Volcano Boarding: Sledding Down An Active Volcano

The New York TImes has the scoop on a new sport that can trace its origins back to the slopes of Cerro Negro, a 2388 foot tall volcano in western Nicaragua. The new extreme sport is called Volcano Boarding, and participants use a small piece of plywood to rocket down the side of a sometimes active volcano, reaching speeds of up to 50 mph.

The article credits Darryn Webb, an Australian tour guide working in Nicaragua, with coming up with the idea behind volcano boarding. Webb grew up in Queensland, where he learned to sandboard, which is a bit like snowboarding on sand dunes. Back in 2005, when he first set eyes on Cerro Negro, he immeditely began plotting a new way to go down its slopes.

Webb says they tried a variety of different concepts when looking for their “sled”, including boogie boards, mattresses, and even a minibar fridge (!), before eventually going with their current design, which is little more than reinforced plywood with formica on the underside to increase speed. Boarders don a jumpsuit and goggle designed to protect them should they become separated from their rides, and begin the arduous 45 minute climb to the summit, carrying their board.The ride down is, as you would expect, unlike anything else. The writer reports of high speeds, but also a very bumpy and noisy run, in which rocks, dust and ash flew everywhere. Controlling your speed is a challenge to say the least, and when using a technique for slowing down that was shown to her by an instructor, she ended up crashing out of control. But once the ride was over, she wanted to go again, which says a lot for the experience as well.

For extreme sports junkies, hurling down the side of a mountain isn’t nearly extreme enough of course, so the lure of an active volcano makes it all the more exciting. Cerro Negro is young, geologically speaking, and still very active. Since 1850, the volcano has erupted 20 times, and I suppose there are some who come to ride its slopes who have visions of outrunning lava flows as they go. So far, that hasn’t happened, but then again, this is a new sport.