After spending about a week in Leon I was constantly coming across thrill-seeking travellers that were here solely for some of the best volcano boarding in the world. I resisted as long as I could but due to the ‘real’ surf not really happening at Playa Las Penitas, my rational was that I’d at least capture some beautiful scenery whilst I was there.
According to Wikipedia, Volcano surfing, also known as ash boarding or volcano boarding is a new sport, consisting of an erupted volcano and a thin Plywood or metal board. Riders hike up the volcano and slide down, sitting or standing.
Volcano Surfing is considered an “extreme sport” with the danger of falling off and getting cut by the rough volcanic ash. Protective gear, like jump suits and goggles are used.
I would have to agree that the Wikipedia description is indeed very accurate as I found out first-hand. The Cerro Negro volcano has been one of the most active volcanoes in Nicaragua, with its latest eruption occurring in 1999. Since its birth in 1850, it has erupted about 23 times.
Central America has many volcanoes extending from Guatemala all the way down to Panama. I guess I also felt somewhat guilty that I didn’t take time out to climb any volcanoes whilst in Guatemala or El Salvador so this was a good opportunity to cleanse myself of the guilt whilst boosting my adrenalin at the same time.
It was really impressive to experience the volcanic landscape. I couldn’t believe how hot (and windy) it was at the peak. You could literally cook a meal in the volcanic soil as it was too hot to touch for more than a few seconds. The white magnesium that was also scattered across the black volcanic rock made for a picturesque contrast also.
After learning a little about the volcanoes history at the summit and taking in the views, it was time to get a safety briefing and instruction for the downward descent. It all seemed very straight forward, use your feet to slow down and lean back to go faster.
I decided to take off last in our group. The ride down lasts for about 45 seconds and starts with a 40-degree slope then progressing into a 45-degree slope for the second half. Average speeds are 40-50 miles per hour.
When it was time for me to take off I started to get frustrated due to losing the tail of my board during the first 20-30 metres. I guess I must have either been leaning to one side or using one foot more aggressively as a break than the other. Somehow I managed to get it together and started to gain a great deal of speed, probably more than I wished for.
I could hardly see out of my goggles and the sound of the board grating along the volcanic ash at top speed was very daunting. I knew I was going too fast and it was too late to start to use my feet for breaking but I had no option.
About 3/4 of the way down I lost control and did a few cartwheels before uncontrollably rolling down the rest of the volcano. It was a surreal feeling and it felt like everything was going in slow motion. I remember getting up at the bottom and checking myself out and to my surprise didn’t feel any major pain.
The rest of the crew told me not to move as they obviously had a better view of my wipeout than I did and probably feared I had hurt myself. Fortunately apart from a small cut to my head and a mouthful of volcanic ash as I was okay. The next few days I have felt a little sore but nothing a few ibuprofen couldn’t fix.
At this time I would like to formally announce my retirement from extreme sports. Despite only having a short career, I have exhausted any luck I may have had and will spare myself any further pain or ego-bruising.
I’ll definitely stick with my 2 main passions of surfing and fishing from now on.
And on that note, today is sadly my last day in Nicaragua with a gruelling 30+ hour bus ride tomorrow all the way to Panama City.
If you are ever in Leon, I highly recommend staying at Latina Hostel, where the amazing host Paul will take care of your every need from organising Volcano Boarding to beach trips to cock-fighting and many parties and pub crawls.
Thank you so much Paul for being part of my soloworldtour