Friday, 29 July 2016

Sandboarding and Cars

This is a Sandboarding blog, the name of the sport is pretty much in the name of this blog; but every now and again I will buck the trend of Sandboarding (whilst still remaining on topic) and talk about something else; whether it would be donating to charity, my patreon account, passing my driving test, or even sports camera batteries.

As you could probably tell by the title of this post, this is regarding the sport in which I'm specialised (I hope you'll believe so) and my other favourite sport, driving!

If you live in Southern Africa, the "Deep South" of the United States, or in the Rub Al-Khali (empty quarter); you'll need a good set of wheels to get you from A to B. If you have a lot of sand dunes near you and you lack good roads, or if you're just enthusiastic about Sandboarding as I am, then you need a specialised (or at least good) vehicle to get you around those dunes.

[Disclaimer] I passed my UK driving test in May of this year, there's no opportunities to do extreme driving in the UK as I would lose my license and my car is an economical hatchback, not a 4x4 that has the power to go at high speed up a mountain. This article is intended for advice and entertainment purposes only as I'm not a driving instructor or indeed have a qualification in the driving profession. [/Disclaimer]

My car. Courtesy of: Ganymede81 License: CC BY 3.0 Modified: No

My car is a MK4 Seat Ibiza, it was first driven on the road on my birthday of 2003; which also was the breakout of the Iraq War; the manufacturer claimed to have 63 brake horsepower and 47/48 miles per gallon. My car has a 1.2 litre petrol engine and the top speed is about 103 miles per hour (even though my speedometer goes up to 140 miles per hour but never mind). My car is fantastic, I love it, I really do; but it's not the sort of thing I would take to go to Namibia or even in the USA to go dune-bashing (Yes, that's what it's called), nevertheless the car is my first and hopefully my last.

If you're going to use dunes, try using a dune buggy. Dune buggies usually have a cage equipped so in the unfortunate event that your vehicle is upside down, you can tip it back to normal. Literally. The engine size of a standard dune buggy can vary from 200cc (cc means Cubic Centimetres) to about 2 litres in engine size.

Courtesy of: Alberto G Rovi License: CC BY-SA 3.0 Modified: No
Dune buggies not only make you look cool but they're also lots of fun... when it's a nice day, if the weather is rubbish and it starts to rain or if you're going through a zone with lots of sand; you will most likely get covered in sand; they're not very fast either, a standard 250cc dune buggy will go at 60 kilometres per hour (37 miles per hour).

If dune buggies don't take your fancy and you prefer comfort in the desert, then you should opt for something more fancy, for example: An off road 4x4 vehicle, such as a Land Rover, Range Rover, Jeep, Mercedes-Benz G-Class, or a Hummer. These vehicles will cost significantly more than your dune buggy or your basic, young driver, economical hatchback like mine. My Seat Ibiza was purchased for £400 ($525 USD as of 26 July 2016), a 2016 dune buggy with sand rail costs about $46,000 USD (£35,019 as of 26 July 2016), and a brand new Mercedes-Benz G Class will happily sell for £88,800 ($116644 USD as of 26 July 2016).

Mercedes-Benz G Class from the Classic Moto Show 2014 in Kraków, Poland. Courtesy of: Dawid783 License: CC BY-SA 1.0 Modified: No

The picture above is an example of a Mercedes-Benz G class, this is an early model but more recent models will be equipped with air conditioning, heated seats, traction control, cruise control, and a treasure chest full of useful features that'll combine luxury, comfort, and power. You don't even have to use four wheels for a small economy car, a dune buggy, or a high cost, high standard, and high luxury vehicle to get up sand dunes and cross a horrible, uninhabitable, dry, rocky, and hot desert.

Yesterday, I went back on Holywell Bay Sand Dunes and I won't spoil the surprise but I had a thought and I was thinking of a method to get up sand dunes, that method was a quad bike. Quad bikes might not have the luxury aspect but they have 4 wheels, and they can get you up a sand dune in no time! Quad bike engine sizes generally vary from about 200cc to usually 1000cc or a 1 litre engine size, quad bikes are a good method of getting around off-road but most quad bikes are not generally road legal and will need modifications in order to make it road legal. Quad bikes can go from about £1,000 to £15,000 each ($1,319.27 USD and $13,192.65 USD respectively as of 29 July 2016).

