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Road Trippin': Riding at the world's first sandboarding park in Florence

Photo Jun 29, 3 58 21 PM.jpg
Alex Margulies sandboarding at Sand Master Park

Welcome back to Road Trippin’ presented by Sprads RV. Over the next 12 weeks I’ll be taking you along for the ride of my journey traveling across the west to some of the most beautiful and exciting destinations.

Following an amazing start to our trip to Oregon playing golf at the brand-new Sheep Ranch course at Bandon Dunes, we made the nearly two hour drive north to Florence to serve as our new home base for the next few days. Known as “Oregon’s Coastal Playground”, Florence is perfectly situated on the Central Oregon Coast for adrenaline filled activities as well as incredible sightseeing.

When I planned the trip to the Oregon coast there landmark that I knew I couldn’t miss and that was a visit to the sand dunes. The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is one of the largest coastal dunes in the world, measuring at nearly 40 miles or over 31,000 acres. And while most people flock to the dunes for off-roading in ATV’s, dirt bikes, UTV’s or just riding in their jeeps or trucks, there was another activity that piqued my interest.

Sandboarding.

Think snowboarding without the boots and on a mountain of sand.

It turns out that Florence is known as the “sandboarding capitol of the world” thanks in part to the pioneering efforts of Lon “Dr. Dune” Beale at Sand Master Park.

Beale formed Sand Master Park in 2000 after he did a shoot for ESPN in Florence and realized it was the perfect place to grow the sport.

“I started as a boy scout as a kid in Death Valley,” Beale said about his introduction to sandboarding. “We tried on cardboard and plastics and different things.”

Beale says when he started manufacturing boards specifically for sand the whole sport changed.

“If you didn’t make your own board, you didn’t sandboard.” Beale said. “Back in 95’ there were zero hits online for sandboarding, and as of this morning there were 900,000”

“People didn’t even know where to sandboard but when we opened up now they could rent a board, take a lesson, take it back to their local dunes and boom there goes the sport!”

I met Beale at his shop in Florence, which features dozens of trophies from local athletes that have competed in the sport competitively, as well as a “sandbrary”- a collection of sand samples from dunes around the world.

A sand aficionado himself, Beale explained what makes Florence so perfect for the sport, aside from the expansive amount of terrain.

“The sand itself is excellent because we do get a lot of rain - it’s very clean,” he said. “The real factor is the shape of the grains. They aren’t like rocks. They are like little marbles. Like you are riding on ball bearings.”

After a little background on the the sport, we were ready to give it try for ourselves. One of the area’s instructors and competitors, Matt Walton, made an hour drive from nearby Eugene to show us the ropes.

From the shop we made our way down to nearby Honeyman Park, just south of Florence, to a beautiful stretch of dune with a perfect slope and a lake serving as a backdrop.

One of the great things about trying sandboarding compared to other board sports like snowboarding, is how easy it is to go try out it. No need for any boots, heavy jackets, and expensive lift tickets. The board straps directly to your bare feet, or you can ride with socks. And rentals start as low as $10 a day.

“One of the great things about sandboarding is that it’s kind of low impact relative to snowboarding,” Walton said.

This would be an important factor for me as I would give the sport a try for the first time. Although I’ve spent most of my life on the mountain an as avid skier, I’ve only tried snowboarding once and didn’t really like it. But when in Rome, or in this case Florence, I had to give sandboarding a shot.

Matt offered some tips before giving me a demonstration.

“The edging is a lot softer than if we were on the mountain, a lot more on the back foot like a heavy powder day on snow.”

He huffed his way to the top of the dune, and then charged down the mountain making smooth buttery turns all the way down the the edge of the lake.

By now, I was ready to charge. I grabbed the board, made my way up the mountain, waxed up the bottom of the board, and gave it a shot. I got off to a decent start but halfway down the dune went straight into a face plant. But luckily, like Matt said, it’s a pretty soft impact. I got right back up, went a little higher, and went full send. This time I actually connected a few turns before ending in an even harder face plant. I kept practicing and in no time made a full run from top to bottom, even though it was far from pretty.

All in all it was an awesome experience, and if I lived in the area I would definitely pick it up as a hobby, especially when I’m jonesing for some turns in the summer.

Next time on Road Trippin’ - we continue in Florence exploring the sand dunes with a ride in a beefed up sand rail with Sand Dunes Frontier.

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