Last Updated on June 8, 2023
Sandboarding, also known as sand surfing or dune boarding, is an extreme sport similar to snowboarding which is practiced on sand dunes rather than snow.
What is Sandboarding?
Sandboarding is an extreme board sport that consists of riding across or down a sand dune while standing on a board. It is is similar to snowboarding, but it is done on sand hills rather than snow-covered mountains.
Sandboarding is a relatively new sport, but it is quickly gaining popularity. Practitioners (“sandboarders”) utilize a specialized board known as a sandboard to navigate the sandy terrains, although some people may opt for sand slates, sleds, or skiis to descend down the dunes .
Although still considered niche activities and not widely recognized as official sports, both sand boarding and sand sledding have gained much popularity over the past couple of decades, particurarly in some parts of the world such as Latin America.
Sandboarding competitions are also held on a regular basis, such as the Sandboarding World Cup.
The sport has now become a tourist attraction for desert locations worldwide, with sandboarding spots sometimes 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. There are also a handful of sandboarding sport events and competitions held every year.
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How to sandboard
Sandboarding does not require much in terms of training nor equipment, but the location and type of dune will make a great difference on your experience and ability to join the ride.
Sandboarding at the beach is generally less demanding than sandboarding in the desert, and what you really need is just a good board and plenty of wax.
Desert dunes are generally higher and steeper and offer the best rides, not to mention the most spectacular landscapes, but you will also need special equipment and appropriate clothing as to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Sandboards are similar to snowboards but have a thicker laminate base which is made specifically to slide on dunes and resist abrasion from sand.
The most important piece of equipment for sandboarding is a sandboard (or sandsled), which you can either purchase or rent.
Sandboards are somewhat similar to snowboards in shape but they are built to be thicker and have a bottom laminate sheet which helps both making the ride easier and protecting the board against sanding.
To make sure your sandboard glides smoothly down the dunes, you’ll need sandboard wax to help reduce friction.
When it comes to sand surfing, having the right equipment is crucial for an enjoyable and safe experience on the dunes. In addition to the essential sandboard and wax, there are other key items to consider.
One important item is closed-toe shoes, which provide protection from the hot sand and offer better traction while navigating the sandy slopes.
Goggles are another essential accessory, shielding your eyes from blowing sand and ensuring clear vision throughout your sandboarding adventure.
For added safety, it’s highly recommended to wear elbow and knee pads, as well as a reliable helmet, to protect your joints and head from potential impacts. If you’re planning to visit a windy location, a mouth scarf will prevent sand from entering your mouth during exhilarating rides.
Moreover, don’t forget about sun protection. Apply sunscreen generously to safeguard your skin from the sun’s rays. And, of course, hydration is vital, so keep yourself well-hydrated by carrying an ample supply of water during your sandboarding outings.
To recap, here is what you will need:
- A sandboard (or sandsled)
- Sandboard wax
- Sandboarding Insurance
- Closed-toe shoes
- Elbow and Knee Pads
- Mouth Scarf
- Lots of water
Things You Should Know Before Sandboarding
Sandboarding is one of the newest extreme sports that started to become popular recently. If you want to try this exciting activity, there are some important things you need to know.
First of all, except for some locations in the world where this sport is most popular, it can be hard to find sandboarding equipment to rent. If you just want to try sandboarding for the first time, it’s best to check out organized tours first.
Surfing on sand might look safe enough, but be careful because sand isn’t as soft as it looks and it can get very hot especially in the desert. If you do fall while riding your board, it’s going to hurt.
Waxing your board is essential when sliding down a sand dune, but it will also make you go faster, so make sure you are prepared for a bit of an adrenaline rush.
When you are sandboarding in the desert, remember to bring water and to protect yourself from the sun wearing love sleeves and applying sunscreen every two hours or so. It is best to go sand surfing in the early morning or evening in order to avoid peak sun hours.
Preparing For A Sandboard Ride
Once you get your sandboarding gear and clothing ready, it’s time to head to the dunes. 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!
Sliding Down A Dune
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 are experienced sliding on snow, you’ll find that when switching to sand, yourself having less control on your movements and you will not be able to significantly change the direction you are going to once you are sliding.
That said, 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!
Precautions and Safety Gear
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, falling at high speed 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.
If you are planning to go sandboarding, you better make sure that your health insurance covers sandboarding, as most regular sports insurances do not.
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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, beginners often prefer sand sledding which is practiced while sitting or laying down on the board.
That said, 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 material, 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.
Sandboarding is practiced with special boards called sandboards. Sandboards are similar to snowboards, but they are made of different materials and have a different shape, and include a laminated bottom that is meant for waxing.