Quad bike doing two-wheel trick. Courtesy of: Peter Ellis License: CC BY-SA 3.0 Modified: No
Now you've seen some of the possibilities you can transport across sand dunes and a desert area, you can choose whether you want to be in luxury or to be in a standard vehicle, speed or power, style or substance; whatever you choose it'll be a good choice to go in one of these vehicles. Pick-up trucks and SUV's are also good to go across a desert but you'll need modifications or a sports' model if you want to go far! It's also important that you have the items you need if you have a breakdown, get stranded or if you have any injuries; be sure to also have appropriate vehicle insurance if you're going far (and keep in mind, in some countries including the United Kingdom, vehicle insurance is compulsory).

Friday, 22 July 2016

Rio 2016: The Fate of Russia's Athletes

You might have heard that in the news recently, athletes from the Russian Federation have been banned from participating in the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janiero, a handful of athletes and the Russian National Olympic Committee failed to overturn the ban that prevented track and field athletes from taking part in the Olympics that'll start in the upcoming weeks.

Russia ran a state-sponsored doping programme for athletes looking to participate in sporting events, the Russian athletes who were clear of doping allegations may also still be banned from participating in the games altogether, but a select number of athletes may be able to be Neutral (Independent Olympic Athletes) if they meet the required criteria. Independent Olympic Athletes' isn't something new, since 1992 IOA's have come from East Timor, South Sudan, the Netherlands Antilles, & former Yugoslav states have participated in the games under this banner. Independent Olympic Athletes compete as such for a number of reasons; political or civil unrest, international sanctions, no national Olympic committee (such as South Sudan at the 2012 Games in London), or even if their national Olympic committee has been suspended; which is why some Russian athletes could compete as IOA's in Rio this summer.

Olympiyskiy Stadium in Cheboksary during European Athletics Team Championships 2015. Courtesy of: АлексИзз License: CC BY-SA 4.0

Russian athletes could participate under the Olympic rings, but I'm going to ask the question: "What is doping?"

Doping is the act of using banned performance enhancing drugs or medication when taking part in sports in order to gain a competitive advantage. Athletes who are caught using performance enhancing drugs will be in hot water with the sports association, (the IOC, FIFA, NFL, etc...) and also could be in violation of local laws. However, doping can't be a perfect solution to solving the enigma of apprehending cheats; as there are some everyday products that will falsely trigger a drug test failure, such as: common cold remedies, snack bars with high levels of protein, poppy seeds, ibuprofen, and tonic water; these products have traces of banned substances in sporting associations but if you're caught with these substances in your urine or blood, you will be banned.

Protest banner at 2006 Tour De France. Courtesy of: Wladyslaw License: CC BY-SA 2.5 Changes Made: No

Moving away from doping and back to mother Russia, when the Soviet Union was crumbling apart the athletes participated as the "Commonwealth of Independent States" and not the Olympic flag, as this was somewhat of a successor to the Soviet Union. At the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, there was a boycott lead by the United States and 14 national Olympic committees had athletes take part under the Olympic flag instead of their own. The 1980 boycott had nothing to do with doping, it was regarding the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan back in 1979 which was a time when the Cold War was in full swing and a nuclear war looked like a possibility.

If there may be a boycott at these Rio games, then it'll be the first one for non-political or military reasons.

"no-one cares my career is ruined." - Sergey Shubenkov, Rio 2016: Russia ban is 'the rebirth of the Olympics', BBC

Shubenkov who is the current 110m hurdles champion applied to compete as an Independent athlete in the Rio 2016 Games but shockingly, his request was denied. The clean athletes are punished by the International Olympic Committee by the actions of the athletes who were playing foul. The fate of the Russian athletes now stands in the hands of the IOC itself, the credibility and reputation hangs in the balance for the IOC. Will we see the Russian tricolour at the games? Will there be a handful of athletes under the Olympic rings? Or could there possibly be another boycott led by Russia just like in 1984?

The Olympic Movement Flag. License: Public Domain

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Heavy Heat for the UK: Emergency Article

If you live in the UK, you're probably reading this furiously sweating with the air conditioning on full blast; but if you intend to go Sandboarding in the British Isles this week, whether it's in Merthyr Mawr, Holywell Bay, Braunton Burrows, or anywhere with dunes; you should take extra care out there.

Make sure you wear appropriate sunscreen or sunblock with at least a sun protection factor of 15. NHS England says there's no safe or healthy way to get a tan. A tan doesn't protect your skin from the sun's harmful effects.

The sun is at its strongest between 11am and 3pm, you can even get sunburn when it is cloudy. When buying sunscreen, make sure you see both the UVA and UVB labels, check the expiry date of sunscreen as well because sunscreen usually has a shelf life of 2-3 years.

