I’ve experienced many adrenaline rushes during my travels: shark cage diving, multiple skydives, bungee jumps, serious hikes, canyoning, white water rafting, etc. But never have I surfed down an active volcano. I didn’t even know such a thing existed!
The only place in the world to do so is in Nicaragua on Volcan Cerro Negro, located in the western region of the country, close to the city of León. It’s the thing to do in Nicaragua.
The are a few companies that host volcano boarding in León. Bigfoot Hostel, my accommodation, is one of the places that does. For 31 US dollars, we got a shuttle to and from the volcano, a free singlet shirt displaying the hostels logo, a liter of water, and a can of Victoria beer and a mojito for when we were finished. My friend Luke and I booked the night prior and were ready by nine the next morning. There were about thirty adrenaline junkies total in our group. We were shuttled into the back of a large truck and drove through the backlands outside of León towards Cerro Negro.
After about an hour, we arrived to the gated entrance to the volcano where we each had to pay a $5 fee. The fee pays for the workers who monitor the volcano everyday, studying for any possible signs of potential eruptions. We hiked about 45 minutes up what our guide said “is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.”
It was a short, manageable hike up to the windy top–Nothing but gravel and wind.
The only way back down was to board down. Well, I guess you could hike back but it would have been a shame.
The record is 97 kilometers per hour. I wasn’t focused on beating it, honestly I just wanted a good shot from the camera woman standing near the middle of the rubbled track. Hopefully she knew what she was doing. I sat on my wooden plank, about the size of a snowboard, modified with a curved hedge for breaking wind and sheets of smooth plastic underneath to decrease friction. I put on my googles and held onto the rope attached to the board. Then, the guide gave me the go ahead. I scooted and skirted, shoving myself along. The start of the track was loose and practically horizontal, but soon its slope began to steepen and I started to take off. Dust bellowed from underneath me as I looked for the camera woman standing midway down the track. I grinned a smile for her and sped up by extending my legs outward and leaning backwards.
My board began to wobble and as I tried to regain my composure, I fell off to the side and I tumbled a couple of feet downward. I was completely unscathed. The orange jumpsuit I wore completely protected me. I crawled to my now buried board and rubbed the volcanic rubble off of it. If anyone was laughing at me, I couldn’t hear anything. All I heard was the fierce wind blowing around me. I sat back on my board and proceeded to scoot. I wanted to finish in a blaze of glory. I found my balance, extended legs out and leaned as far back as I felt comfortable. My board was smokin’! I could feel it heating up underneath me. Pebbles and ashes were shooting at my face; some in my mouth. The faster I went, the easier it was to control my board. I saw the guy with the speed gun shooting at me to capture my velocity. I was practically lying down completely horizontal when the board came to a grinding halt as I reached the base of the volcano.
“Good job!” I heard someone shout as they clapped.
I sat up on my board and spat out wafts of pebbles and ash that flew into my mouth. I stood up with a gigantic grin on my face. That was one of the most wild things I’ve ever done! Surfing down an active volcano was everything I imagined it to be, minus the lava.
“Cincuenta y nueve!” shouted the man who recorded everyones speed.
My top speed was 59 km/h. Not too shabby for my first go, but no where near the record. The fastest female of the day went to a girl named Deb (Indonesia). She flew at 65 km/h at the expense of small rocks flying up her nose and swallowing it through her throat. She’s a beast.
I wanted to go again but I wanted to go faster. This company didn’t let you do so, but I heard there was another company that gave you the option of going twice. Maybe next time. At least we were rewarded with an ice-cold beer for our efforts.
Luke and I stayed one more night at Big Foot hostel before we departed further down Nicaragua to the city of Granada. On the shuttle was Deb and another backpacker named Tyson (Halifax, Canada) among others. The four of us realized we were heading down the same direction in Nicaragua and decided to stick together. Instead of going straight to the main city of Granada, we opted to live amongst the trees for awhile in what was one of the most unique accommodations I have ever stayed in!