sandboarding swakopmund namibia

Sandboarding Outside Swakopmund, Namibia

In August, 2010 I traveled to Windhoek, Namibia. The purpose of the trip was work–at the time I was researching the cost-of-living in southern Africa for a global mobility consulting firm–but with a gap in my schedule, I found myself with a bit of free time.

Eager to escape the city and thrust myself into Namibia’s adventure scene, I decided to go sandboarding.

Namibia, Sandboarding (and Sand-Skiing) Paradise

Sandboarding has adherents throughout the world, but Namibia offers up some of the steepest (and world’s oldest) sand dunes. From Rhino Park in Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, I hopped in a 15-passenger shared van for the 5 hour trip to Swakopmund.

Leaving the city and entering the desert, the landscape became more distinct and peculiar. Distant and undulating hills, sun-bleached shrubbery, craggy outcroppings. Termite mounds spawned up from the ground like long, skinny and gnarled fingers. The desert was ragged, dusty and seemingly endless, Namibia’s own sandy heart of darkness.

By the time I checked into the Desert Sky Lodge, I had just enough time to catch the sunset. I ran down to Swakopmund’s Atlantic shore and snapped this photograph.

Swakopmund Pier

The following morning, I was picked up at by Alter Action, a Swakopmund-based adventure company. I hopped in a van with a guy from Portland, Oregon and was soon joined with a group of overland travelers from the U.K. and Australia.

Fifteen minutes later and we were on site, at the base of the dunes.

Instead of traditional sandboarding (standing up on a waxed snowboard), I opted to lie down on a flexible wooden sheet. I was told I’d go faster, be able to ride longer dunes and, since I’m not too comfortable on a snowboard, I’d have more fun! It was fun indeed; on the steepest run, I reached a speed of 74km/hr (46mph). This is what it looks like.

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The Guinness World Record in speed sand-skiing (using skis, so not a board or waxed sheet) was set on a nearby dune that same summer, on June 6th, by Henrik May, a German living in Namibia. He reached a speed of 92.12 km/hr

It was an amazing day. 40+ people, from the U.K., Australia, Italy and France among other countries, throttling down dunes in the Namib Desert, the oldest desert in the world.

That afternoon, I found another passenger van to shuttle me back to Windhoek. I arrived just after dinner and went back to work the next morning.

Alan Perlman
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