Posted by: Tommy | February 3, 2011


The morning after Perfect Tuesday, I had booked myself on a sandboarding excursion.  Anna had no interest – she’d rather go shopping in Swakopmund.  But I couldn’t say no – the main reason people venture to Swakopmund is adventure sports.  It’s the best place in Africa to: skydive, sandboard, quadbike (4 wheeler, ride the sand dunes) paraglide or do a number of other things, facilitated by access to the ocean and the unique sand dunes prevalent in the area.

Sandboarding is a sport that exists only in a few select locales.  It takes a mountain of sand, not as easy to find as a mountain covered in snow.  Other than the difference of surface, sandboarding is just like snowboarding.  The boards we were using were just snowboards, we used snowboard boots and the Germans who were in my group that snowboard had a very easy time with sandboarding.

I, on the other hand, have never been on a snowboard.  I hadn’t ever been skiing until Christmas last year, bringing the sum total of my experience “sliding down things standing up” to 2.5 days.  I was woefully unprepared to climb on a snowboard, in front of a bunch of people and with no instruction and attempt to slide down a giant sand mountain.  As 1 of the 2 guys in the group, I was lucky to not be chosen to go first.  Instead, I got to go second, right after the German guy (expert snowboarder, apparently) cruised flawlessly down the dune.  I got standing up ok, Polly, the guide, told me not to lock my knees…then he pushed me down the mountain.  And it wasn’t very hard.

We’d been told that sandboarding is slower than snowboarding, and that must be true.  It was certainly slower, by far, than skiing.  But it was still exhilarating.  Down the steepest part of the dune you could definitely get enough speed going to have the wind whipping in your face.  It didn’t last very long – less than 10 seconds per run, but it was fun and novel.  And I wasn’t the only one that took a huge fall – everyone did, at one time or another.  When I did fall, it was a relief to realize that the sand was soft and yielded easily, much softer than snow (I didn’t expect that).

The hardest part of sandboarding was not throwing yourself down a giant dune with reckless abandon – it was the arduous trek back up the dune, carrying your board, wearing uncomfortable boots, walking straight uphill on sand that engulfed your feet after every step.  We had paid for 3 hours of boarding.  By the time the second hour started, we were all resting for 10 minutes between runs, just to catch our breath after climbing the steep sand.  Polly had also brought along a couple of sheets of thin plywood – these were for “sledding” down the dunes.  After we’d all been boarding for a while, he brought out the sleds and led the group up to an even higher, steeper hill than the one we’d been boarding on.  I went first this time – lying face down, head first, only a thin piece of wood between me and the sand.  And Polly just told me to keep my elbows up (so they didn’t scrape the sand) and let go.  I barreled down the dune, picking up speed all the way to the bottom.  The wood was polished and smooth on the bottom – the friction barely slowed at the bottom so I shot out about 50 yards from the base of the dune, coming to a stop halfway up the next one.  And now I had to climb back up the really-tall dune I’d just come down.

I think this might have been Polly’s way of tiring us all out so he could go home.  It worked.  We each took one or two more runs with the sandboards and then were ready to go.  Sandboarding was a good time; I’m glad I did something “extreme” in Swakopmund.


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  1. Jack would have loved to be there with you. That sounds like a really fun kid like thing to do. What fun to be a kid on a dune in Africa.

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