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"Dear Downhill Adventures Staff members
We at Vodacom’s Data Dept in Pier Place would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for an absolutely wonderful Quad-Biking experience.
Your crew did an amazing job and made everything go seamlessly.
Thank you Downhill Adventures for everything in making it such an unforgettable experience!"
Shawn van der Westhuizen
Vodacom CapeTown

"Sandboarding- We loved trying something new!"
"What was good: the Sandboarding and guide- Fun and informative."
Jessica Deary / Grace Sanfilippo (Promotions Executive)
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"Thank you for a great morning. I had loads of fun. More work will be coming your way."
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Investec Private Bank

"Hi Guys, An awesome big thanks to the team for throwing us out of the airplane yesterday. It really was truly amazing! Please pass on our enormous gratitude to your tandem masters and Julian the photographer-extraordinaire! He really has produced the most amazing memory for Tom and I must say, it is worth every single cent. If you ever want any persuasive promotional material to encourage your clients to take the dvd, just ask us. We have both not stopped talking about our incredible experience so please ...... sincerely ..... copy this email to the guys out at the hanger and, while I know they do this every day, tell them gave us an incredible experience and one that will NOT be forgotten! "
Best regards, Steve and Tom Sutcliffe

"Many thanks to each of you for your part in creating an incredible week for me. It was awesome and an experience I will never forget."
Lou E-W UK.

What was good? "The sun, the people, the sandboarding- everything!" Theun (Sand Boarding)

What was good? "Fun, relaxed, kids all enjoyed it." Jennie (Sand Boarding)

What was good? "The organisation, it was a great day!" Maartie Remmers

"The guide took great care of us and the route was excellent" Hannah (Table Mountain Biking)

" Many thanks to each of you for your part in creating an incredible week for me. It was awesome and an experience I will never forget." Lou E-W UK. (Numerous activities)

"Lekker! Such a good laugh" Sarah Guerin (Sand Boarding)

"Great communication from the guides. Good mix of climbing and single track at a good pace." Steve Barron (Tokai Mountain Biking)

"The guide was able to give a great perspective on surfing and Cape Town in general." Craig (Surfing)



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Cape Times Article Jan 2008 - Sandboarding.

Surf’s up in the mini desert dunes of Atlantis
Sandboarding – it’s easier than snowboarding

Jo-Anne Smetherham

It’s only a baby hill, but we’re about to sandboard down it for the first time, and we’re a little nervous.
Instructors Nick and Tom have told us what to do if we fall off: curl our bodies, clench our fists so that we don’t land on an outstretched hand and break our wrists, and try to roll when we hit the ground, instead of slamming into the hard sand.
So one by one we wax our boards, wipe off the extra wax on the sand, strap in our feet – and off we sail.
The little girls try first and their grace is a pleasure to watch. Ten-year-old Kayla van der Byl from Kenilworth is a skateboarder and she sails down as if she’s done this a hundred times.
Maya Bortz has tried skiing, and is equally stylish, her body slightly arched, her hands outstretched for balance, not a single jerk or hesitation. We are inspired. We tip off the edge.
Immediately, we are plunged into another world. The only important thing is to relinquish control – and remain utterly calm. All thought is redundant; balance is the only important thing: to stay low, legs bent, allowing the board to slip down the slope faster and faster.
It’s got a mind of its own and cannot be tamed – or not yet. It wants to jerk to one side: we must let it, or it will throw us off like a horse. We stay balanced and the board finds its feet again, coursing faster and faster downwards.
Then, metres before the bottom is what makes this worthwhile: a few seconds of exhilaration. All thought forgotten and our bodies become one with the sandboard as it gathers speed, intent on its single, straight path.
It curves, slows, and the ride is finished. We un-strap our feet, walk to the top, and try again. And again. And again. It gets better every time and just when we’re feeling quite professional, as if we understand the board and might even give it an instruction or two, we have to leave. We’re ready for the bigger slope, Nick says.
Downhill Adventures, based in central Cape Town, has taken seven of us on a 45-minute drive tot the dunes in Atlantis.
These dunes are the white peaks we see on the N7 on the way to Langebaan, and on our approach from the opposite side, we see them in their glory.
The dunes are a mini desert, edged with vegetation but their beauty uninterrupted for a few square kilometers. Curves, pyramids, one behind the other; their bleached shapes are quite beautiful.
The dunes are part of a reserve, Nick tells us, and permits are necessary to sandboard here. We’d never think it, but the arid area is a water catchment area. All the liquid is beneath the surface.
We are lucky. It’s a cloudy day so we don’t get too hot trudging back up the slope time after time. And the wind has not yet picked up: in the afternoon, it will whip sand into our faces, making sandboarding unpleasant.
A German brother and sister are in our party. They’ve done this before and they don’t even bother with our baby slope. As soon as we arrive they’re off to the far heights, to dash down what looks like a 45-degree dunes, tipping and curving and zigzagging their boards as if they’re surfing a wave. We’re impressed. With just a little practice we might be there too, we hope.
Our second slope, perhaps 70 metres downwards in all, is scarier than the first and our nervousness comes back. We’re on a ridge of sand. On one side is the slope we’ll use, on the other a plunge downwards to another sandy valley. Nick and Tom course down this slope as if the board is an extra limb, but we’re not that confident.
Again, the little girls take the lead. And the ride here is even better, faster, longer. Our hearts pump a little faster; we’re delighted with ourselves.
But Tom believes we’re got more to learn. He shows us how to turn left by lifting our toes and putting more pressure on our heels, or right by leaning forward slightly. I try, but I’m too cautious, too enchanted with the power of my board to force it into maneuvers. I just go straight as usual. Next time, I tell myself – because it’s almost time to go.
We all line up on the top of the dune for a toboggan race. On our bottoms, we push off, and it’s a disaster. Someone comes off and we hit the sand one after another to avoid a pile-up. We tumble a bit, sand filling our mouths and clothing, and laugh and laugh.
The founder of Downhill Adventures, Axel Zander, brought sandboarding to South Africa, Nick tells us. Eight years ago, Axel won the world sandboarding championships and he’s still the champion because there has been no repeat of the competition.
I tried snowboarding once and after about half an hour landed hard on my back. I was so winded I could only wait in the car, lying back and trying to ignore m excruciating pain, as my nimble brother, also a first-timer, hurtled down the slope from far up the mountain, so very much higher than I could dream of.
Sandboarding is easier than snowboarding and a good introduction to it, says Nick. The sand is less slippery than snow and the boards don’t go as fast.
But there’s no need to go snowboarding at all with such dunes so close to Cape Town.