Always wear sunglasses, a wide brimmed hat, and apply at least 2 tablespoons of sun lotion if you're planning on covering your whole body. Most definitely, don't spend any longer in the sun than what you would without an appropriate sunscreen.

I will do a bigger article on this soon but this is a quick and important announcement for anyone planning on Sandboarding in the UK for this week, or even for the whole summer! A longer article will come soon. I decided to write this as it's currently 32 Centigrade in my hometown which is on the 52nd parallel and I don't want anyone to get a nasty burn this summer (or ever).

Saturday, 16 July 2016

What is "Sandboarding Nation"?

You have probably clicked here because you're curious to know what exactly is "Sandboarding Nation"?

Contradictory to its name, Sandboarding Nation isn't a country or nation so to speak; the community of people and sportsmen & sportswomen that make up this sport are the 'nation' and the Sandboarding is the sport that is practised in that general sense. This is a blog which I established on the 12th October 2014 when I was about a month in college and already hating it to my guts that I needed a hobby to occupy my time and blogging was that hobby that occupied my time.

As my interest kept growing, I decided to set up a Twitter & Facebook page for the blog. My blog kept growing and I soon found myself wanting to stop writing as the interest and target market for my blog were lower than I perceived, but I decided not to stop as I thought to myself that I'm on a mission to provide 3 core values:

  • To promote Sandboarding and gain interest amongst the sporting community
  • To entertain readers and inform the population
  • To devote spare time of mine to something constructive
As long as I kept myself on track for these 3 values, then I'm hoping you'll believe I'm doing something right about this blog. The blog has cost me more money than I have made from it, it's something that I enjoy doing and something that I will keep going back to even if every once in a while I will take a break from it. As I write this; I have 5,002 views on the blog itself, 773 Facebook likes, and 33 Twitter followers as of the 16th July 2016; I anticipate those numbers to grow as I expand my blog and devote more time to it, I can't imagine that this blog will ever replace my job but the more I contribute to this, I'll feel like I'm doing more. In the future, I hope to do an international visit on Sandboarding, publish a book, make an app for Android and iPhone based on this blog, and I hope to have someone else reporting with me on this blog so one day, maybe one day, Sandboarding will get the recognition it deserves and hopefully be as popular as Snowboarding or even better, football.

If this is your first ever visit to this blog or if you're reading this blog post because of the "Learn More" function on Facebook, then let me introduce you to this blog and formally welcome you into my "Sandboarding Nation", I will be overjoyed if you would read some of my material.

If there's only one thing you'll remember from this blog post, it is that I'll always put you first and I will always be delighted when people just like you and me visit this blog and see what I have to offer!

I'll always have more things to write on this amazing sport, I've loved this sport since I was 8 and at the time of publication; I'm 18. A ninth of my current life has gone to blogging, Five Ninths of my life has gone to Sandboarding, I'll always want to learn more about blogging and Sandboarding. If there's something that I should work on, tell me. If there's something that I need to write more on, tell me. If there's something that I need to stop, tell me. I've based this blog on what the readers have wanted since 2014, I remember when I had 452 views and I can see the changes I've made to it, I'll keep on with this blog until I stop. I don't care if the blog costs more than it pays, it occupies my time and it keeps me productive.

Now, I'll ask you this question if you've made it this far into the post; will you be a part of my Sandboarding Nation? Will you join me?

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Sandboarding in the Olympics

Since the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998, Snowboarding has been a sport in the winter Olympics with venues, medals, podiums, winners, crowds, and nationalistic pride. If Snowboarding is in the winter Olympics, why can't Sandboarding be the summer alternative?

Sandboarding has been a sport growing in popularity and it's looking to increase popularity as the days go on, snowboarding has been the more popular of the two and even video games, box office movies, and novels have been based on Snowboarding; however if you remember when I first began this blog, I made a post on the History and Origins on Sandboarding where the general answer online was that Sandboarding was invented in the 1st century AD (or CE) and that Snowboarding came around in the 19th & 20th centuries (anywhere between 1800 and about 1950-ish).

Courtesy of: US Geological Survey License: Public Domain
The construction of a sand dune is tedious as it involves centuries of sand being formed by wind, as the grains of sand get more and more, the dunes get bigger and bigger and that is a reason why sand dunes have a windward side and a leeward side; having said that, the construction of an artificial dune is somewhat easier, you could just go to one of those companies that specialise in building materials and buy sand bags (not building sand, preferably one that doesn't contain a lot of water molecules), and with millions of pounds later (in both currency and weight), have yourself a sand dune that's about 25 metres.

