Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Who is Alex Bird?

Last year, I was attempting to write a book regarding sandboarding; I was (and still am) looking for an appropriate topic regarding the sport; at the time, I was looking at places in the UK and I found out about Braunton Burrows in Devon, so I did research on the dunes and little did I know that American motor company Jeep decided to film an advert here with "Britain's Leading Sandboarder"; so I did more research...

This stunt was also covered by national UK newspapers, and also described that "It was the first time a participant in his sport had been towed by a car on UK shores." Keyan Milanian. 2019. Sandboarder tears up Britain's largest sand dunes as extreme sportsman is towed by car in UK first - Mirror Online. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 25 February 2019].

At this point, I stopped reading and asked myself a few questions; Who was this man? Why was Jeep here? How come I've never heard of another sandboarder in this country?

I dug deeper, and discovered that it was none other than Alex Bird, an extreme sportsman and now sandboarding instructor who has also been involved in other sports alongside sandboarding, both in a recreational and competitive fashion.

I had burning questions, so I finally managed to contact him after some searching, and after some time I finally managed to have an interview last week!

How did you initially get into sports?

"I have skied since I was 3 years old. I then got into skateboarding and then snowboarding from the age of about 11, since then I've been hooked on all board sports."

Would this be partially the reason why you got into sandboarding as well?

"Yeah the excitement of going sideways! I enjoyed team sports too but love the freedom and adventure that go with board sports."

In 2017, you were approached by Jeep for their Renegade Desert Hawk, how did it feel to be a part of that?

"It was a really exciting project and an honour to be involved in, Jeep approached us asking what sort of things could be done, we talked through lots of ideas including trying to break the sandboarding speed record, they were really supportive with our ideas."

Has anyone yet recognised you from the advert?

"No! Although we do sandboarding lessons and people who book have often seen the ad."

Claim to fame? Perhaps?

Have you done sandboarding in other places?

"I've been to Dune Du Pilat in France, which is awesome and has some of the longest runs I've had but I think we have a bit more variety and some different features to ride." 

I'm in agreement with Alex on this; a lot of sources have indicated many times that Merthyr Mawr in Wales have the second highest dunes in Europe behind the Dune Du Pilat, and that Holywell Bay is where I first learned to sandboard, as well as being a strategic camp used during both the Second World War and the Cold War.

Would sandboarding be a sport you want more people in the UK to know about?

"Definitely. It's a great activity and a great way to stay fit! It also happens in some beautiful places, events are always a great way to inspire and get more people involved in the sport."

I also spread word to Alex regarding my campaign to make the UK a member state of Dune Riders International, which I don't think will happen for a few years if I'm honest however I'd like to see someone like Alex be the first President of the British division of the DRI.

Is there a philosophy you live by?

"Not really, I just try to do something outside and active every day, even if it's a run in the rain after work."

Are you competitive?

"I can be! I compete in the British Kitesurfing Championships Wavemasters Fleet, I've come 3rd for the last 2 years. It can really motivate and push you to improve." 

Any long term ambitions?

"Just to see my kids get better than me!"     

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start in a competitive sport?

"Get involved and enjoy it. Be honest with yourself and others about your own ability and people will support you. I've met some great people and learnt loads through competition." 

It has taken so long for me to finally get all of my work and degree stuff aside, not just because of this interview with Alex but for my blogging as a whole; I'd like to see more stuff like this in the future with other sportspeople, as for this interview I've finally discovered more to the guy on the Jeep sandboarding advert.

But literally minutes before this article was published, I got a final statement from Alex himself: "I really need to get a big thank you in there to Nigel Brown from Barefoot Surf School as he really got me into it as he set it up as a flat day activity for the surf school. He really pioneered sandboarding in North Devon, building and testing his own sandboards and finding locations. He was also the one who helped make the whole Jeep ad happen."

A big thank you to Alex for making this article possible! Nice one!

Sandboarding Bites #4

A snowboard will still go down a sand dune; it will perform nowhere near as well as a conventional sandboard; but with a bit of sandboard wax, it's a great cheap alternative!

Monday, 25 February 2019

Sandboarding Bites #3

If you have any excess sandboarding wax, don't throw it in the bin. You can sell your wax or even recycle it; if you're looking to use it again, keep it in a cool place so it doesn't go bad.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Sandboarding Bites #2

If you're going down a dune at high speed, always slow down before a bend rather than during the descent, always try and lean your body back while you're on your board; using your hands to slow your down should always be a last resort.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Photo Attribution & Creative Commons

I know this is a sandboarding blog, so I'll keep posts like this to a minimum but to anyone who wants to learn blogging and wants to stay on the right side of the law and avoid a plume of legal trouble, stay alert.

I've had some people saying that I inspire them which is good because I think writing really lets my creativity flow, motivates me, and helps me become more known in my field but if you're going to use photography in your work, please do it properly.

Ever since I've started this blog, I've referenced photos in many different ways; originally I've looked back and I've seen they have been rubbish in comparison to 2019, but in order to be a good blogger and a saint compared to a sinner, you need to have 4 items:

  • Title (Every photo will have a name, whether it's the standard file name on your phone or a name someone has given a specific piece of work, it's named.)
  • Author (Whoever owns the photo, took it, or made it what it is; there will be an author too.)
  • Source (Basically, where you got the photo from; just attaching a link is sufficient enough.)
  • License (When the author uploaded the photo online, which creative commons license did they give?)
Notice I said "Creative Commons" and bloggers tend to use these photos because getting any photo can be really complicated, because normally you'd have to ask the owner of the photo if you can use it, and then you'd have to pay what is known as a "Royalty Fee", but with Creative Commons, this doesn't happen; it's free and the person who uploaded the photo cannot revoke the freedoms of the license if you abide by the specific license rules. You can view the licenses offered here.

