Last Updated on June 30, 2021
Sandboarding (sometimes also referred to as sand surfing or dune boarding) is an extreme sport similar to snowboarding which is practiced on sand dunes rather than snow. A special board, called a sandboard, is used to ski on sandy terrains, although sand slates are also sometimes used. While still niche activities and hardly recognized as “official” sports, both sand boarding and sand sledding have gained much popularity over the past couple of decades and have now become a tourist attraction for desert locations worldwide, with sandboarding spots also being artificially created on beach destinations and inside of cities away from deserted areas. Popular sandboarding destinations are Peru, Australia and South Africa, while specialized facilities or “sandboarding parks” have been built in Florence, Oregon and Hirschau, Germany. Many sandboarding sport events and competitions are also held every year.
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How to sandboard
You will need:
- Sandboarding Insurance
- Closed-toe shoes
- Elbow and Knee Pads
- Mouth Scarf
- Lots of water
Sandboarding at the beach is generally less demanding than sandboarding in the desert, and your must have are really a good board and plenty of wax. Sandboards are similar to snowboards but made specifically to slide on dunes and resist abrasion from sand.
Hit the dunes
Once you get your sandboarding gear and clothing ready, it’s time to head to the dune. Walk up hill until you find a good sliding spot – a steep dune with dry, thin sand and no obstructions is ideal – then place your board on the ground, back up, so you can wax it thoroughly. Make sure to test that the surface of your board is slippery by applying sand to it until it’s no longer sticky. You are now ready to slide down – either standing up “surfing the sand” (make sure your sand board has foot bindings!) or either sitting or lying down on your belly (also known as sand sledding, which is best performed with a smaller sand sled or toboggan). The former position will give you more adrenaline and allow you to do tricks, somewhat akin to snowboarding, but will also increase your chances to fall down. Depending on the type of terrain and weather, you may need to wear protective gear to avoid injuries. That said, falling on sand is part of the game and so are the following weeks that you will spend scooping out sands from your clothes and belongings!
When you are ready to slide, position your board on the edge of the dune and your legs on it so that your dominant foot is in front of the board, and tightly strap both of your feet into the bindings. You should be able to push the board forward by slightly bending your knees and using your body weight to advance. If you are sledding on your belly, you can use your arms to push yourself off the dune, making sure to keep your chin and legs up to maintain balance. Whatever position you are in, your goal is to try and keep your weight centered as you slide. If you have experience sliding on snow, you’ll find yourself having less control on your movements when doing this on sand, and you will not be able to significantly change the direction you are going to once you are sliding. But sand surfing can be an incredibly fun and thrilling experience, and once you are downhill, the first thing you’ll want to do is climb back up and do it again!
Sandboarding is an extreme sport
Sandboarding is an extreme action sport and as such, it can be dangerous and in some cases even deadly. All beginner sandboarders are advised to take some minimum safety precautions, bearing in mind that even though the sand looks soft, an eventual fall can be much more painful than it seems.
Wearing protection gear such as a helmet, elbow pads and knee pads while riding very tall dunes is a must, and it is also recommended to always wear comfortable and adequate clothing as a form of protection from scorching. Barefoot / barechest sandboarding should only be practiced on small, coastal dunes in beach areas and not in the desert. You are planning to go sandboarding, you better make sure that your health insurance covers sandboarding – most do not.
Sandboarding vs Snowboarding
Is sandboarding similar to snowboarding?
While both sports share the same concept of gliding down a hill while riding a piece of wood, sandboarding differs from snowboarding in many ways. Compared to snow, sand has very high friction, which makes sliding on sand much slower than sliding on snowy surfaces, and also making it much harder to turn. Because of this, sandboarding can also be practiced while sitting or laying down on the board. That sad, going down very steep dunes allows one to build up velocity in a way similar with snowboarding, and falling down can be painful – especially on warm days with scorching hot sands. The majority of sandboarding locations are also not equipped with anything similar to ski lifts, which means sandboarders have to walk back up a dune after gliding to the bottom.
Is sandboarding difficult?
Sand surfing per se is not difficult, but people who are used to snowboarding will likely find themselves having less control of their movements while sliding on sand. How easy it is to maneauver a sandboard depends on the type, shape and size of the board as well as the type of terrain, wetness of the sand and steepness of the dune. For beginners, it may be easier to start with sand sledding – either lying down on your belly or sitting on a toboggan or sand dune sled rather than standing on your feet.
Can you use a snowboard on sand?
Short answer: yes, but you shouldn’t. Using a snowboard on a sand dune will result in the inevitable… well, sanding of the board. While it is techinically possible to wax an old snowboard and use it to skii in the desert, it is recommended to buy a sandboard specifically for sand dunes. Nowadays there are plenty of companies worldwide making boards with technologies specifically suited for sandy terrains, which will allow for smoother, faster sliding and have higher maneuverability compared to snowboards or other board sports that don’t belong on sand.
What are sand boards made of?
Compared to that of snowboards, the surface of a sandboard is harder as it usually consists of a hardwood ply or composite fiberglass and wood with a Formica or Laminex plastic layer at the base. Most boards also come equipped with foot bindings, straps, or bungees. In order to glide better in the sand, the underside of the board needs to be regularly waxed, usually with a paraffin-based wax. While sandboards vary in shape and size, they are often much shorter than snowboards, which allows to further reduce surface friction with the sand, making it easier to glide down rough surfaces. This makes going down a sand dune with a sandboard much more enjoyable than doing the same with a snowboard, surfboard or slate. There are quite a few companies producing high quality, commercial sandboards worldwide nowadays, but you can also make your own DIY board if you prefer.
