Four Seconds For Takeoff

I joined a big group of adventurers that went out into the Namibian desert to Sandboard where the sand dunes were higher than I expected. It was a hot day that got even worse when I put on the sandboarding gear.

Sandboarding in Swakopmund, Namíbia is a popular activity. I had never tried neither sandboarding or snowboarding so I wanted to give it a go.

On my trips, I rarely do adrenalin activities as I’m not the adrenalin seeker type of person. The main reason I avoid dangerous activities is the risk of getting a major injury that can end my worldwide adventures. I think it doesn’t make any sense to risk an adventure of a lifetime for a short boost of adrenaline. For some reason, my African trip kept calling me closer to danger.

After a short briefing, I understood the sandboarding concept and got excited to try it out. But that changed as soon as I saw the size of the sand dune. For a first experience, it was quite a big sand dune, something like 100 meters high.

Climbing the dune wasn’t easy, especially carrying the gear. The boots didn’t help either. When I got up there, I waited for my turn, watching the others go down. A few of the more experienced guys jumped off a ramp with style.
It was finally my turn and I wasn’t feeling nervous. I started with caution, but as I got confident, I started to let go and felt like I was doing ok for a first time.

Going down is quite fast, even if you restrain yourself. It took me like 30/40 seconds to go down the dune, I think. The problem is going back again. It’s hot, it’s sweaty and it takes a while to go up those 100 meters. The organisation scattered a few bottles of water throughout the dune. I admit I didn’t feel comfortable sharing bottles of water with so many people.

After a couple of goes, I decided to try the other style of sandboarding. In Namibia, they have a lie-down boarding. This means you lay stomach down on a flat rectangle board, going head first. You have to pull up the front of the board with your hands to slide. You control your speed by digging into the sand with your feet. Sounds scary, but for some reason, I felt confident. It seemed easier than stand up boarding as there is less technique involved. It’s also faster…

I didn’t have to wait long until it was my turn. As soon as I got down on the board, I immediately realised I had made a major mistake. Wearing a cap underneath my helmet was ok when standing up. When laying down, it meant that I couldn’t see anything in front of me…

Before I had time to react, they let go of me and down the dune I went. I remember making a massive effort to try and see ahead. For about 4 seconds. During the process, I was so focused on trying to see, that I forgot to dig my feet into the sand and break. Four seconds later… takeoff!! I was flying in one direction, the board flying in another. There was an elevation in the sand that I should have braked before getting there to avoid flying.

I hit the sand face down with a massive bang! I got up slowly, trying to figure out if I was still in one piece. I felt no pain, except for the embarrassment. Then I saw one of my sunglasses’ lenses about a meter away. My completely broken sunglasses were close by. One of the guys from the organisation came running to me, worried about avoiding a crash with the next person coming down the dune. He noticed I was bleeding. I touched my nose and got blood on my glove. As I banged my head into the sand, my sunglasses broke and cut the top of my nose right between my eyes.

Every time I remember this episode, I think about how lucky I was. I could have lost an eye, suffered a major injury or both. I got out of it with a scar and a story to tell.

After some first-aid help, I ended my first ever sandboarding adventure. I was a spectator for the rest of the morning. At lunchtime, we exchanged war stories and of course, I got a little more attention than I would have liked. They were filming all morning and I was sure my crash was part of the memories included in a CD they were preparing for us.

I spent the afternoon chilling in the shade, having beers and chatting with my roommate. I didn’t feel like going to the shop to get my CD. I didn’t want to see the crash and go through the whole thing again, so I left it for the next day.

We left our accommodations and went into town. While our team got some supplies, I was going to the office to get my CD. My travel companion who also did the sandboarding offered to go and get both our CDs while I went to get some breakfast. That was a mistake I will never make again. We were on the road together for another 30 days and she never gave me the CD. After asking for it about 5 times, I gave up. I don’t know what happened, but I think she lost one or both of the CDs and didn’t have the courage to tell me. She acted like it never happened. It was awkward.

Lesson learned: no matter how well you get along with fellow travellers, never give them the responsibility to do your things. This CD situation was my fault, as I should have gone to the shop myself. Because of a stupid mistake, I don’t have myself filmed flying over a Namibian sand dune.

Another lesson learned: I decided I wouldn’t do any more adrenaline activities throughout my trip, except for a whitewater rafting adventure I was dreaming about…

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