Sandboarding is relatively new in South Africa, but this extreme sport is fast becoming all the rage.
Similar to snowboarding, this adrenaline-pumping sport is popular around the world in desert and coastal areas with sand dunes. There are several operators offering sandboarding tours in the greater Cape Town area, at some prime locations. Professional sandboarders are able to perform a variety of tricks and can reach substantial speeds on the soft sands of the Western Cape’s dunes.
There are 35m-high dunes in Atlantis, just a 40-minute drive from Cape Town. About an hour away from the city, you will find Silver Sands in Betty’s Bay, boasting 250m dunes and also Lagoon Dunes at Langebaan. Nautilus Bay Dunes and Dragon Dune in Vleesbaai, along the Garden Route are also worth travelling the extra distance. For something closer to home, try the Hout Bay or Fish Hoek sand dunes.
Sandboarding vs. snowboarding
Simpler and lighter clothing and equipment is needed for sandboarding compared to snowboarding, which makes some sandboarders describe the experience to be more like surfing.
Sandboarding is about balancing your weight. You control your descent down the dune using a method known as ‘carving’ to steer the board left or right, by shifting your weight from your heels to your toes. Similar skills are required for performing more advanced tricks, but you can learn the basics with no previous experience.
Lots of exercise
There are no ski lifts on sand dunes, so you have to walk to the top yourself, or find a driver and a four-wheel-drive. Walking up a sand dune is hard work, so be sure to pack lots of water.
Sandboards are close to snowboards in size and shape and have similar foot bindings. However, sand is more abrasive than snow, so a little extra modification is required. The board’s bottom surface is typically covered with Formica, ABS plastic or even stainless steel, depending on the type of sand and the rider’s skills. Some riders wax their boards to reduce friction and prolong the board’s life. Despite this effort, sandboards wear out quicker than snowboards.
Trying out sandboarding as a team building exercise, or with your friends, is an excellent opportunity to test your skills at something new. Whether you slide down the dune sitting or standing, it’s sure to be a rush.
Cape Town sandboarding operators
Photography Downhill Adventures and Cape Extreme