Sandboarding on Oregon’s Dunes

So, sandboarding is a thing. I didn’t hear about it too long ago, and even then it was in places like Nicaragua in Central America where I thought it was possible. Turns out, Oregon in the USA is a lot more diverse than I first expected… so diverse, it has sand dunes.

“Either of you ever sandboarded before?” asked the woman in charge of Sand Master Park in Florence, Oregon.
“Ever snowboarded?”
“…No.” , said Alan. “I’m a skiier”, I interjected, as if that would help at all. But whenever I mention this to a snowboarding crowd, I feel like the geek of the mountain world. I still maintain that skiing is just as cool as snowboarding…
“Yes! We’ve done that before.”

Finally we had some common ground. I must add, most of my surfing has taken place in England, which is more a challenge to survive than look effortlessly cool in a bikini carving up a wave as clear as glass. (As a note, if there’s anyone out there willing to take me to Hawaii or Costa Rica and give me this dream, I would give you a thousand splendid suns. Or a super cool cookie cutter.)

After we were assured that sandboarding feels like surfing, we were given our boards. We had two different kinds. One that looks essentially like a snowboard: a rounded off rectangle. The other was curved. It was more pointy at the ends, curving out to curve back into the middle; this one would be better for turning, whereas the other was best for just going straight down. Despite my concern whether I could handle a more agile board for a sport I’ve never done, Alan insisted I take it first: I’ve had slightly more experience in board sports (I don’t suppose we’re counting skiing as two thin boards…?) so in theory this should make sense.

Turns out, we both much preferred the curvy board. It allowed more movement, and especially when you found yourself heading in a direction you didn’t want to go, it was easier to maneouvre yourself out of it. It seemed faster, too.

The dunes were were beautiful, especially against a cloudless blue sky. It really did feel like you were somewhere far away, with miles of dunes around you. Until you caught sight of the car park, that is. Still, it was a glimpse of what I’d love to one day experience in other places. It’s also something really surprising to find in Oregon: the state is known for its National Parks, endless green forests, gorges, rivers and mountains.

It was all fun and games, choosing little dunes first, laughing at each other fall and yell “Waaaaaahhhh!” as we sped down with a sincere lack of control. The sand was a great cushion for a fall, and unlike surfing, you don’t get treated like an old shirt in a washing machine amongst the waves when you wipe out.

Even though it was fun, there are a few things about me: I’m really competitive, especially with myself. I like to be good at things. I’m annoyingly determined, but also very hard on myself. These facts lead me to repeat the same monster dune we saved ’til last between 5 and 10 times, I’d say. Alan had his fill after about 3 goes, so ended up just sitting at the bottom waiting for me to become satisfied with my own performance. Sorry, Alan.

The same thing happened when I first tried surfing in Australia, taught by my sister’s husband: I refused to end our session until I caught a last good wave. I like to end on a good, proud moment, apparently.

We took my GoPro while sandboarding and had a bit of fun with it. This is my first ever attempted edit of a GoPro video, so it’s not perfect. Go easy on me…

When we returned the boards, Alan and I talked about the decoration in the sandboarding “office” – there were pictures of celebrities who had come here to sandboard, including Tony Hawk and an actress I remember admiring as a kid having been introduced to Charlie’s Angels by my sister: Cameron Diaz. Of course she had tried sandboarding, she’s active and a great surfer. But here, the place we had randomly picked to try it out ourselves. I couldn’t help but notice from the picture on the desk that she looked ridiculously chilled as she walked up a dune. Let me tell you, walking up those dunes is no easy feat. I’m a clumsy one (it’s a wonder I humour myself with these types of sports) so my attempts were far less elegant.

Even so, I had just sandboarded in the same spot as Cameron Diaz. And that, my friends, is the coolest I’ve ever felt.



If you want to rent a sandboard from Sand Master Park, they’re $16 per person for up to 24 hours.

Sandboard instruction is $45 an hour for one person, $40 for two. Their website has more information!


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