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Sandboarding: Takes Sand to the Extreme

By Justin Powlison on July 31st, 2005 •

Having conquered the waves, streets, and snow, extreme sports enthusiasts are venturing to yet another frontier - sand.

While less popular than other board sports, sandboarding has a growing and dedicated following. With technology lending itself to the sport, sandboards are now capable of rivaling speeds enjoyed by snowboarders. Exhilaration, affordability and accessibility make sandboarding an emerging sport worth trying.

The concept of sandboarding isn't too difficult to grasp if you are familiar with snowboarding and even skateboarding. Take the wheels off a skateboard, replace snow with sand and you have sandboarding. Gliding down sand dunes at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour, over 20,000 boarders worldwide take this sport seriously. With the inclusion of ramps and rails, sandboarding enthusiasts can bust out moves as well as any other extreme athlete.

A Grain of History
Although sandboarding is an emerging sport, it is definitely not a new pursuit. Surfacing back in the 1950s and 1960s, sandboarding was quickly overshadowed by the introduction of snowboarding, a sport that went from underground to gaining considerable respect in mainstream popular culture.

For many years, sandboards were makeshift creations - manipulated snowboards, skateboards, or homemade fabrications. Years of testing and scientific consideration of sand and friction led to the replacement of crude boards by the high-tech boards found on the market today, including those manufactured by Venomous, one of the premier sandboard manufacturers.

However, technology alone hasn't brought this sport into the spotlight. Discussing sandboarding without mention of pioneers such as Lon Beale seems irreverent. An entrepreneur and avid sandboarder since the 1970s, Beale introduced the first established sandboard park in the world, Sand Master Park, in Florence, Oregon, and is the publisher of the online Sandboard Magazine.

Accessibility, Affordability and Accountability
With dunes worldwide, including Australia, Mexico, Chile, and Ireland, and with very few weather concerns, sandboarding provides year-round accessibility not always available with other extreme sports. Sandboarding has become a great way to satisfy extreme athletes' need for exhilaration during the off-season, without waiting for the perfect waves, wind, or snow conditions.

Having to trudge up the dunes after every run is one limitation to sandboarding. With no lift and many dunes prohibiting all-terrain vehicles, a day of sandboarding can mean a lot of exercise. For many sandboarders, those sacrifices are part of the allure. The sport is still relatively sacred because it is not as commercialized as other board sports.

Sandboarding doesn't require expensive apparel or equipment.

Sandboarders usually ride barefoot and wear jeans or shorts, a t-shirt and sunglasses or goggles. Board rentals can be as cheap as $12 a day with wax costing just $3. Unfortunately, because many sand dunes are open parks, rentals are not always available and many sporting goods retailers do not carry sandboards. However, if you want to make sandboarding your new sport, you can find a board online for less than $200 at sites like venomousboards.com and oceanculture.com.

While most sand dunes are open parks with free access, it is important for sandboarders to keep environmental issues in mind. Sand dunes are a natural barrier, protecting the land from coastal flooding and the plants keep the sand from being carried away by the wind. Sand dunes can be fragile ecosystems and sandboarders should be very conscious of where they board. Before heading out to a particular location, do some research on acceptable use and designated areas for sandboarding.

The next big thing?
Despite critics' estimation that sandboarding will never take off like snowboarding and skateboarding, don't be surprised if you see it pop up in the X Games one day. Board sports are now taken more seriously than ever and that same skepticism existed with the emergence of snowboarding and skateboarding.

As quiet as the sport may seem, there are numerous events and leagues attached to sandboarding worldwide. The US National Sandboard League oversees six annual events, and with sandboard record holders like Josh Tenge, who holds the Guinness Book of World Records entry for the longest distance back flip (at 44 feet, 10 inches set in 2000), sandboarding is carving out a place for itself in the extreme sports realm.

The Bottom Line

A day of snowboarding can cost upwards of $100 for just a lift ticket and rentals. Comparatively, a day of sandboarding with rentals will cost you as little as $15 and you'll get a better tan!

Sources: rgi.com; away.com/nissan; guinnessworldrecords.com; sandboard.com; fortune.com; ecan.govt.nz