Some people snowboard. Others prefer to sandboard. But both of these sports look like child’s play compared to the up-and-coming extreme sport volcano boarding.
What is volcano boarding?
Well, apart from being an intense adventure activity for the most intrepid of souls, volcano boarding consists of hurtling down a steep volcano slope on a sled-like piece of plywood. Participants sit on the back of their board and rely on their hands and legs to balance their bodyweight as gravity sends them flying down the volcano side.
While it sounds absolutely insane, volcano boarding is becoming increasingly popular, especially for those travelers passing through Nicaragua’s colonial town of Leon. From here, the active volcano Cerro Nero (Black Hill) is just 15 miles away. And that’s right—the extreme adventure will take you down one of the youngest volcanoes in Central America, just to make sure there is enough of a thrill.
To get started, participants are given a wood board with a metal sheet bottom, a full-body jumpsuit and goggles at the base of Cerro Nero. You then have to make the 45-minute trek up to the top of the volcano, with your board in tow. After a brief lesson on steering techniques and safety precautions, it’s go-time (or, more accurately, soar, tumble and fall time). Boarders can get going up to 50 mph as they make their way down the volcano, though there are techniques you can implement to slow your speed down.
Is it safe?
Kind of. Like any extreme adventure, there are inherent risks to sitting on a piece of plywood and zooming down a volcano. But if you follow the directions of your tour guide and don’t try to set any speed records, you should leave the volcano all in one piece. That’s not to say you won’t leave unscathed though—volcano pebbles are less forgiving than sand and snow, and it’s not uncommon to acquire a few scrapes and scratches on your descent. As a general rule, remember that leaning back makes you go faster, while leaning forward makes you go slower. It’s also possible to put your feet and hands down to help you control your pace.
If you want to have footage of you trip down the volcano, consider bringing a GoPro that you can strap to your helmet. You’re going to want to use both hands to control yourself as you go down, and people have broken wrists and arms by attempting to hold a camera in one hand. Also remember that there is a lot of friction between you and the volcanic pebbles. Only bring necessities up to the top of the volcano, and consider wrapping cameras and valuables in towels or blankets.
How do I sign up?
Boarders-to-be can join a number of tour groups from the city of Leon, Nicaragua for a half-day adventure. Most tours will include transportation, one ride down the volcano and lunch for around $30.
Quetzal Trekkers is one of the most popular tour companies. The non-profit also runs adventure hikes around Leon. All proceeds from their tours go to help at-risk children.
BigFoot Hostel is the other major tour company. Their boards are said to go faster, and there is a staff member that clocks your speed during your descent.
If you’re keen on taking an adventure to Cerro Negro but you’re not so sold on the boarding aspect, ask about a running tour. It’s the same concept; however, you run rather than sled down the volcano sides.
Volcano boarding might not be for everyone, but it’s certainly a unique thrill that you’ll be able to boast about for years to come.
Are you ready to go volcano boarding yet? Have you already given this extreme sport a try?