Sandboarding. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Snowboarding, minus the snow, plus some warm, golden sand. What’s not to love about this trending desert sport? From the tan, undulating mounds of Namibia and the remote hills of Mongolia, to the national parks and open recreational areas around the United States, more and more people are shredding down sandy hills on well-waxed boards. And having a helluva time while doing it.
The board, of course, is your most important piece of equipment. And you’ll want it nice and slippery. Friction is the enemy when it comes to sandboarding. A good, thick coat of wax both protects your board from the elements and helps to eliminate any catches that could throw you off balance and send you face-first into a mound of sand.
More than simply a good time, a solid sandboarding session can be a true commune with nature. Listen closely and you’ll likely hear a low-pitch sound, a tone similar to a hum or a deep, rich cello. According to National Geographic, after studying dunes in Morocco and Oman, Parisian bioscientists concluded the sounds were formed by the wind running over a certain size of grain. And our own National Parks service says that “singing” or “booming” sands are caused by small avalanches moving down the face of sand dunes. The audible vibrations can develop when sufficient amounts of sand avalanche and compress the air within the moving sand. Either way, it makes for a really cool—if, at times, slightly menacing—soundtrack for your outdoor, high-speed adventure.
As for where to go, you’ve definitely got some options. There are spots popping up all over the globe, along with plenty here in the States, from Arizona and Texas to Idaho and Michigan. Oklahoma is home to Little Sahara State Park, which has become a go-to for sandboarding lately. Of course, the most famous are the bright and otherworldly gypsum mounds of White Sands National Park in New Mexico or the way-bigger-than-expected mounds at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado—home to the largest dunes in North America. And there, you can board down the 750-feet-tall dunes under vast starry skies, since they host night sledding events.
But if you’ve never tried it before, there is a bit of a learning curve, according to the pros at Surf the Sand. This type of terrain is not naturally slippery and as sliding-friendly as, say, snow. Which is why your wax is so important. There aren’t a lot of waxes specifically made for sandboards out there, and people often rely on hot-weather surfboard wax instead. They say the best wax for sandboarding and sledding is one that is heat-resistant and helps reduce friction between the laminated base of your board and the sand of the dune, while also protecting your board from wearing out and increasing its durability.
Then, you’re ready to go. Or, at least, give it a try. In preparation for your first run down the dunes, you could watch some videos of expert dune sledders and boarders for a few tips and tricks, along with visual cues of how to gain momentum. You’ll want to wear long pants and sleeves and something to protect your eyes and mouth. Knee and elbow pads can also come in handy. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect—this isn’t about racing or even about not falling. It’s just about getting out there and exploring nature and hopefully getting in a good couple of runs.
* FYI: Men’s Journal has rounded up seven of the most breathtaking sand dunes to visit around the United States.