While snowboarding was once considered an exciting sport practiced only by an elite few, today it is one even young kids seem to master quite easily. It is therefore no wonder that adventurers seeking an adrenalin rush are resorting to a new thrill - volcano boarding!
As the name implies, it entails getting to the top of an active volcano and then hurtling down at speeds of up to 50mph, aboard a sled designed specially for volcanic soil. Made of plywood it has a metal bottom and also a thin sheet of plastic stuck to the back. Thanks to the high speeds at which the riders come down the volcanic surface, the plastic usually burns off and has to be replaced after every couple of runs.
Volcano boarding is a relatively new sport and so far, can only be experienced on Nicaragua's Cerro Negro volcano, where it is offered by a local tour company. Unlike snowboarding, there are no lifts to take volcano boarders to the summit. In order to get there, they have to first undertake a 45-minute rocky hike to the top, carrying their board and gear with them. This however, has not deterred the thousands of sports enthusiasts who visit every year, anxious to try it out.
As you can imagine, the 1,340-foot descent on the sled is not for the faint of heart. Volcano rocks are light and extremely sharp and it is easy for a rider to tumble off especially, if he/she is going down too fast. Enthusiasts therefore have to wear special suits, kneepads and protective eyewear. Though most volcano boarders sit on the sleds, some daredevils come down the entire run standing!
The tour organizers maintain that they have incurred no major injuries since they began offering the sport in 2005. According to them, the biggest danger a rider faces is tumbling onto the black volcanic sand and collecting a few bruises along the way.
The Cerro Negro, South America's youngest and most active volcano is located in the Cordillera De Los Maribios moutains near the city of Leon in Nicaragua. Since April 1850, it has erupted 20 times, with the last eruption occurring in 1999.
Resources: Dailymail.co.uk, nomad18.travellerspoint.com, wikipedia.org