Asphalt is to skateboarding as the dessert is to…sandboarding? Wait, is that really a thing? Get ready for a crash course in the extreme sport that brings our inner Tony Hawk in out among the cacti.
Sandboarding is exactly what it sounds like: snowboarding but over sand rather than snow. For this reason, it is most popular in deserts and near beaches. Boarders often use custom sandboards, but it’s not uncommon to see them use skateboards, sleds, or even surfboards. It’s a year-round sport as well, not confined to the wintery slopes and seasonal ski resorts of its cousin.
While snowboarding was created in the 19th-20th century, sandboarding has been around since the 1st century, largely due to the populations of that time living in desert regions. As a result, there is no official “inventor” for the sport, but it’s commonly accepted that the pharaohs of ancient Egypt created it. Hieroglyphics do depict humans riding down sand dunes on pieces of wood or pottery. Other common origins include Santa Catrina, Brazil and “Rub Al-Khali” (meaning “Empty Quarter”), a region throughout Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates.
The main reason sandboarding hasn’t gained the same popularity of snowboarding is largely due to convenience. As previously mentioned, snowboarding is restricted to only a few months a year and often requires a ski resort to do safely. Sandboarding, which only requires a sand dune, which can be found 24/7. The difficulty, however, is building ski lthe ifts in sand, meaning boarders will need to either trek back up the dune on foot or use a buggy or ATV. This is especially cumbersome with larger boards to lug around.
More Mainstream Than You Thought
Despite being less mainstream, however, sandboarding still enjoys a loyal following and has made an impact on society. There are multiple parks throughout the world dedicated to the sport, like the Sand Master Park in Florence, Oregon. In Nicaragua, boards can slide down Cerro Negro- an active volcano. The Sandboarding World Championship is hosted in Hirschau, Germany, home of the largest sand dune in Europe.
Pop culture has also taken a shine to sandboarding, particularly video games. If a game features a desert region, it’s a safe bet some form of boarding will be included. One of the most recent examples is shield surfing in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Link, the main character, can equip a shield and use it to slide across the desert, either using gravity or the assistance of a “sand seal.” This allows him to travel faster than he would on foot. (The same can be done in snowy regions, albeit without the aid of the seal.)
While nothing has come to fruition yet, there has been some talk to bring sandboarding to the Summer Olympics. Proponents believe that since snowboarding is already recognized, its sandy relative should have the same honor. They also argue that sandboarding is older than snowboarding, and yet snowboarding was included first. Being part of the Olympics would also bring greater awareness to the sport and attract new boarders.
Like most things sports-related, sandboarding can be dangerous, but overall it’s is a fun activity that’s fairly accessible. Any trip to the beach could be spiced up with a trip up and down the dunes. Aside from being good exercise, it gives participants a chance to see sand from a different perspective. It’s winter fun in the summer sun- what’s not to love?