Okay, maybe I'm being a bit too over-ambitious; why not take a dune that's already had the many years of forming and use it for the sport itself, it might work for promoting local businesses, tourism to a local area, and making people sandboarding instructors; that's what happened to the small town on Alamosa in Colorado. Alamosa has a population of about 8,000 at the last census and now has a good tourism sector due to the Colorado Gators Reptile Park and the Great Sand Dunes National Park, if it can work for Alamosa then surely some very low population towns could use the same treatment, right?

Alamosa City Hall. Courtesy of: Milan Suvajac License: CC BY-SA 4.0 Modified: No

Take Alamosa as an example, if you called the US National Olympic Committee to the dunes, got some traffic cones, wooden ramps, and tape as an example then you could use that 'course' as an example track for a slalom discipline for Sandboarding, same can be applied to other disciplines like Ski-jumping (obviously with a sandboard and one ramp only). If someone submitted that to their national Olympic committee, I'm sure that the sport would get some consideration and thought from their NOC, however; if it's not accepted then just make a better course or even better, start a second Sand Master Park in Oregon and in due course, you could make Alamosa the next Florence (a town in Oregon home to the Sand Master Park).

Sand Master Park was founded in 2000, the population from the 1990 census to the 2010 census rose from 5,162 to 8,466 inhabitants, keep in mind that when the 2000 census was taken in Florence (population: 7,263) the town had it's second highest rise in population since being founded (40.7%) after the 1950 census which had a population increase by 124.0%; so it can be deduced that populations can be increased by tourism in the area, and back in Alamosa; the population in the 2010 census compared to 2000, increased by 10.3%; this could be because that the Sand Dunes Preserve was upgraded to a National Park by the US Congress back in 2004.

Those last few paragraphs about Alamosa and Florence are related because I believe that the sandboarding interest could boost tourism to a local area, and stimulate a local economy, keep in mind that sandboarding instructors, park rangers, tour guides, litter pickers, and office staff would be needed if you wanted to start a local sandboarding club or park, however that's a story for another time. So my final statement is that if Snowboarding can increase tourists to Austrian, French, Andorran, Norwegian, German, and Swiss towns; why is it that people don't tend to believe that Sandboarding can increase tourism to Namibian, American, Spanish, Egyptian, South African, and Australian towns? If you entice more people into a sport and make more people interested, you'll get given a louder voice when it comes to sports in the local area, hence if more voices are being generated by Sandboarding gaining popularity, then that will be the core reason why Sandboarding will be an Olympic sport with venues, medals, podiums, winners, crowds, and nationalistic pride.

Gold Medal from the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Courtesy of: Cliff License: CC BY 2.0

Friday, 8 July 2016

Sandboarding Dodgeball

Earlier when I was walking around my town this week, I was thinking if there were any sports you could do whilst Sandboarding. I came up with Sandboarding Dodgeball, which is where you have one person on the dune with everyone else on Sandboards surfing down the dune, whoever the person standing on the dune without the sandboard hits with the ball, the person who was hit becomes the next person to stand on the dune with a ball, and gets to hit more people on sandboards coming down. Whoever is the last person sandboarding (or the last person to be hit by a ball) wins!

Now that description above sounds difficult and fiendish; however, I will take an example with 8 players and give you a process into how the game is played. For instance, say that this game with 8 players will take place on a sand dune that's 20 metres (66 feet) in distance from base to apex.

Safe Zones

The last 5 metres of the dune will be a 'safe-zone' so you can't be hit with a dodgeball by anyone on the dune and you'll be... safe. There will also be another 'safe-zone' 3 metres from the start so you can get a good speed ready when you go down the dune, all people going down the dune must go together. There is a certain width in which all players must stay within the boundaries, if a player goes out of these side boundaries, then a player is automatically disqualified.

Courtesy of: Jack F. Booth License: Public Domain
The Dodgeball Decider

Take the 8 players, to decide who goes on the dune with the dodgeball first, a race must take place and whoever becomes last is declared the first person to lose and stands on the dune with the dodgeball.

