Desert Highs – A Tale of Sandboarding in Morocco

As snowboarders, we’re adventurers and thrill seekers by nature. We’re drawn to new experiences and lust after lines we’ll remember forever. This past season, the duo of Andres O’Beirne and Loucas Tsilas, set out on a trip of a lifetime and rode Japanese powder, then set out and shredded the golden sand of the Sahara.

Read on for the tale from their trip, and what it was like to ride the great sand dunes of Morocco.

Words/Photo: Andres O’Beirne

Tell us about the trip:

On January 5th, Loucas Tsilas and I started an 11 country trip starting in San Diego. From there we went to Hawaii, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Myanmar, India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco and ended in Amsterdam. In one of our early stops, Japan, we spent a few days in Hakuba and got to experience what Japow is all about.

In Morocco, we came into Casablanca and decided we wanted to see what the Sahara is all about. So we found a company with a few friends that would take us deep into the Sahara where we could rip ATVs, ride camels and shred some massive sand dunes.

After a 14-hour bus ride with no air conditioning, we could see the dunes in the distance, just as the sun was setting. We finally got to the edge of the dunes where our bus could go no further. At this point, the sun had fully set and we embarked on an hour long camel ride through the dunes to get to our campsite. It wasn’t until the next morning, when we woke up and saw the massive sand mountain, not dune (it was too big to call it that) looming in the distance.

We debated all morning on whether we should go to it, and finally set out on our journey to walk to the mountain of sand in the horizon. Carrying boards the entire way, we made it about 45 minutes before the sunset.

Loucas hiked up as I waited on a dune that had a perfect view of the bowl he dropped into. It was awesome to end the trip how it all started—  just one slight difference: Snow vs. Sand.

What was it like Sandboarding in Morocco?

It’s pretty ironic you could get the same feeling as shredding fresh snow in one of the driest places on earth. The picture doesn’t give it justice, but the face was relatively steep and you actually got some decent speed once you dropped in. The turns provided enough adrenaline and excitement to hike back up, and do it all again. Also, the sand was like walking in fresh snow. You sunk every step, so it wasn’t the easiest to walk in.  But it was worth it everytime to get a couple turns in the golden snow.

What kind of boards were you using? 

The boards were basically scrapped boards. Only one of them had binding straps and that was the one Loucas was using in the picture. The one I was using had bindings, but no straps so I used my shoe laces to strap the board to my feet using the loops in the binding frame. I guess it showed us that it doesn’t matter if you are in Hakuba, Japan with a Burton board or in the Sahara desert on a board with no binding straps, you can still find a way to shred!

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What was the hardest part of sandboarding?

Getting there. Round trip it was around 30 hours in a bus. But by all means it was worth it. Definitely some of the most memorable turns I’ve had and I hope to be back. Maybe we’ll build a few kickers next time!

Additional Info:

Loucas and I are the co-founders of a creative & commercial media production company, ALTO Visuals based out of Seattle and Los Angeles. Our regular mountains are Crystal Mountain when in Seattle and Mammoth when down in Los Angeles.

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