Thursday, 4 July 2019

Dune of Pilat, France

I'm doing another location post because mainly because I'm here, but also because this was mentioned in my interviews with Alex Bird & Vitor Semedo this year and I thought I'd come here and see what I could find for myself!


The Dune of Pilat (also known as Dune of Pyla) is the tallest free-standing sand dune in Europe, this fact is so proudly shown at the park itself and at the passport control area at Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport; I was getting more and more excited the closer I got to the dune. Once you arrive, you will find yourself enter a large car park equipped with plenty of spaces for cars, bikes, and even coaches; this includes a café, toilet and washroom facilities on the park a few hundred metres away from the dune. The parking fees are generous and won't break the bank for your trip.

List of the prices as of 2nd July 2019.


In my interview with Vitor, he told me that you can sandboard on the dune but only on the side facing towards the beach; sandboarding towards the side facing the forest is forbidden, most likely to preserve the pine forests there. Despite being a nature reserve, it's worth noting that the site is open all year round and there's no limits to the beach or forest access near the dune.

Notice how the dune slowly creeps towards the trees.

The best things about this place is that there is a staircase to the top of the dune, this has been the first dune I've been able to climb without feeling the need to drink all of my available water; the other great feature of this dune is that the views once you reach the top are jaw-dropping! The dunes seem to go on forever and don't stop in one direction, the other direction shows you a stunning beach also with paragliding as its sport of choice! I've seen so many photos of this dune on the Internet, but once I saw it with my eyes, it hit me and I couldn't stop smiling!

They should have steps to the top of every dune as standard!

I actually came to do some recreational sandboarding over 2 days here; the first day did allow me to do some sandboarding but the sand in some places was wet and my board wouldn't move, I did manage to achieve a couple of good runs on the dune but the best one I did, my camera wasn't on! Sandboarding was able to be done but it required a lot of wax, a lot of patience, and a lot of skill; thankfully luck was on my side! The second day went without a hitch, aside from getting a lot of sand in my eyes and getting my board buried a few times because of the amount of sand here, overall I completely understand why so many tourists come here, I even saw some German, British, Swiss, and Dutch vehicles in the car park.

The wagon for my trip!


It is a task and a half to try and get public transport to the dune, even from the near towns of Arcachon & La-Teste-Du-Buch; it's not an easy task, I hired a car from Bordeaux's Airport as in my view, driving is pretty much the only viable option, especially with a big sandboard to hand; to summarise, it can take some time to get here, but it's open 24 hours (I'd recommend sandboarding in the evening during the hot summer months) got a spectacular beach, and dunes that don't seem to finish.

This is the main reason I got 3-day flight to Bordeaux, but I gotta say it was money well spent, I ticked off another sand dune and also, I got to visit France, I'll see you when I get home!


Monday, 1 July 2019

Who is Vitor Semedo?

At the Sandboard World Cup in 2017, he finished 3rd in the Boardercross discipline for Cabo Verde; at this year's world cup in June, he came 2nd in the Slalom and was crowned world champion in Sand Boardercross!

The 2019 Boardercross podium (left: Deybis Jhair Donayre Ecos, centre: Vitor Semedo, right: Omar Martínez)


Vitor Semedo had participated in his first ever snowboarding event this year at the Audi Snowboard Series and the Giant X tour in Flumserberg, Switzerland; he finished 11th on the Giant X tour and came 19th in the Audi Snowboard Series. [1]

It's the first time that an athlete outside of Europe or South America has won a Sandboarding discipline at the world cup since it began, hearing the good news and armed full of questions, I had an opportunity to interview, the champion himself!

Mute Grab by Vitor Semedo


How does it feel to be world champion in boardercross?

"I still can't believe that I can call myself world champion, I did a bronze medal in 2017 and I was there more for the experience than for the title!"

What do you think you did differently this time to be the world champion as opposed to coming 3rd?

"Work, training, practice, and fun were the added ingredients."

How would you prepare yourself before a sandboarding tournament?

"I did training this winter and last winter, in the snow (because I live in France); I did the Giant X tour in Switzerland; I did a long trip in Namibia as well for training."

What's your favourite place for Sandboarding?

"After my trip in Namibia, definitely Namibia; because the landscape is just crazy, amazing; the dunes are really big."

