Matt Walton catches some air while sandboarding at Sand Master Park in Florence. The park attracts sand “surfers” from around the world to ride its grainy dunes. (Courtesy photo)
When Matt Walton found himself looking for something to do after completing his time at Waldport High School in 2006, he found it in tiny grains of sand piled high into dunes along the shore of the southern Oregon coast. Walton and his friends were bored until they discovered real board - sandboard, that is.
“We heard about sandboarding in Florence, so we went down and tried it out, because it was pretty cheap to take a board out and just go,” he recalled. “It snowballed from that for us.”
That first trip was all it took for Walton to really get into the sport. “I was hooked,” he said. “I had never really been into board sports before. It was pretty easy to pick up.”
Sandboarding is similar to snowboarding, except it takes place on sand dunes rather than snow-covered hills. And the Oregon coast has some excellent spots, including Sand Master Park in Florence, which opened in 2000. The bluffs in Newport are also an option.
“When we’re riding bluffs, it’s a different feel compared to riding the dunes, like most people do,” Walton said. “We can ride right to the surf, if we’re at the right spot. It offers a unique perspective for an already unique sport.”
While sandboarding is similar to snowboarding, it demands its own riding style.
“As far as tricks and competitive riding goes, sandboarding is very similar to snowboarding,” said Walton. “But the riding itself and the atmosphere and culture is definitely much more similar to surfing. We’re still pretty underground. It’s definitely not a mainstream sport. It has that 60’s-70’s surfer vibe to it.”
Unlike snowboarders, sandboarders don’t have chairlifts to carry them to the top of the dunes.
“Most of the time when we’re riding around here, especially when we’re walking up to the dunes, it’s kind of like our paddle out, so we share a lot with surfers in terms of attitude and just the general vibe of the sport,” Walton said, noting that local riders aren’t very territorial, and are in fact “definitely a bit more inviting” than those involved in other board sports.
Walton said it’s a sport for all ages, and easy to learn. As an instructor, he has taught kids as young as 5 years old. He said the oldest sandboarder he knows of is a 78-year-old Texas man.
“It’s a really easy sport to pick up in comparison to snowboarding or surfing or skating, the learning curve is pretty mellow,” he said. Convenience and lack of injuries are added incentives to try it out.
“Unlike snowboarding and certain other sports, once you get your sandboard and your wax, all you need is a hill of sand, that’s it,” Walton said. As for injuries, he has taken spills on sand that taken on skate or snow “would have put me in the hospital.”
Walton also offered some advice on sand conditions. “You can ride when (the sand) is wet, but it’s definitely not as fun,” he noted.
Sandboarding on the Oregon coast is typically a summer activity.
Sand Master Park located just north of Florence is open 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. seven days a week from June 1 to Sept. 10. Off-season hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The park closes for the winter from Jan. 15 to March 1.
To find out more, contact them at (541) 997-6006, SMP@sandboard.com, or visit www.sandmasterpark.com.
For more information about sandboarding in general, go to www.sandboard.com.