Sandboarding the Giant Dunes of Namibia

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Written by: John Lightbound

Find Adrenaline in the Namib Desert

Swakopmund lies on the southern edge of the Skeleton Coast of Namibia, surrounded by the Namib desert, and forms a welcome point of civilisation for mucky travellers like me, who turned up after a week roaming the deserts. It’s famous for being one of the best places in the world for sandboarding.

Sandboarding, for the uninitiated, takes two forms. You can either stand strapped to a snowboard and plummet down the face of a dune, or lie on a piece of plywood and go down head first. I chose the standing, as that gave me a chance to try both standing and lying.

Leaving town at about 8am, we drove out into the desert to find the dunes. Getting out of the vans we were kitted up, and suddenly choosing standing didn’t seem such a good idea – the boots were incredibly hot and the temperature was already pushing 35C. Then we were informed that we would have to walk up the dune.

What goes up must come down

Reaching the top, exhausted but excited, we were taught how to wax our boards, and then told to slide down. Looking down the sheer face of the sand, this didn’t seem very wise, but we were promised that we wouldn’t hurt ourselves. I pushed off, started down the hill and promptly managed to fall flat on my face. Luckily, so did everyone else, so it wasn’t too embarrassing, and it really didn’t hurt.

The big problem came at the bottom, when you have to walk back up. Never mind. There are water points along the way, and we could go as fast as we wanted. Then the chance arose to try the lie-down boarding, going down the even steeper part of the dune.

‘In for a penny…’ I thought to myself, and lay down on the board. The next thing I knew, I had been pushed from the summit of the dune, and had sand rushing 4 inches below my face at 70mph. Reaching the bottom, I didn’t stop and carried on up the slope on the far side, leaving the ground for a second and landing hard.

Spinning to a stop, I decided…  I LOVED it!

For my last time down the sand, I decided to really go for it, and fell impressively halfway down, cart wheeling down the sand in a huge cloud of dust. Once at the bottom, it was midday and 40C – time for a beer!

Swakopmund is the tourist centre of Namibia. You can get flights from the capital, Windhoek, or catch one of the daily trains or buses. Other activities in the area include skydiving over the desert, whale and dolphin watching, desert balloon rides, paragliding and parasailing, and quadbiking.

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