Downhill Adventures offers half-day sandboarding trips at R450 per person, and whole-day trips to learn sandboarding and surfing for R795 per person. Sandboarding and quad-biking costs R895 per person, and a day sandboarding and tandem skydiving costs R1950. Table mountain abseiling and biking is also available. See www.downhilladventures.com or phone 021 422 0388 to find out what to bring for each activity and for more information.

Dune Dudes by Jacques Marais

Sandboarding is Cheap, relatively uncomplicated, an all-seasons activity … and a sprinkling of grains in your sweaty hair doesnt require anti-dandruff shampoo.

If you happen to head out along the curve and swerve of that beautiful strip of tarmac tripping past Gordons Bay and Rooi Els, youll eventually encounter a turn-off to a dorpie by the name of Pringle Bay.

Hit a hard right here and take a slow cruise along the main drag until the tar road peters out into an eroded strip of red dust and stone. Right about now you should notice the looming presence of a monster of a mountain, topped with a formidable overhang, skylining away to your left. And rising up from the coastal plains like a scene from the movie Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, youll see the trippy colours and low-slung buildings of the legendary Hangklip Hotel, haunt of the hardebaarde of the Cape South Coast.

It is within the shade of this monolithic mountain that giant crayfish dwell and gargantuan great whites cruise the big blue. Step beyond the hotel stoep and you might encounter sharks of a different kind hard drinking (mostly Stellenbosch) students and perlemoen divers prop up the bar while innocent-looking sylphs circle the pool table in short dresses, waiting to take you for a fast 50 bucks quicker than you can flick a Bic.

Now, if you are planning on getting in a full day of sandboarding, mutter a few Hail Marys and drive on past, avoiding this horribly addictive watering hole and instead continuing along the dirt road traversing the coastline towards Betty’s Bay. As you round the mountain, towering dunes of white sand will hove into view below the rugged peak of Hangklip, presenting you with a selection of premium-grade sandboarding slopes.

On my first day of play in the dunes, we had never heard of stand-up sandboarding, and whatever equipment came to hand had to suffice (in this case, it was a boogie board, although a smooth length of plywood does the job even better). All you need to do is step onto the lower slopes and face up to gravity as you skyline for a killer view across the False Bay coast-line.

And trust me on one thing; a dune always seems three times higher when youre standing at the top than it does before you start the long and winding climb. But once youve peaked, its a wild ride all the way – get down on your stomach and bite the bullet as you slither and slide your way down the smooth face of the dune before trekking to the top again.

If you decide not to go solo, hook up with one of the many recognised sandboarding operators you will find wherever high dunes line the South African landscape. Here we are talking a completely different ball (or shall I say board?) game, though, with specially manufactured sandboards borrowing heavily from current snowboarding trends.

With their design firmly rooted in powder culture (with a dash of surf thruster mixed in for good measure), stand-up sandboards combine the exhilaration of surfing with the kick-ass attitude associated with carving through a virgin snowfield.

A big plus is the fact that sandboarding is an accessible, four-season activity that does not require a huge investment in cold-weather gear all you need are boots, bindings and a board (and maybe a peak cap and generous lathering of sun screen). The bonus for cash-strapped South Africans is that sandboarding offers the perfect practice ground in which to hone your snowboarding skills before hitting those northern hemisphere slopes.

My introduction to stand-up sandboarding came courtesy of Axel Zander, the aptly-named chief explorer with Downhill Adventures, a Cape Town-based adventure company running trips at both Bettys Bay and Atlantis, situated along the Cape West Coast.

