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26 February 2024



By Sean Davidson

Crusin' for a bruisin'

It may not pack in as much adrenaline as a bungee jump, but it does promise all the injuries of any contact sport. The deceptively innocent hobby of sandboarding floods every desert safari offering as an easy, run-of-the-mill activity.

You succumb to the general presumption; what's everywhere, must be harmless. How awful can falling on sand really be? A stiff neck and sore lower back later, I can tell you – it's pretty awful.

As your 4x4 crashes through the dunes, the prospect of plunging through them on a board becomes increasingly inviting. You stumble out of your seat, strap on a board and as the 'instructor' nudges you towards your first fall, he offers his only tip – go straight, don't try turning. Thud.

Hitting rock bottom

Your instructor, who also shadows as your tour guide, driver, steward and relationship counsellor if offered the chance, isn't qualified to teach you much. He has the wax. It will go on the board. The rest is yours to figure out.

A few falls in, you're an expert. You've figured which foot to place more weight on, how much to bend them knees and where to fall. The only things you still can't control – speed, turning the board or the balance. Thud. Thud. Thud.

As you crawl to the top of the dune (again!), you realise – the number of falls is directly proportionate to your determination to hit the bottom again. It is precisely this idiocy that makes sandboarding addictive. Every fall gets softer or maybe the pain has made you numb. It doesn't matter. It's still great fun, because you still haven't conquered it. And once you do, you're hooked.

How to get started

Sandboarding is also referred to as Sand Surfing by the savvy. It's pretty similar to snowboarding and takes place on sand dunes. It has many followers across the globe, and is by far, the most accessible sport of the region. Affordable, with minimal skill requirements, it makes for a great outing.

Making a day of it

Since every tour operator offers sandboarding, an online search will give you a plethora of options. I'd recommend looking for one that offers professional tutoring on sandboarding, since most operators adopt the do-it-yourself strategy leaving you with brutal injuries.

The dunes are an hour's drive from Jumeirah, off the Dubai-Al Ain road. I suggest you start with the less populated, smaller slopes first. Once you've mastered it (which should take at least four visits), you can hit the bigger sand dunes that range from 200 to 300 meters in height. 'The Big Red' is the biggest and therefore most frequented.

- Prices start at Dh75 per board for 30 minutes.