Do you think Cape Verde will get more exposure for Sandboarding after your world cup win?

"I don't think so, the tourism isn't big enough for sandboarding. For people who want to discover something, it can be a good experience."

How did you handled coming second in the slalom?

"Actually it was surprising for me because, Slalom isn't my specialitity; I was relaxed for the slalom because I already won the boardercross and I wanted to live the experience, after the run maybe I could do it; the German man (Luca Flachenecker) was really strong and really fast and I couldn't win but second place is a good position, I'm happy with it."

Do you have any messages for anyone who wants to get into Sandboarding?

"Just try and you'll fall in love, if you try sandboarding, you will want to go back on sand for sure; we have no seasons, it's year round you can try all year round!"

What plans do you have in the next world cup?

"For the next world cup, I will do the same but the level is going up; I have to train more; the new generation is coming and they're training all year round (especially the Peruvians & Chileans) so it will be hard for sure!"

Aside from my questions for Vitor, the Champion had also asked me how I got into sandboarding, I responded by saying that I got into it from an early age, I didn't feel the same connection with sandboarding as I did with other sports, and once I learned to drive, I could progress my abilities in the sport; also I was asked why there wasn't any English participation in the World Cup, I therefore discussed my plans to compete in the Sandspirit competition first and then progress onto the world cup the following year if all goes well!

Mr. Semedo at the 2019 Sandboarding World Cup.


It's rare I get a chance to interview inspiring sandboarding heroes; but when I do, I end up interviewing the new world boardercross champion for 2019! Félicitations on the new world title & Merci for an excellent interview!

[1]: InterSands. 2019. Switzerland welcomes sand riders to participate in snow events.. [ONLINE] Available at: http://intersand.org/en/switzerland-welcomes-sand-riders-to-participate-in-snow-events/. [Accessed 26 June 2019].

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

I've Changed

Yesterday, you may have noticed that the blog was shook up a bit; new logos were added to the official Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages!

I always thought that a sandy 'S' was great, but now I reckon a rider on the sand better reflects what this blog's about.

Monday, 17 June 2019

European Health Insurance Card

"Elektronische Gesundheitskarte Mustermann RS" by Lumu is a Public Domain work.

The European Health Insurance Card (commonly known as an EHIC) was first issued in 2004 and is proof of entitlement to medical treatment within Europe; with the European health insurance card, you are entitled to health insurance and your medical expenses are covered under the legislation in force in the country you are visiting. [1]

However, it has come to my attention that a lot of my European friends haven't been made aware of this. In the unlikely event that you were to be injured abroad, they could be stung with having to pay for treatment if they were to see a doctor.

You should also ask for a receipt or certificate any time you use your European Health Insurance Card. In some countries, state healthcare is totally free and you will pay nothing. Otherwise, you will usually be asked to pay for the treatment or prescription at the time and you reclaim some or all of the cost afterwards. [2]

"Hospital room ubt" by Tomasz Sienicki is a public domain work.

Currently, you can use your EHIC within the European Economic Area (All European Union members plus Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) and Switzerland. To qualify for an EHIC, you must either meet one of two criteria:


  • Be a citizen of the EU, EEA, or Switzerland.
  • Be a non-citizen but legal resident in the EU, EEA, or Switzerland.

For non-citizens to receive the EHIC, they must pay or be covered by social security. However, you cannot use your EHIC for treatment in Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. Croatians cannot use their EHIC in Switzerland. [2]

It's also good custom to buy travel insurance along with using your EHIC card, If you’re unlucky enough to need more serious or emergency medical treatment then the Association of British Insurers recommends using your travel insurance as policies provide not only medical cover, but will often cover other subsequent costs, which can be anything from rearranging your flight home, to having a family member stay on with you and even taxis and transport to the hospital for further appointments. [3]


Residents of Europe can apply for an EHIC on the official website, the UK version is available here. Don't get stung by companies who'll charge for a 'fast-track' service as EU law reiterates that the EHIC card is free of charge.

For now, I will continue to consider that the UK is still a member of the European Union until a final decision has been made; there is a lot of speculation as to what will happen as Brexit has already been delayed... twice, but "If the UK leaves with no deal, your EHIC will no longer be valid." [4]

So no matter what you're doing or where you're going this year, don't get stung by medical expenses and make sure you're covered for any unnecessary events.

