By Patrick Johnson
When you think of the beach, and board sports, surfing or boogie boarding are the first things that come to mind – but that’s not the case at the Oregon coast.
Known worldwide for the amazing dunes, the area around Florence, Oregon has some of the best landscape for sand boarding – that’s right, surfing on the sand.
Many of the shops in the area around the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area offer sand boarding rentals, but there is one shop in Florence that not only offers boards, but lessons, accessories and their own private dune park.
“You can go to any number of shops and get a board and they will send you on your way,” says Lon Beale director of Sand Master Park. “What is going to make the experience enjoyable is learning what you are doing and knowing the proper way to ride the dunes.”
If you do opt to take a lesson, be prepared because your instructor could be a national champion and world record holder in the sport. Two of the six instructors are tops in their sport. Beale says learning sandboarding is a lot like learning to drive a car. He also said that when people take lessons, it is truly instruction and broken down as technique learning.
Josh Tenge, who holds three world records and is a four-time world sandboarding champion, is one of two instructors that has the credentials to teach just about anyone the sport. However, don’t think he is going to have you doing back flips or huge tricks your first time out.
“Basically we teach people how to board, because it’s different than snow or surf,” Tenge said. “The big difference is the sand, how to prepare the board, and every day is different.”
The pro shop at the park not only has a constant flow of videos with the latest tricks, accessories, boards to buy, but also has two shelves with examples of sand that is right for sand boarding with locations written on the recycled water bottles.
“You can really see what types of sand are good for this, and what kinds are pretty poor,” said Matt Walton, another professional Sandboarder who also helps people learn the sport.
The two professionals say that there is one cardinal rule in sandboarding: When you crash, close your eyes and your mouth.
“Sand is very forgiving,” Walton said. “Even when you fall going pretty fast, it cushions your fall and as long as you close your eyes and mouth, you are normally fine.”
The two men have been all around the world finding the best dunes, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Peru, but spend most of their time in Florence.
While the 40-acre park is constantly changing thanks to the nomadic nature of the dunes, just down Highway 101 is Oregon Dunes Recreation Area with its more than 27,000 acres of dunes to explore. Each year it’s estimated more than two million people visit the dunes on the southern Oregon coast, with ATVs, sandrails and more and more picking up a sandboard.
“This place is my Disneyland,” Beale says. “This is the coolest thing to do in Florence.”
Sand Master Park is the world’s first sandboard park and it was opened in 2000 by Beale. Each year he says he introduces about 25,000 people to the sport, and has three sanctioned competitions at the park.
“It’s so affordable and you can spend an entire day exploring not just here, but in the dunes down south,” Beale said. “The only real factor you have to worry about is rain.”
When the humidity is high, the boards won’t slide down the sand, so during the summer months is the best time to visit the park. With a 40-acre park filled with private dunes, two ramps and the pro shop, Sand Master Park is the Mecca for all things sandboarding in Oregon.
About the Sand Master Park: Located in Florence, the park was established in 2000 and is the world’s first sandboard park. With 40-acres of private dunes, the staff are always preparing jumps, lessons and tours of the area. Dune Riders International is the governing body for competitive sandboarding world wide and sanctions three events each year at Sand Master Park.
What to bring: Bring your courage, because dunes in the area can reach higher than 50-feet. Just keep in mind that sand is soft and forgiving – unlike skateboarding on concrete. Pets are not allowed and private 4-wheel drive vehicles are not allowed into the private dunes.
Tip: It is very worth it to take a lesson from the pros at the pro shop. They will not only help you figure out how to ride the boards, but also the proper way to prepare them – with the right waxing and clothing.
Season: Beale says that September through October are the best times to visit, however during the summer months will also work. Rain and humidity slow the boards down, so dry days are preferred.
Getting there: Type 87542 Highway 101 North, Florence, Oregon into the GPS and it is right off the highway north of Florence.