Hit the dunes: 6 super sandboarding sites
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Sandboarding is a relatively new board sport, but it is skyrocketing in popularity. There are nearly 100 dune locations in more than 20 states where enthusiasts can ride the dunes — swooping down slopes with no lines, no lift tickets and no trees to get in the way.
In recent years, surfers, skiers and snowboarders have joined in a massive crossover to sandboarding. They are taking to the dunes on boards (ranging in price from $150 to $400) made of slicker material and treated with special waxes that make them glide more easily on sand.
This cool new way to have fun is a natural fit for a number of beach destinations but also for inland dune areas in such surprising locations as Michigan and Colorado. So let's have a look at six great places here in the U.S. to hit the sandy slopes.
1. Silver Lake State Park
It's pretty much a consensus among sandboarders who have been there that Silver Lake is the top location on the Great Lakes for their sport. The park also encompasses one of the most scenic stretches of Lake Michigan shoreline, making it an extremely popular summer vacation haunt.
More than 2,000 acres of lofty dunes rise from the lake, and the sand is fast, clean and easily accessible from the nearby town of Mears. Boards can be rented at the Sand Box on Main Street in Mears.
2. Great Sand Dunes National Park
This 30-square-mile swath of Sahara-like desert is one of the last things you'd expect to find the in the middle of the Colorado Rockies — but there it is — one of the nation's most impressive landscapes, with dunes rising 750 feet to form one of the largest and tallest dune fields in North America.
The park is a paradise for boarders, and it's open year-round for all sandsports, except in areas of vegetation. There's a perfectly sculpted 750-footer named Star Dune just a short distance from the park entrance that will provide sufficient thrills for most boarders, but those returning from the back country are out-of-their-heads ecstatic. Rental boards are available at a shop near the park entrance.
3. Sand Master Park
Sand Master Park (SMP) is the world's first sandboard park, and it boasts a beautiful setting on the outskirts of Florence with 40 acres of shimmering coastal dunes back-dropped by lush Oregon rainforest. The privately owned park features beginner to advanced slopes, bowls, cliffs, jumps, rail slides and a 40-foot cushioned ramp.
SMP also offers boarding classes and clinics, and its pro shop carries a huge stock of boards and accessories for rent or purchase. Visitors with their own equipment can enjoy the park's facilities at no cost.
4. Jockey's Ridge State Park
Jockey's Ridge is the tallest sand dune system in the eastern United States. Coincidentally, perhaps, it also is ranked by Sandboard Magazine as the best sandboarding location on the East Coast.
This area of North Carolina's Outer Banks near the town of Nags Head is world famous — not just for boarding but also for kite flying and hang gliding. Remember too that the Wright Brothers took flight from Kitty Hawk, not far from here. Sandboarding is allowed in designated areas of the park from Oct. 1 to March 31. Permits are required but can be obtained free of charge at the park office.
5. Point Mugu Dune Bank
This expansive sand dune is located just north of the chic beach town of Malibu and rises precipitously from the edge of Pacific Coast Highway and the beach. The dune is situated so close to the highway that you can literally sandboard right down to your car.
The slope angle is relatively gentle and the sand, a mix of course and fine silica, is a bit slow — making this an ideal dune for beginners. Views from atop the dune are spectacular, and boarders routinely report seeing whales and dolphins cavorting in the distance.
6. Imperial Sand Dunes National Recreation Area
Located along the eastern edge of California's Imperial Valley, 20 miles west of Yuma, Arizona, Imperial Dunes (also known as Glamis) comprises one of the nation's largest formations of inland sand dunes. You may have seen these dunes in famous movies like "Star Wars," "Lawrence of Arabia" and "The Scorpion King."
This natural sandbox extends in a band some 40 miles long and 5 miles wide. During the winter months, it is by far the most popular spot in the country for off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation. Sandboarders love it, too. There's golden sand, as far as the eye can see, with dunes rising to 300 feet — but boarders must be wary of OHV traffic.
For peace and solitude, consider hiking to North Algodones Dunes, an area closed to mechanized traffic. During peak season, from October to April, seasonal or weekly use permits are required for all vehicles entering the area (including street vehicles). The seven-day permit is $35.
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