Also with some licenses, you can modify photos to a certain extent, if you're planning to edit these photos; you must state how you modified the original work, as well as cite the original author(s).

From now on, I will be more consistent in my referencing and I will use the "Ideal attribution" model as pointed out on the Creative Commons website; I will leave my photo as an example as to how I'll be referencing from now on.

"Sand Dunes at Holywell Bay, November 2018" by Jack Soley is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Sandboarding Bites #1

Before you go Sandboarding, it's always essential to check your weather forecast before you get there; there's nothing worse than wet weather ruining a good session on the dunes.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Iquique, Chile

Every time I have a look on the Sandboarding Nation Instagram (which I'd highly recommend you follow if you don't already), there's almost always at least one post in Iquique, Chile; aside from being in a country that has a shape of a shoehorn and that has a shed load of earthquakes every year, I wanted to write this post for 2 reasons; the first being that I haven't done a location based post since the one on Huacachina, and because I recently got in touch with a Chilean man who sells sandboards.

In case you didn't know, Chile was the number 1 sandboarding country of 2018 and such notable locations in Chile also include San Pedro de Atacama, Concón, Valparaíso, and Viña del Mar. But the one location that steals the spotlight is without hesitation, Iquique.

Courtesy of: Teosaurio License: CC BY-SA 2.0 Title: Paragliding over Iquique

Iquique has just under 200,000 inhabitants and it is one of only 2 free ports in the country, the other one being Punta Arenas; the town is also host to Deportes Iquique, a football (soccer, for the uncivilised) team that plays in the premier division of the Chilean league. As Iquique is a coastal place, I would suspect that there is a lot of surfing and windsurfing in the town as well as paragliding (above photo); however according to a Tripadvisor search on Iquique, the sports I managed to find that were popular activities here were rockclimbing, cycling, and paragliding and quite a reasonable number of businesses and tour agencies promoting Sandboarding. THE 10 BEST Outdoor Activities in Iquique - TripAdvisor . 2019. THE 10 BEST Outdoor Activities in Iquique - TripAdvisor . [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14 February 2019].

Considering the number of sandboarding based businesses here and the sheer fact that many people come here every year to sandboard, it's no wonder that the Sandboard World Tour often holds events here. Also, here's a good list of information which will be useful.

  • A good thing to remember as well is that if you're a tourist coming to Chile, passport holders from 92 jurisdictions can enter Chile without a visa, however Australians will need to pay a "reciprocity fee" if they 1) travel as tourists, and 2) enter through Santiago's International Airport. Información para el pasajero | NUEVO PUDAHUEL. 2019. Información para el pasajero | NUEVO PUDAHUEL. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14 February 2019].
  • As of 14th February 2019, $1 USD will get you approximately 665.50 Chilean Pesos.
  • Similar to the Huacachina post, you may find Coca leaves here as they are common in this part of the world; just don't bring any home with you.
  • The plugs used here are Types C and L, the standard voltage is 220V and the frequency used is 50Hz.
    POWER PLUGS AND SOCKETS OF THE WORLD. 2019. Chile: power plug adapter needed? | POWER PLUGS AND SOCKETS OF THE WORLD. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14 February 2019].
  • The driving side for Chile is on the right hand side, the minimum age to drive is 18 and you will need an International driving license for driving here. 
Before I finish, I want to include a video from SoulSandboard Iquique Chile of some Sandboarding in Iquique; this hopefully should make you buy tickets for the next flights here even faster.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Revisiting Death

This week in New Zealand, a South Korean was killed after colliding with a bus after going down the Te Paki sand dunes, it's a sad time and officials have pointed out that this death could have been prevented.

The last recorded sandboarding deaths were in 2009, 2010, 2013, 2018, and now 2019, which if you've seen my post from 2016: Deadly Dangers of the Dune. I recorded an average of 0.6 sandboarding deaths per year, now that figure has dropped to 0.45 deaths per year as of February 2019.

I drew another conclusion that Sandboarding is safer than Table Tennis, whilst that is still technically correct, with only 7 deaths in table tennis between 1997 and 2006, but it was only studied in Germany; whereas the 5 sandboarding deaths between 2009 and 2019 took place in 3 countries, all instances apart from the ones in 2013 & 2018 occurred in New Zealand, the 2013 death was in Namibia, and the 2018 death was in Peru. (It's worth pointing out that the link from the original article to the study is broken I have attached a replacement.) At the bottom of the page, it has been noted that "Most of these risks are far lower than might have been thought, even with skydiving or hang gliding.".

Wayback Machine. 2019. Risk of dying and sporting activities. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 7 February 2019].

It's unlikely that this happens on a regular basis, however there are ways during sport where death is approaching, whether it's a freak accident by colliding into someone or something, being collided by someone or something, animals and plants, natural disasters, extreme heat, extreme cold, or even pre-existing conditions which could increase your risk of dying such as diabetes, cancer, or heart problems.

There are preventable ways to stop death in its tracks.

  • Always be aware of your surroundings when you're on the dunes and keep an eye out for anything suspicious, plan ahead whenever possible by looking out for weather forecasts and potential safe places.
  • Don't go too fast. If you're a beginner on the dunes, try going half way up to the summit so you won't be able to achieve a faster speed coming down, this works because you still get a speed where you feel exhilarated coming down and you don't have to walk up as high.
  • Know your limits. If you're exhausted, you're not confident on slowing down after a certain speed or you feel like you're losing control of your slide, take a break.
  • Know about problems before you go sandboarding. Whether it's medical problems which may be more challenging after sport, or especially if you're going to an exotic location, get immunised for illnesses prominent abroad; the most common ones are Hepatitis and Malaria.

I know death is a morbid subject, but wherever you want to sandboard, please remain safe.