Sandboards vs sandsleds
Sandsleds (also called sand toboggans or bumsleds) are essentially smaller sandboards meant for sitting or laying down on your belly, and are especially suited for kids. Larger dune sleds can accomodate up to two people sitting. Compared to standing-up sandboarding, sand dune sledding is easier as it requires no balancing nor maneuverability skill, making it a fun and safe activity that is both family-friendly and ideal for beginners.
Read more: Best sandboards and sand dune sleds
When was sandboarding invented?
The origins of sandboarding as a sport are not clear, with some claiming that similar activities could be dating back a good 2000 years. Was sliding down sand dunes a thing in Ancient Egypt? Possibly! More recently, reports of modern sandboarding date this sport back to the mid 20th century, with surfers in Brazil taking their boards on sand whenever there was not strong enough wind or sea waves to surf on. Across the United States, people were also “surfing” on sand dunes in the 60s, way before specific sand board equipment was invented. The first major developments in sandboarding came around the same time that snowboarding was taking off in the 1970s, but only began to capture the center stage as one of the most exciting outdoor adventure sports within the past ten years.
State of sandboarding in
Since its growth in popularity, sand parks have popped up all across the globe and dune riders have gathered together to showcase their talents at tournaments and events in idyllic settings like Dubai, Australia, Namibia, Japan, Chile and the Western United States. It was only around the late 90s and early 2000s that people started recognizing sandboarding as an official sport activity, with sandboard manufacturers starting to develop technological equipment tailored to meet the needs of sandboarders and addressing common issues of using snow equipment on sand. Today, the sport has gained enough attention to attract people worldwide with several sandboarding facilities and events in almost every continent. Modern sandboarding was especially made popular by the efforts of Lone Beale (a.k.a. “Doctor Dune”), owner of the Sand Master Park in Florence, Oregon – the first recreation facility in the world entirely dedicated to sandboarding and dune sledding; and by those of Peruvian farmer Matías Grados Mora who held the first sandboarding championships in Huacachina. The sandboarding world championship was then held for many years on Monte Kaolino in Hirschau, Germany, the only sandsports facility equipped with a lift. Due to restructural changes and limited capacity, since 2007 the World Championship has been replaced by the Sandboard World Cup, which is organized by Swiss organization InterSands in South America.
Read more: History and Origins of Sandboarding
Where can you practice sandboarding?
Sandboarding is practiced on every continent with the exception of Antarctica. The sport is especially popular in South America, part of Africa and the Middle East, where the highest dunes and desert locations are found. All across Australia there are also popular sandboarding spots, mostly on beach dunes, as for New Zealand, the UK and Ireland. The United States and Germany are currently the only countries were indoor sport facilities dedicated to sandboarding / sand skiing have been established.
Check our especially curated list of sandboarding locations worldwide.
What is sand boarding?
Sand boarding, sand surfing and dune boarding all refer to the same activity of using a sandboard to slide down sand dunes and sand hills. Most sand surfing boards are equipped with foot bindings so that they can be used as a surfboard, but they are made of a base material that when waxed minimizes friction with sand. Sand dune surfing is practiced in every continent except Antarctica, and it is growing in popularity, especially in desert locations across the US, South America, the UAE and Southern Africa. In Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia, it is mainly practiced on beach sand dunes.
What is sand sledding?
Sand sledding is an activity that involves the use of sleds to go down sand dunes. Sand sleds, also called bumsleds or sand toboggans, are usually made of the same material as sandboards but smaller and wider in size. They are meant for sitting or laying down on your belly rather than standing, and they may be equipped with hand grips and seating or food pads rather than foot straps and bindings.
What is sandboard wax?
Sandboard wax is a fat-based substance meant to reduce friction between your board and the sand 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.
Is sandboarding fun?
Sandboarding 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, 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.
How fast can you go sandboarding?
The current Guinness World Record for Speed on a Sandboard is held by athlete Erik Johnson who reached a speed of 51 mph (82 km/h). There are some unofficial rumors of unrecorded speeds reaching up to 60 mph (97 km/h), and higher speeds have been recorded when using skis: Henrik May, the Guinness World Record holder for sand-skiing, reached a speed of 92.12 km/h while skiing down a dune in Namibia.
Is sandboarding easy?
Sandboarding 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. For beginners, it is also recommended to start with sand sledding since sitting or laying down on your belly is easier than standing up.
Can I use a snowboard on sand?
It is technically possible to use a snowboard on sand, but not recommended. Sand has much higher friction than snow which means that the board will not slide as easily, and may get damaged during the ride. Use a sandboard with a laminated base instead and apply sand wax for optimal performance.
Is sandboarding dangerous?
Sandboarding is not very dangerous, but as any extreme sport, it comes 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 practicing any extreme sports and wear protective gear such as helmets if you are sliding down a very high dune or mountain.
What should I wear for sandboarding?
Hanes Men’s Long Sleeve Cool Dri T-Shirt UPF 50+
HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 7
75% Merino wool socks
100% cotton shemagh
Recommended clothing and equipment includes:
Does my travel insurance cover sandboarding accidents?
Most insurances do not cover sandboarding and sand skiing related accidents. As a matter of fact, even if some travel insurances include protection from sport-related accidents, there are very few which recognize sandboarding as a sport. Always check directly with your insurance provider whether this is the case.
What is sand skiing?
Sand skiing is the latest addition to sandsports that were adapted from their snow counterpart. While still not as popular as sandboarding, there have been successful sand-skiing attempts on the dunes of Namibia and Peru. Regular skis need to be laminated with a waxable base in order to smoothly sled on sand.
What does sand duning mean?
Sand duning is a sport activity that involves driving or riding an off-road vehicle at high speed up and down sand dunes in OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) designated areas away from vegetation. It is also known as desert off-roading, dune buggy, or dune bashing. Different 4×4 cars and vehicles can be modified and used for sand duning.
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.