While being stuck in Swakopmund due to Uncle Vito’s heart problems, my mom and I decided to try out the local sport of sand-boarding. It was on my list of things to do in Africa from the beginning so I was quite excited to finally get a chance to do it. There were two options, lie down boarding, which resembled what we had done a couple months back in Vietnam but much faster and crazier, and stand up boarding, basically snowboarding on sand. My mom chose the first and I chose the latter. We were picked up early in the morning by a bus full of instructors. After a quick stop to pick up some German tourists, we drove a little farther into the sand dunes and stopped at a base point. Here the instructors explained to us what we’d be doing and suited us up with boots and bindings. Everyone made sure the equipment fit and then we were separated into three groups: lie down boarders, experienced stand up boarders, and novice stand up boarders.
After being separated we started off up the dune. It was quite the hike. On the way the instructors explained that since the dunes were public property, they couldn’t build a lift. Since they didn’t want to deface the dune, they don’t take quad bikes up, so every day they and their clients make the long steep walk up the dunes. After an exhausting hike we reached the top and followed our various instructors to different parts of the dunes. My instructor, a surfer from So-Cal, gave me and the one other German who hadn’t snowboarded the basics on sandboarding. After a little while he said it was time to take a run on the dune. Having never done anything like this before, and not knowing what it would be like, I was a little nervous so I opted to go after the German. He went and made it look relatively easy. I tried to follow up and found it was much harder than I had anticipated. It was nothing like surfing or skating. I could hardly make it a couple meters without falling. I was distraught when I reached the bottom of the dune but intent on doing better my second run.
While I was climbing back up the dune for my next run I had a nice talk with the German tourist. When we reached the summit, I found that the next run down I would be trying my hand at lie down boarding. I watched a few people go before me and it looked like a good deal of fun. I positioned myself on the board and was pushed off by the instructor. I started blazing down the dune at 55 kilometers an hour. I once again had to climb the dune and by now was totally exhausted. I reached the top, and despite being tired, quickly strapped on my board for the second run. This time I took the dune straight on and barreled down it. I was doing quite well until it came time to stop. I had forgotten how and so I attempted to do it the only way I could think of. Kicking the tail of my board out. This didn’t end well as I pulled an “ostrich” and had my head stuck in the sand. I was excited about my run though and made my way up to the summit again. Once again I was strapped up for another run, but one of the instructors wanted me to do a tandem lie down board with my mom. The tandem was more like sitting up and was very slow. I objected but in the end was forced into it. My mom asked me how it was so far and I told her “Great, except for this!” She agreed and said the tame sit down run wasn’t worth the effort of hiking back up.
The rest of the day I did a few more runs, getting a little better every time. I did one more lie down board run going 67 kilometers an hour, incredibly fast, down the biggest dune, which the Namibians call Dizzy. For my last run I decided to attempt going off the kicker (jump). I was nervous. I lined myself up and launched off. It was very exhilarating for the second or so I was in the air. When I came back down I managed to right myself but soon I was toppling over again. When everyone was at the bottom of the dune, it was the instructor’s turn. The first one down did a simple 180, while the second busted a huge front flip off the small kicker. Everyone was surprised and cheered him on. We made our way back to the cars and had some drinks and sandwiches. Everyone was parched and guzzled down multiple sodas. We all talked for a while over our meal. My mom met an American who had home-schooled her children while they lived on a fishing island in Alaska, and I talked to some Italians who were interested in my online schooling. Soon we said our goodbyes and headed back to our hostel. This experience has me hooked on sandboarding and currently I’m trying to find a place to sandboard in Capetown. Now to find a place to sandboard in Georgia…