As far as extreme boardsports go, sandboarding is quite safe — but it doesn’t come without risks. Most boards don’t reach quite the same speed sliding on sand dunes as they would on snow, and most people don’t get any serious injuries from sandboarding even if they fall during their ride. That said, there have been cases of sandboarders going too fast and ending up in serious accidents, sometimes even fatal. This is much more likely to happen in very tall and steep desert dunes rather than at your local beach, and the risk of falling is higher for stand up sandboarding than sand sledding while laying down or sitting.
The safety precautions you are going to need for sandboarding are heavily dependent on the location where you practice it. In most cases, you don’t need to worry too much and no safety gear will be required. If you are going to sandboard with a tour, make sure to follow their instructions. The use of safety gear such as helmets, knee pads and goggles is usually not mandatory, but recommended for demanding rides on the taller dunes. Closed-toe tennis shoes and socks can help avoid getting your feet burned by the hot sand and will also make your dune hike easier. If you are sandboarding on an active volcano then you will need to wear all the aformentioned equipment. Regardless of location, it’s best to avoid sandboarding during the afternoon hours when the sun is strongest, as it will make you dehydrated faster and increase fatigue. Remember to check with your doctor that you can safely practice extreme sports and do not suffer from any heart condition or concerning health issues, and avoid sandboarding if you are pregnant.
Is sandboarding safe for kids?
Kids can safely practice sandboarding and dune sledding on smaller slopes. Sand sledding is generally preferred as they can sit or lie down instead of standing up, which reduces the risk of falling. Many beaches around Los Angeles build artificial sandhills during winter which are particularly suited for children to practice sand sledding. To further reduce risks and make the ride more enjoyable, we recommend the use of actual sleds for sand dunes, which come with hand grips and / or seat pads. Do not use cardboards or plancks for sledging down the dunes.
How to stay safe and prevent accidents
- Only use proper sandboarding or sand sledding equipment to slide down dunes
- Tie your feet to your board using foot straps or bindings if you are standing
- Check with your doctor if you have any pre-existing health issues
- Strictly follow rules from your instructor and/or warnings about the dune
- If you are descending from a very steep dune, wear protection gear
- Apply sunscreen cream and stay well hydrated
- Slow down and take a break if you are feeling any sign of fatigue
- Do not sandboard alone in a remote area without other people around you
Most people who fall from their sandboard during a ride end up unscathed, although entirely covered in sand. If you are riding a very steep dune at high speed, then crashing becomes more problematic: sometimes people end up getting somersaulted, flying in the air without the board and landing back on the ground, head-first. As long as your face only hits soft sand, and as long as it’s not scorching hot, you’ll end up with a few scratches, a bloody nose, and hopefully all of your teeth still in place. It’s when you crash against another object – be it a rock, a tree, or the board you got separated from, that sandboarding becomes actually dangerous.
Tragically, there have been a few cases of people dying while sandboarding, either from injuries or because of pre-existing health issues. In 2019 a Korean tourist was accidentally run over by a bus and killed after descending the Te Paki sand dunes in New Zealand. The country was already hit by a similar tragedy in 2009 when a young English trainee doctor died from severe head injuries after falling from his boogie board on an attempt to sandboard a dune known as “Suicide Hill”in Hokianga, outside of the designated sandboarding area. In 2018, a Flemish sandboarder had died in Peru after she went sandboarding in Huacachina and crashed against the walls of a hotel. In 2013, a British 34 year-old woman collapsed after successfully sliding down a 100m dune in Swakopmund, Namibia, dying from complications of a pre-existing heart condition.
Sandboarding and sand sledding insurance
As with any other action sport, it is essential you make sure you are covered in case of accidents when you go sandboarding or sand sledding. This is especially important if you are travelling to an exotic location away from your own country, as it often happens with sand surfing in the desert. Most travel insurance do not include extreme sports in their standard package, and most sports insurance do not recognize sandboarding and sand sledding as a sport at all!
We found World Nomads Insurance to be one of the best sandboarding insurance providers, and they are available to people from all over the world travelling in different countries. Their Standard package include the following activities which should cover most desert trips:
- Sand Skiing
- Dirt boarding (volcano boarding)
- Dune buggy
- Off-road BMX
- Off-road motorbiking
- Mountain biking
- Camel riding / trekking
- Camping (up to 19,685 feet/6,000 meters)
World Nomads Travel insurance
You can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from over 130 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
- Trusted reliable underwriters
WorldNomads.com is backed by a suite of strong, secure, specialist travel insurers who provide you with great cover, 24 hour emergency assistance and the highest levels of support and claims management when you need it most.
- Value for money with the cover you need
WorldNomads.com provides cover for what’s important for travellers from over 130 countries. By focusing on what you need and leaving out what you don’t, World Nomads prices are some of the most competitive online.
- Flexibility when you need it most
Had a change of plans? You can buy more cover or claim online while you are still away. You can even buy a World Nomads policy if you’re already travelling.
- Cover for a range of adventure activities
From skiing & snowboarding in New Zealand to whitewater rafting in Colorado, WorldNomads.com covers a range of adventure activities, giving you peace of mind to get the most from your travels.
- World Nomads keeps you travelling safely
All WorldNomads.com members have access to up-to-date travel safety alerts, as well as travel safety advice and tips online through the World Nomads Travel Safety Hub.
- More than just great value travel insurance
All WorldNomads.com members can learn the local lingo through a series of iPod & iPhone Language Guides and can stay in touch with family and friends with an online travel journal.
- Commitment to exceptional customer service
We want to make sure you get the most from WorldNomads.com. You can find out more about why travel insurance is important for your trip. If you have any questions about your travel insurance or travel safety in general, please contact WorldNomads.com directly.
Your n°1 source of information on the world of sandsports and desert adventure travel. Our articles are the result of extensive research, personal experience, and knowledge-sharing within the global sandboarding community.