Sandboarding’s first world championship will be hosted by Egypt where the sport originated.
Sandboarding is a sideways riding sport like skateboarding whose participants stand sideways on the board. So people who surf, skateboard, snowboard or wakeboard should be able to sandboard. The sport involves riding across or down a dune while standing with both feet strapped to a board, though some sandboarders use a board without bindings.
Sandboarding is said to have originated in Egypt at the time of the Pharaohs when they slid down dunes on large pieces of wood. The sport evolved over the centuries and although many countries claim to have invented it, the first sandboarders were Egyptian. Australia, the US, Peru, Chili, Germany, France, Namibia and Japan have taken the sport to the next level with tours, competitions and sites for rent in abundance.
In modern times, it started with an Egyptian who snowboarded on a trip to Germany, then returned to the desert to experience the same rush. The board was not properly fashioned so he handcrafted the first sandboard in Egypt. “I started in 2008 by creating a Facebook event inviting Egyptian youth to share my passion of sandboarding,” Karim Hossam, 26, founder of the Dune Raider Sandboarding team, said. “Only 50 people joined me. Now sandboarding is the most frequently practised hobby by Egyptians and tourists wanting to experience the culture,” added Hossam, a mechanical engineer.
It is believed that Egypt’s Western Desert has some of the largest and steepest dunes on the planet. While it was first popularised in Siwa, sandboarding is now on board in Wadi Al-Rayan, Fayoum, Gharb Sohiel, Nubia, Aswan, Sinai and Al-Qattaniya in Marsa Matrouh. With all such suitable boarding places in one country, it wasn’t surprising that the first round of the world sandboarding championship be hosted in Egypt.
Egypt won the bid to host the international challenge in 2015. “It wasn’t hard to persuade the International Sandboarding Federation to change the destination of the championship to Egypt as we have the best factors for the competition; location, brand name, biggest sand boarding page worldwide and a professional team,” Hossam said. “We won the bid for the first time in the Middle East and North Africa. We started with two national competitions, in 2009 and 2010, to gain experience before the big event.”
The first official sandboarding challenge event was held in Al-Qattaniya on 18 April. Spectators were attracted to a diverse agenda that included not only sandboarding but also live bands, outdoor activities, paint ball, parasailing, volleyball, and sandboarding classes. The event helped boost tourism in Egypt which had seen tourism plummet in the last three years following violence triggered by revolutions which ousted two sitting presidents.
The event included 20 professional Egyptian sandboarders. World champion Erick Jonson was also there. The event was the first step in converting the sport from a cultural hobby to a professional championship in time for the sandboarding championship that will take place in Sinai on 21 May 2015 with teams from all over the globe. “Dune Raider will be working to prepare for this date which will include local competitions and the launching of the first sandboarding school,” Hossam said.