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 or sandboard waxes made specifically for hot weather.
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.
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Origins of Sandboarding
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?
Historians are arguing about this, but there is some evidence some activity similar to sandboarding may have been practiced back then.
More recently, reports of modern sandboarding date this sport back to the mid 20th century, with surfers in Florianopolis, 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 as of
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.
Where Can You Practice Sandboarding
Sandboarding is practiced on deserts and beaches in every continent, with the exception of Antarctica.
The sport is especially popular in South America, parts of Africa and the Middle East, where the highest dunes and desert locations are found: the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are some of the most popular destinations, but Israel also has a booming sandboarding industry.
All across Australia there are also popular sandboarding spots, mostly on beach dunes, as for New Zealand, the UK and Ireland. In Asia, sandboarding is popular in the Philippines and Indonesia, and also parts of Japan and China.
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 sandboarding / sand surfing?
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, and it’s the equivalent of snowboarding in the desert (or at the beach).
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.
Sand sledding is especially suited for kids and a popular recreational activity in specific locations of the US such as the White Sands in New Mexico or the artificial beach dunes of L.A. during winter.
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, and they are especially crafted to withstand high temperatures you’d generally find in a hot desert – although some cold temperature waxes can also be used depending on your location.
When is the best time of year to go sandboarding?
Sandboarding is a year-round activity, but the best time of year depends on the location you go to.
In the desert, the best time to go sandboarding is during the cooler months, usually the mid seasons of fall and spring, when temperatures are more conducive to an enjoyable experience.
Conversely, if you find yourself drawn to beach locations, the peak season for sandboarding unfolds during the summer, as the warmer weather beckons enthusiasts to flock to the sandy shores, contributing to a vibrant and bustling atmosphere.
Can you sandboard in the rain?
Sandboarding in the rain is not recommended, as the sand will become wet and compacted, making it difficult to glide and increasing the chances of injury. Additionally, the added moisture can cause damage to the sandboard and make it difficult to maintain proper waxing.
If it has recently rained, it is best to wait until the sand dries out before attempting to sandboard. Additionally, wet sand can also be slippery and more difficult to walk on, making it harder to climb back up the dune for another run.
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.
The most thrilling rides are those you can enjoy in the tall desert dunes of South America, Africa and the Middle East, but there is plenty of fun to be had on smaller dunes and at the beach as well.
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.
As the technology to build sandboards and quality of sandboard wax improves, you may expect this record to be broken again in the future.
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.
Most people find that the hardest part of sandboarding is to hike up the dune, but hey, at least that’s a great full-body workout!
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.
For optimal performance, use a sandboard with a laminated base instead and apply sand wax to minimize friction and ensure a smooth ride.
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, and when sliding down very steep dunes.
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.
Make sure to be covered by a sports insurance which includes sandboarding.
Are there any safety precautions I should take when sandboarding?
As with any extreme sport, it’s important to take safety precautions when sandboarding.
First of all, make sure to only practice sandboarding in allowed locations and slopes that are far away from vegetation, stick to desigated areas, and follow local regulations.
Especially on very steep dunes, it is recommended to wear protective gear, such as a helmet, gloves, and elbow and knee pads.
Make sure you’re in good physical condition and are aware of your limits. It’s also important to check the weather conditions and avoid sandboarding during high winds or storms. If you are sandboarding on a volcano, keep an eye o volcanic activity levels as well.
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
Scott Recoil Pro WFS Goggles
100% cotton shemagh
Recommended clothing and equipment for sandboarding includes:
If you are sandboarding in the desert, wear appropriate clothes and pay extra care to protect yourself against UV rays, wear strong sunscreen for your skin and polarized sunglasses (or goggles) for your eyes. At the beach, it is okay to be barefoot and bare chest, but sunscreen is still important!
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 to avoid any surprises.
Keep in mind that sand boarding, sand sledding, sand skiing, landboarding and ash boarding (volcano boarding) may be considered different sports and fall under separate coverage schemes.
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.
As far as we know, there currently is not any manufacturer that specializes in building sand skis, but you can make a pair yourself using the same materials as for regular DIY sandboard making.
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 or dune bashing.
Different 4×4 cars and vehicles can be modified and used for sand duning, but the most common type is the dune buggy. Sometimes the term “sand duning” is used interchangeably with sandboarding, but they are two very different activities.
In exotic desert locations, especially in the Dubai Desert, you may find that “desert safaris” often combine dune bashing and sand boarding, which is ideal since the vehicle will spare you from having to hike up the dune on foot before descending with your sandboard.
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.
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Sandboarding is awesome!
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