for a smooth and fast ride.

The hard part when you are sand surfing is really just to push yourself over the edge, gravity will do the rest. For beginners, it is also recommended to start with sand sledding since sitting or laying down on your belly is easier than standing up.

Is sand surfing dangerous?

Sand dunes surfing is not particulalry dangerous, but as any extreme sport, it does come with some risks – adequate sandboard clothing and safety precautions need to be taken. There have been reports of people getting hurt or even dying from sandboarding, usually due to hitting an object during a ride or because of pre-existing heart conditions.

Always check with a doctor before you decide to go practice any extreme sports and wear protective gear such as helmets if you are sliding down a very high dune or mountain, and make sure to have sand surfing insurance in case something goes wrong.

Sand Surfing the Dunes
Surf the sand!


Sand Sledding
Volcano boarding

Sand Skiing
Sand Kiting

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

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