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The Shifting Sands of Sport

May 30, 1999|NANCY WRIDE

Carvin' dune. That's what the growing bunch of extreme sportos call riding a board down a wall of sand at 50 mph.

Sandboarders get the same thrills as their downhill brethren the snowboarders, with one big advantage: They can carve dunes year-round. But where does a Southern Californian find dunes high enough to create the big air of champions?

Jason Ford of Valencia, ranked seventh in the nation, rides Manhattan Beach's Sand Dune Park, which boasts 200-foot dunes. The best feature? Stairs run up one side of the mound of sand.

"Our chairlifts are our dune buggies usually," jokes Lon Beale, an officer of the National Sandboard League. Unfortunately, many sandboarding sites ban off-road vehicles, leaving sandboarders to hike the hot sand on their own. At the 3,000-foot sand dunes of South Africa, it takes five hours to reach the top, Beale said.

Sandboarding is taking off globally, especially in Australia, Beale says. MTV and other broadcasters of emerging extreme sports are showing interest, but Beale said the sport's been around for ages: "In ancient Egypt they were sliding down the dunes on boards, so it's thousands of years old."

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For information: http://www.sandboard.com.

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