Words Shan Routledge, pics Kyle Solms
My previous forays into anything ending with a ‘boarding’ have been relatively unsuccessful, resulting in a broken wrist when attempting to combine it with snow and numerous embarrassing face-plants when adding it to water. So I was a tad apprehensive at linking it with sand - which I consider a great deal harder than snow or water! But, being cursed with an adventurous spirit and an indomitable will to try anything new, I found myself heading to Atlantis.
Now I don’t mean the lost city of Atlantis but rather Atlantis, Cape Town, which is not the fabled city of fairytales but rather a natural oasis of rolling dunes and desert situated on the west coast just kilometres out of the city. If it wasn’t for the breathtaking view of Table Mountain in the distance, I would have thought I was much further than 45 minutes from home.
Surrounded by a sea of white sand dunes, you feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and even if you are nervous, you will be excited.
A protected area, the Atlantis Sand Dunes is a popular destination for many adventure activities as well as a famous film location so be sure to book your sandboarding experience through licensed agents who can obtain the proper permits. We booked our excursion through Cape Town based Extreme Scene and were welcomed by its owner Gavin and two instructors. Equipped as they were with a gazebo, refreshments and an assortment of boards we felt in capable hands.
As our instructor was explaining the basics of sandboarding to me and my partner in crime, Kyle Solms (who was camera in hand ready to document our adventure), I looked around at the dunes and realised two things: sand dunes are a lot less intimidating than mountains covered in snow and it is easier to balance on sand than on water! With these two reassuring thoughts in my mind we began.
Sandboarding has been around since the time of the Egyptians and has since been revived and refined to be enjoyed by people of all ages, sizes and experience. In the same family as snowboarding, surfing and skating, it’s something of an approachable cousin that requires enthusiasm instead of loads of skill - the perfect activity for everyone to enjoy.
So with enthusiasm and sand boards under our arms we walked up the first small dune. After a last reminder from the instructor on process and position, camera fully focused on me, I strapped in, stared down the dune, pushed myself into a standing position and promptly fell over! But the sand was more forgiving than I thought it would be and with nothing more than a slightly bruised ego (not helped by the laughs of everyone around me) I tried again. After a few attempts I was standing and gliding down the golden sand!
Once we’d had that ‘aha’ moment we quickly improved and our instructors led us further and further up the crest of the dune to steeper and steeper sections. The runs were accompanied by delighted ‘whoops’ as we picked up speed and made it successfully down the dune, and plenty of laughter when we wiped out ending up covered in sand – which is something you have to embrace!
Basically sandboarding comes down to a few basic steps – try, fall, try again, enjoy and repeat!
The best thing about this sport is that everyone can do it in their own time, learning at their own pace and with no pressure. If you are fantastic at it and advancing quickly you can move further up the dune and yet still be enjoying the fun with your mates lower down. Unlike snowboarding, which involves skills and lifts and long runs, and wakeboarding, which can only be enjoyed alone behind a boat – sandboarding is a great social adventure for friends or family outings.
As well as the stand up sandboarding – which we were quickly becoming pros at – Extreme Scene also brings along some sand “sleds” which are so much fun! Pairing up you can whizz at great speed down the steepest part of the dunes with no fear of falling - just beware that it’s a long climb back up!
Whether you’re a tourist looking for different ways to experience the city or a local looking for a fun way to spend a weekend, sandboarding is an exhilarating and fun experience. Extreme Scene have it down to a fine art. They organize everything from your boards and refreshments to your transport there if necessary – all you need to remember is to pack in your sunscreen and enthusiasm! It is even close enough to the city that you can spend the morning sandboarding and still have time for a nice lunch at one of the restaurants in Big Bay on the way home.