My experience with Alter Action Sandboarding while in Swakopmund
Do you consider yourself an adventure traveler? Are you someone who likes trying new and exciting things? Sandboarding might be for you – if you’ve got the stamina for it! I gave it a try while in Swakopmund and let me tell – it was a fantastic, and exhausting, experience.
If you’ve never heard of sandboarding think snowboarding but on the sand. Now, real boarders of both sports will probably yell at me for that. There are plenty of differences, but for a general non-boarder like myself, the high-level idea is the same. Find a slope, get a board, and ride down. Please don’t hate me boarders.
Booking and Logistics
Being from the Northeast of the US, I’ve had my chance to try snow sports, but had never seen dunes big enough for sandboarding. So when I found myself in Namibia on safari, I jumped at the chance to try it out. I booked the adventure with Alter Action Sandboarding in Swakopmund. Swakopmund is an awesome coastal city, right alongside the ocean and the dunes – a perfect location for sporting adventures.
I chose Alter Action for our sandboarding adventure based on online reviews. They have a fantastic rating on trip advisor and their website is easy to navigate and understand. Booking was super simple. I emailed back and forth a bit with Beth, one of the founders, who was very helpful. She not only helped us chose the right option for our boarding adventure but offered tips on finding accommodation in Swakopmund.
Alter Action offers both lie-down and stand-up sandboarding. When I booked with Beth, I selected the stand-up boarding option for two people. This meant we would get to use the stand-up boards (think snowboarding) and also have a go on the lie-down boards (think sledding). The cost was $700 Namibian dollars or about $40 USD which was a great deal.
The Experience – My First Time Sandboarding
The sandboarding adventure with Alter Action is a half day experience. To beat the heat, Beth picked us up early from our Airbnb at 9:30am. We made a few other stops in Swakopmund to pick up two other groups of two, then headed to the dunes.
The drive was short and soon we were standing at the bottom of the dunes with Beth, a few of her guides, and about 15 other sandboarders. Our group was made up of a student group on vacation and a few couples. Beth and her team quickly and efficiently got us suited up – boots, boards and helmets.
Before we got started, Beth gave us a little information on the dunes and what to expect. Conservation is a huge topic in Namibia and that extended to the dunes. No lifts or quick rides to the top here – sandboarders have to walk up the dune for the pleasure of riding down. Beth warned us to take our time and drink plenty of water. I soon found out why!
If you’ve ever gone hiking you know moving uphill takes effort. Doing that in the sand makes it tenfold (in my opinion). Now I am in fairly decent shape. I’m no Olympian but I try to exercise a few times a week. I still found myself struggling to get up the dunes. As Beth said, I found it important to take breaks and learned the trick of stepping in the footprints of those ahead of me. Embarrassingly for me, my travel companion Zandt, had to carry my board for me a few times! Talk about motivation to work out more.
But! It was worth it! Once we got to the top of the dunes, the instructors gave us a few quick lessons and sent us off one by one. The instructors were fantastic – helpful, funny, and incredible sandboarders themselves. As we scooted, slid, and fell our way down the dunes the instructors took pictures and recordings so we could enjoy the experience and not worry about capturing the moment. I found it challenging to maintain a steady pace and go exactly where I wanted, but it wasn’t so hard that I was frustrated. It was really thrilling when I managed to get on a good streak and the right amount of challenging to be fun.
We spent a few hours on the dunes. You could go up and down as many times as your body allowed in the time given. Those doing the lie-down boarding experience moved from dune to dune, trying out different slopes and using a speedometer to see who could go the fastest on their sand sled. The stand-up boarders like myself stayed on one dune that was particularly welcoming for beginners. The dune did offer a few ramps and obstacles on the off chance an experienced rider appeared. I stayed well away!
Towards the end of our time, the stand-up sandboarders were invited to try the lie-down. I was pretty nervous at first. Anxiously, I watched a few and saw how fast they were going – up to 40mph! I finally got up the nerve to go. It was an incredible feeling to fly down the dune – facing desert in front of you and the ocean to your back. I was out of control but in the best way (and not in any real danger). Now, I will say, think I enjoyed the stand up boarding more. I liked having what felt like more control and trying out small things like turning or changing my speed.
When our time was up, we all trudged or rode down the dune exhausted and incredibly sandy. Seriously, there was sand on every inch of our bodies. Beth and her team set up a quick lunch of sandwiches and soda. I know that doesn’t seem luxurious but let me tell you – nothing has ever tasted so good. After the workout of climbing the dunes that soda was sugary heaven! The crew took a few more pictures and sold branded hoodies which I loved.
After lunch finished, we piled back in Beth’s van along with her dog. He was such a sweetheart and enjoyed all the belly rubs I happily administered. Beth dropped us back at our Airbnb and gave us directions to the Alter Action offices. Later at night, we were invited to stop by and enjoy a slide show and videos the crew had made of the day’s adventures.
We attended and it was a lovely touch. The Alter Action team had taken some really amazing and fun shots of the group. They created a slide show to music and played it for all of us while we enjoyed drinks. At the end you could buy any images you wanted from them and have them emailed. While it was of course a for profit endeavor, it was a really welcoming and fun experience. It felt like being at a party with old friends.
That night I found myself exhausted but wearing a happy smile. I’m not sure if I will get the opportunity to sandboard again but I’m really glad got to try while in Namibia. If you find yourself in Swakopmund reach out to Alter Action. This is not a paid review or anything like that, I just really enjoyed my adventure with them. And if you find yourself around dunes, let out your inner kid and slide down as fast as you can! It’s a great experience.