Sandboarding in Namibia

He showed us the ropes to conquering speed sand skiing, and within no time we were rallying down every pitch in sight. It was just like alpine skiing, except it was hot, a little abrasive, and completely not like alpine skiing.
We rallied down every pitch in sight. It was just like alpine skiing, except it was hot and a little abrasive.

Sometimes it’s best to be spontaneous. In late July, some friends and I headed to Southern Africa for a few weeks of adventure, with one of the destinations being sandboarding and sand skiing in the Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia. I only took what I could fit into a 35L pack, to make travel easy and light.

Sandboarding in Namibia

Gear for backpacking through Africa 

After a solid 48 hours of travel, we arrived in the breathtaking land of Windhoek, Namibia. From Windhoek, we secured the burliest truck around, loaded it up, and set off into the Namibian Desert.  Rooftop tents made the trip comfortable and convenient.

Sandboarding in Namibia white Sandboarding in Namibia
Big Daddy Dune reaching almost 1000 feet into the sky. Skiing near Dune 7
The journey often felt like it was from a movie as we drove through the Namib-Naukluft National Park, often referred to as the Sossusvlei region. We spotted Dune 45, and pulled over to run up the dune. Within minutes we were nearly 500 feet high admiring the view of the Sossusvlei.

After summiting Dune 45, we approached Big Daddy. Big Daddy sores 1000 feet into the sky and sits at a 45-degree angle, making it extremely challenging to climb. Feeling inspired and confident from Dune 45, we ditched our shoes, and attempted to climb one of the biggest dunes on Earth. We eventually succumbed to the super-fine, ever-shifting sand and turned around halfway up.

After hiking the dunes, we met up with Henrik May, the world record holder in speed-sand-skiing. Henrik has logged over 4,000 dune ski laps, developed a sand-specific wax, and has extensive filming experience on sand.

Sandboarding in Namibia

Chilling in between runs

He showed us the ropes to conquering sand-skiing and sandboarding, and within no time we were rallying down every pitch in sight. It was just like alpine skiing, except it was hot, a little abrasive, and completely unlike alpine skiing.

Sandboarding in Namibia

Jetty 1905 in Swakopmund

Eventually, we ended up in the beach town of Swakopmund, where we visited the infamous Jetty built in 1905 to assist in offloading ships and rafts for trading. In the early 2000’s, it was transformed into a tourist destination and a historical landmark. Stop into the Jetty 1905 for an unforgettable meal.

Travel Tips for Namibia

1. Pack less. The lighter your bag, the farther you’ll go. In a lot of places, it’s fairly easy to do laundry or to replace gear if you lose something.

2. Don’t hold back. A friend I met up with on my trip during his four-month-long quest from Lesotho to Kenya said this: “To travel well, you need three things: time, money, and help.” If those three align, there is little reason to keep yourself from getting outside your comfort bubble.

3. Trust Most People. Just like most places, you can trust most people. I felt safer than in many places in the United States, despite having all of my stuff on my back.

Recommended Gear For Skiing Africa

Protective clothing comes with when you rent ski gear, but below are some key items to consider when backpacking through Africa.

Cotopaxi Tikal Jacket

The Tikal jacket was perfect for cool days, even in good weather. It was more than breathable enough to run around in and provided shelter from occasional rain and snow.

Cotopaxi Tikal Jacket

Photo by Michael Boren


Bedrock Sandal- Synclines

Synclines from Bedrock Sandals kept my feet strong and happy throughout the trip. Perfect for getting through airport security, and even better for protecting my feet from sharp rocks.

Bedrock Sandal- Synclines


Cotopaxi Volta 35L

The Volta is my go-to for adventure travel. It is right around the maximum size for a carry-on bag and the roll-top allows for quick access in a hurry. The roll-top can also be cinched down in less-than-comfortable situations for added security.

Cotopaxi Volta 35L Pack

Photo by Michael Boren