Choosing the right sandboard can be tricky- you have to think about materials, length, width, style, and cost. Here’s all you need to know before picking a board and hitting the dunes.
There are three basic designs available for sandboards: twin tips, swallow tails and square tails. Each of the three design variations is suited for a different purpose. The clearest distinction between all three boards is in the tail end design, as all three styles require an upturned nose to avoid digging into the sand. Twin tips have identical tips that are turned up to glide over sand on both the nose and the tail side of the board, so switching directions for tricks or jumping is smooth and natural.
Swallow tails or terrain boards, as they are often called, are designed for quick turns and have a v-shaped gap cut out of the tail end of the board to allow for greater maneuverability. Square tail boards, also known as race boards, are designed for racing, slaloming or other types of riding in which the sandboarder will maintain the same direction throughout the run. All three types of boards generally have concave edges along the length of the board, known as effective edges, to allow for riders to lean and grip the sand with the board.
The common length of a sandboard ranges anywhere from 95-125 cm. While there are extra long boards available in the range of 140-160 cm, these are usually custom-made and used primarily by very experienced sandboarders. While boards can be found as narrow as 20 cm and as wide as 30 cm, the normal width of a sandboard lies between 24 and 27 cm. The size of a sandboard is usually dependant on two conditions: the slope of a dune and the speed of the rider.
For very long dunes, measuring over 250 feet, or for riders traveling over 35 mph, a longer, wider board is recommended to maintain greater stability. For shorter dunes or dunes where sandboarders ride at lower speeds, a smaller, light-weight board is optimal, as it increases maneuverability and allows riders to perform more tricks and get more speed out of a smaller dune.
While sandboards can be made of plastic or metal, hardwoods are the most common material used to build them. Manufacturers tend to use oak between 9 and 12 mm thick, but can increase thickness up to 15 mm or more for custom boards. The thickness of the board is highly dependant on each rider’s purposes, but in all cases manufacturers try to use the most light-weight material available to give dune riders greater maneuverability.
For the base surface of the board, most sandboard manufacturers use Formica or other patented plastic-based materials such as Race Base due to their smooth surfaces and durability. Riders who build their own boards will often resort to various hardwoods that are easy to shape and mold. Also, hardwoods are often much cheaper than hard plastics and usually much easier to obtain. Some sandboarders even use boards with stainless steel bases, but generally only on extremely gritty surfaces like ash or tephra that would damage or scratch another material. Unfortunately, stainless steel is much heavier than other base surfaces and sandboarders are well aware that lighter materials allow for higher speeds and bigger air.
For sandboarders who want to perform tricks or make big jumps, a thicker board, usually around 12 mm thick, is necessary to absorb the shock from the landing and also helps prevent the board from snapping. However, riders who are simply looking to coast down the dunes or race can use a 9 mm thick sandboard, because far less pressure will be applied to it.