The Main Game

The 7 players who didn't become last in the race will now make it from the Starting Safe Zone to the End Safe Zone, the objective for the sandboarders is to not get hit by the dodgeball. The person stood on the sand dune with the dodgeball gets one hit only (one dodgeball per thrower); if a dodgeball hits someone, the person who was hit is the next person to stand on the sand dune with the other thrower. Throwers must not go forwards or backwards but can pivot and sidestep; Throwers can choose to stand wherever they like however must stay in that position for the rest of the game (except for side-stepping and/or pivoting).


If a dodgeball rebounds and bounces off one player and hits another then they both become the next people to stand on the dune (throwers). Also, if a dodgeball bounces back to the thrower or if a dodgeball can be claimed by side-stepping, then the dodgeball can be picked up by the thrower and used again.

Hitting a Player

A dodgeball may be hit on any position of a player, if a thrower hits a player's sandboard, then the player is not out and the player may carry on. If a player falls on the dune, the player can continue unless a player is hit by a dodgeball.

Determining the Winner

A winner is determined if there is only 1 person left on the dune, this can be possible if you're never hit by a dodgeball at all, or if you're the last to be hit by any player. If there are 2 people on the dune and everyone else is a thrower, then whichever player is hit first, they will be the runner-up and whoever is hit second (or not hit at all) will be the winner.

Grounds for Disqualification

When disqualification occurs, you'll be out of the game but you won't be made a thrower either, you'll be off the dune and out of play. If you're in a disqualification area for more than 3 seconds, you will be automatically disqualified, if you're make any abusive contact (punching, or shoving off balance) will make the player automatically disqualified; and if you don't start at the same time as all the other players, you'll be disqualified.

This is one of my ideas for a regular sport that'll take place on a sand dune, I wanted to make more ideas for sports on sand dunes that cross extreme sports with conventional sports. If you have any questions, ideas, and/or sports you'd want me to cover then I'd be delighted if you commented on this post or sent me a tweet @sandboardblog

Unlike Britain, We're Remaining!

Last week, I put up a vote on the change of our name whether you want to Remain as "Sandboarding Nation" or change the name to "Sandboarding Times" and with only 2 votes, we're remaining as Sandboarding Nation (2 votes to Remain and none to change). It's a low Low LOW turnout but it's still a winner.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Merthyr Mawr, Wales

When most people think of Wales (or Cymru for the locals), people tend to think of the Brecon Beacons, herds of sheep, Gareth Bale, the dragon on its flag, and that lovely place called "Llanfairpwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch". However, Wales is more than just a green wonderland, it's also home to the Merthyr Mawr Sand Dunes (2 and a half miles from Bridgend town in Wales).

The Merthyr Mawr sand dunes are a Site of Special Scientific Interest and are home to some of the largest dunes in the whole of the British Isles, on TripAdvisor (fantastic website) the dunes are known to have some good views, long walks, and a big range of altitudes as some dunes are high and low; however, this does come at a cost, parking is a long walk away, and there are no facilities. Parking charges will apply in certain parts of the year so make sure you pay for parking otherwise you might end up with a hefty fine; I think it's worth it as these are the second highest sand dunes in Europe (the highest being the Dune of Pilat in France). As this YouTube video below will demonstrate:

Courtesy of: Fry1989 License: CC BY-SA 3.0
Merthyr Mawr is part of Wales, which in turn is part of the United Kingdom, and since the United Kingdom is part of the European Union (for now), it is part of the freedom of movement so if you're from Germany willing to come here, you can do so without those hefty visa fees! Wales is one of the 3 constituent countries of the United Kingdom, the other 2 being England and Scotland (Northern Ireland is not a country of the UK, it is a province). Welsh and English are the languages spoken in Wales, however the common trend is that Welsh is more spoken in the North of the country and that English is more common in the South, as the location of Merthyr Mawr is in the South then English is your language of choice; even if these dunes were in the North, most if not all of the people will be able to understand English fluently or enough to get by. Getting into Wales will be a bit of a challenge, if you drive in from the M4 or the M48 motorways in the South, you'll have to pay a toll which is roughly £6 (as of July 2016) and most international flights from long distances come into London so you'll need to drive, catch a train, or fly to Cardiff, and then take a short train, bus, or drive to Bridgend. The whole of the UK uses the Pound Sterling, and so you won't need to exchange your money when you enter Wales.

I will hopefully visit these sand dunes in the future but I hope this article will help you choose another destination for Sandboarding if my previous one on Maspalomas wasn't your place of choice. Please don't be fooled by the photo below as that Merthyr Mawr does have rivers and grassland, I couldn't get a photo that was free-to-use of a proper sand dune.

Courtesy of: Mick Lobb License: CC BY-SA 2.0