Last Updated on June 6, 2021
Can you snowboard on sand? So-called sandboarding may be increasing in popularity, but it is still a niche sport compared to its other, more popular “boarding” siblings. That said, before modern technology made it possible to manufacture boards specifically for sandy terrains, many people would rely on their snowboard or surfboard to slide down sand dunes… with mixed results.
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Can you use a snowboard on sand?
Short answer: yes, you can snowboard on sand dunes. Long answer: yes, but you shouldn’t use a snowboard on sand. While sandboarding with a snowboard is technically possible, snowboards will never reach the same levels of speed and maneuverability that sandboards have, and the board will get ruined in the process. Snow and sand are very different types of terrain, with the latter generating much higher friction – thus slowing your movements. This can be addressed by thoroughly waxing your board (always apply wax to your snowboard every time you slide down a dune), but you will inevitably end up ruining the base of your board. Modern sandboards have a harder surface than snowboards and their base is covered with a layer of Formica or Laminex plastic which protects them from abrasion, which is why we recommend getting one if you intend to hit the dunes regularly (see: our list of best sandboards for sale on Amazon).
What can you use for sandboarding?
Sandboarding (or sand surfing) is still at its infancy and the technology used to sled down sand dunes is evolving as new boards and materials are experimented with. All over the world, people like to attempt boarding sand dunes with whatever they can get their hands on, from sleds to toboggans to cardboard and furniture (we do not endorse this!).
The best thing for sliding down sand dunes consist of a hardwood ply board with a laminate base that can be waxed. This is how commercial sandboards and sandsleds are made. Any other type of board you use will 1) not slide as fast and seamlessly, and 2) be ruined and/or smoothed out as a result of sanding. If you have an old board you want to repurpose into a sandboard, you can modify it by adding a layer of Formica or similar laminate sheet. (See: How to make your own DIY sandboard.)
2# Skateboard deck
Skateboards are actually rather sand-friendly, and they can safely be used for sand sledding. As a matter of fact, sand boards and skateboards are often made of the same type of wood and you can even make your own DIY sandboard out of a skateboard deck if you are feeling crafty. The one thing to keep in mind is that you will need to remove any wheels and wax the base properly before taking it to the sand.
3# Disc saucers, sleds and toboggans
You can use these types of sleds on coastal dunes and beaches, however, they are not recommended for desert dunes. You can instead grab a sandsled which is made with the same materials and construction of a sandboard but comes with a seat pad instead of foot bindings.
Cardboard is not recommended for sandboarding. They may work fine on smaller beach dunes, but they won’t get much traction if the sand is very dry. Do not try to use cardboard on very steep desert sand dunes, most likely you will fail to glide and it may even be dangerous if you end up falling. Be careful as adventure travel agencies, particularly in Namibia and Southern Africa, sometimes often cardboards for sliding down steep desert dunes. Do this at your own risk, and make sure to have a good sandboard insurance to cover you.
Can you use a surfboard on sand?
If you want to surf the sand you better pick a type of board that isn’t meant for water. Most surfboards are made of fiberglass cloth and polyester which are really not sand-friendly materials. If you happen to have a wooden surfboard with a relatively smooth surface, and you make sure to wax every inch of it, then maybe you could give sand dune sledding a go – at the risk of quite litrally sanding your board, that is.
Mountainboarding on soft sand
Mountain boards are also called dirt boards, and sand is essentially dirt, so surely you can use a mountain board on sand… or can you? The answer to this is a bit tricky: the mere idea behind mountainboarding – which also takes the name of All-Terrain boarding – is that you should be able to board, well, on all types of terrain. The main difference between a mountainboard and a sandboard is that the former has two sets of wheels which can be problematic on soft sand. Most regular dirtboards won’t be able to go very far without getting dug in the sand, unless you make a few modifications. You will need the widest, thickest wheels and tires you can find (13’’ or more, such as Wheeleez’s beach wheels), and do a bit of experimentation with your board. Dirtsurfers, race buggys, and other types of mountainboards will all perform differently on different types of terrains, but ultimately that’s the beauty of this sport – to experiment and master your boarding skills offroad. Kite sandboarding will make your life much, much easier if you are planning to do go ahead with this.
Skis on sand
If you are wondering whether you can take your ski poles to the sand and use them to sled down a dune, well, you are not the only one. Sand dune skiing is definitely a thing. There have been quite a few documented cases of people successfully skiing down the tallest dunes of Africa and Peru using regular skis, but just like with sandboards, you can opt for laminate base sand skis for better performance. A variation of jet skiing in which you ride on sand while being pulled by a vehicle with a rope is also widespread, and so is sand kitesurfing with skis attached to a kite.
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.