Sandboarding makes a post-COVID comeback in Namibia desert town

By Thomson Reuters Mar 18, 2024 | 6:30 AM

By Nyasha Nyaungwa

SWAKOPMUND, Namibia (Reuters) – Set against miles of mesmerizing sand dunes, Namibia’s seaside resort town of Swakopmund is seeing a boom in sandboarding, buoyed by a near-doubling of the numbers of cruise liners docking at nearby Walvis Bay last year.

Lying between the 80,000 square km (31,000 square mile) Namib desert and the sea, Swakopmund is drawing tourists back, three years after lockdown brought Namibia’s visitor numbers – previously around a million a year – to a standstill.

Many of them are tempted by the thrill of this extreme sport, which involves sliding down sand dunes standing up or lying down on a board at speeds of up to 80 km (50 miles) an hour.

“It is one of the best things to do around here,” said Aylin Yazan, a media professional from London on her first trip to Namibia.

Walvis Bay is also seeing a boom in traffic from shippers diverting their cargoes away from the insecurity on the Red Sea and chronic congestion at ports in neighbouring South Africa.

For sandboarding guide Devon Waters, 28, a longtime resident of Swakopmund, which lies 360 km (223 miles) northwest of Windhoek, the sport offered an escape from a life on the streets, where drugs and crime were a constant temptation.

“(Sandboarding) changed me a lot. It keeps me off the streets because we work here every day,” Waters, who has been a guide for eight years, told Reuters.

“It puts bread on the table.”

(Editing by Tim Cocks and William Maclean)