I'm off to France in 2 weeks tomorrow to write about the Dune of Pilat and do some Sandboarding while I'm there, I've already got my EHIC and travel insurance.


References:

[1]: APRIL International. 2019. The European Health Insurance Card. [ONLINE] Available at: https://uk.april-international.com/en/administrative-procedures/european-health-insurance-card. [Accessed 17 June 2019].

[2]: Expatica. 2019. EHIC: European Health Insurance Card explained | Expatica. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.expatica.com/healthcare/healthcare-basics/ehic-european-health-insurance-card-explained-100250/#EHICwork. [Accessed 17 June 2019].

[3]: lovemoney.com. 2019. What does an EHIC really cover? | lovemoney.com. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.lovemoney.com/guides/16395/what-does-an-ehic-really-cover. [Accessed 17 June 2019].

[4]: BBC News. 2019. Will the EHIC be valid after Brexit? - BBC News. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-44850972. [Accessed 17 June 2019].

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Helmets for Sandboarding

In November 2016, the wearing of helmets was made mandatory in all InterSands Sandboarding events with a unanimous vote from members and athletes from Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Switzerland; InterSands is different from Dune Riders International but they are another sports organisation that host global sandboarding events.

In my honest opinion, I agree with the ruling as this can reduce risks of injuries, but at the same time this may only have come about due to negativity bias (i.e. bad news is more prevalent and popular with readers than good and articles on death may be more popular on someone winning a championship title for example); still it's a move and I welcome it.

As well as the sporting organisations, tour agencies such as Kalbarri Sandboarding will include helmets as part of your included equipment and many other agencies will do the same and some agencies will even refuse to allow you to board if you don't wear a helmet.

It's not exactly a law but as mentioned in articles where people have actually died whilst Sandboarding, it will probably help to wear a helmet from time to time as falling into sand isn't hard but it's not soft neither.

Some of you may or may not be aware, I also ride a moped; I used to have an old Honda City Express but now I've gone up in the world and own a little green Vespa.

"Piaggio Vespa ET4 Moped" by Jack Soley is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
In the UK, it's legally required that you wear a helmet whilst riding a motorcycle.

In other countries, the law is different and/or different safety standards may be used, but with other ventures such as Sandboarding, it's not a requirement to have a helmet at all; however standards that are often used in motorcycle helmet manufacturing are the ECE, DOT, and Snell; you can find about these standards by clicking here, but the tests used for seeing if a helmet is up to safety standards include: Abrasive resistance, fire resistance, impact resistance, penetration resistance, and assessing build quality so if you're looking to buy a helmet which may or may not be labelled for Sandboarding "as this sport is niche" then at least look for these standards if you can, or better still a snowboarding helmet will work just fine.

It's also a good idea not to buy from abroad (most notably, China) only because you will often find replicas made there, sold abroad, however with some items it's not as obvious that some big brand has been replicated; it'll be common to see a fake bag being sold as a "Lewis Vitten" (take a guess on the real brand name). Also, if you're buying from abroad; make a good guess if you think the company is reputable; as a lot of low-cost high-traffic warehouses shipping goods all over the world will use techniques to cut down on their costs, a good technique to reduce cost is to use lighter shipping materials; instead of shipping in a cardboard box with a bubble-wrapped interior, you might often find your new acquisition delivered to your house in a bin bag; so whatever protection the helmet had in the factory, it's been diminished from shipping.

I've got a helmet, as I like the idea of keeping my head in one piece; it was a cheap helmet from the UK that was designed for skateboarding. It's rare, if not impossible to find a "Sandboarding" helmet, a snowboarding helmet I suspect would work.

If you've got any opinions on the use of helmets in Sandboarding, leave a comment and this week's poll will be regarding helmets!

Friday, 24 May 2019

Sandboarding Bites #13

If where you are is quite remote and you can't get a phone signal, it's always a good idea to keep some spare change just in case you need to make an emergency call.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Another Blog Record!

On the 17th July 2016, the blog set a record of most views in one day (175).

On the 2nd January 2019, the bar was raised to 1,840 views in a day.

Now on the 4th May 2019, a new personal best was set! In that day alone, there were 1,872 views on the blog.


I'm still forever thankful, the blog wouldn't exist without your continued interest! Thank you.

<3