As an avid snowboarder and edge-sport aficionado, Axel has been at the forefront of fine-tuning the sandboarding concept locally, and it is under his watchful eye that I head into the dunescape shimmering along the West Coast highway.

Although Bettys Bay boasts higher dunes, Atlantis combines perfect weather with a full gamut of slopes ranging from beginners mild to awesome and wild. Im primarily here to get pictures of the dudes doing their thing, but it also offers a perfect opportunity to get a feel for this latest in high-octane adrenaline rushes.

In order to get your kicks, you first have to deal with the stepexerciser from hell, but once you hit the summit, it is all play and no work as you lay fresh tracks along the face of the dune. Despite the harder, formica base of modern-day sandboards, speeds are still not quite up to powder standards, but expert boarders will have no problem launching radical manoeuvres off natural kickers.

With the assistance of an instructor, even newbies can soon learn how to tame a dune. And then all you have to worry about is sand up your various orifices!

Downhill Adventures at iafrica.com (February 2004) by Richard Holmes

As the sun beats down on the sea of white powder sand, a faint whistling sound pierces the dead-still air.

Suddenly a boarder bursts over the top of the ridge, grabbing a rail as he soars through the air, seemingly motionless. What seems like hours, but is in reality only seconds, later he slams the board back down onto the dune and accelerates down the slope. Shoop, shoop go the rails as he carves through the powder like a kid in a sandpit. Perfectly in control, board and rider are the epitome of grace, moving in harmony in the battle against the sand…well, thats what Id hoped for at least.

Pioneered in South Africa by Axel Zander, the founder of Downhill Adventures, sandboarding is essentially much the same as its colder cousin strap yourself onto a board and stay standing while carving your way gracefully (well, in theory) down the biggest sand dune you can find.

How difficult could it be?

So with delusions of sandboarding grandeur filling my head I happily tagged along with the Downhill Adventures team as they attempted to teach a motley crew of tourists and locals how to cut up the dunes with style. How difficult could it be? I thought, rose-tinted memories of pre-teen skateboarding days convincing me I was going to leave my classmates trailing in my dust. Or sand for that matter.

The basic principles are much the same as snowboarding, especially when it comes to the equipment involved. Downhill Adventures use imported snowboards, but with the bottoms replaced with a super slick composite that becomes more slippery as you ride it. Snowboard boots and bindings (straps connecting your boots to the board) are also used, which are vitally important to protect your ankles if you fall.

With the basics of the gear explained, and our boards boasting a fresh coat of wax polish to give them extra speed, we took our places at the top of the ridge. With the dune now looking far steeper than it did at the bottom, the bindings began to seem strangely like shackles.

But being the top skateboarder in your standard three class comes with a certain reputation to uphold, and once our instructor, Malcolm, had given us a brief tutorial about how to make our way down the slippery slope I thought it time to prove my inherent board-riding superiority to all and sundry.

Double-check the bindings, do a bit of a hip wiggle to get your board facing down the slope and off you go. Piece of cake.

Straight is for beginners

It was all going swimmingly at first, skimming down the dune at a respectable pace, until I decided that going straight was for beginners and that I was ready for a bit of carving. Id seen it in the movies after all, lean to the side and the board carves away to the left or right, depending on which way you lean. As I discovered though, if you lean too hard the side of the board digs in, gets buried in sand and sends you flying to earth in an ungraceful jumble of limbs. Generally followed by a scolding from the instructor for trying to run before you can walk. Next time I think Ill pay more attention.

The basics of riding a sandboard are much the same as for snowboarding. One major difference is that turns are far less pronounced than on snow. Also, because sand exerts more friction than snow, the more you dig the edge of the board into the sand the slower youll go. Dig too much though and the extra friction will cause you to wipe out like yours truly.

According to Malcolm, once you can sandboard youll be able to snowboard with little trouble at all. No surprise then that its a popular way for people to learn to board before jetting off to the slopes in Europe or the States.

Once my good self and my lofty sandboarding ambitions had come crashing to earth, it didnt take Malcolm long to get all eight of us newbie boarders carving our way, albeit slowly, down the slopes. Once you get the hang of it and learn to make your turns and adjustments gently, it was actually surprisingly easy to get yourself coasting down the slopes, the hot sand skimming away beneath you. And best of all, I was actually in control…well, most of the time.

With the notorious south-easterly wind cranking up for a good blow, we squeezed in as many runs as we could before the biting sand made it seem as if there was as much sand in the air as on the dune.

Piling back into the van for the 45-minute trip back into town, the kombi was abuzz with excited talk of daring exploits on the slopes, sure to be even further exaggerated to family back home. Ten new converts to snowboardings warmer relative.

Snowboarding in South Africa :: Mission: Beyond Matroosberg by bluntEd, ::

Red Bull and Blunt Magazine undertake South Africas first professional heli-boarding mission in the snow of the Hex River Mountains in Ceres near Cape Town…

Heli-boarding. The words themselves have a strange sound. Like they dont quite fit together. I mean, who ever heard of riding a board and using a helicopter for transportation? Thanks to Red Bull and our intrepid team we found out in the Hex River Mountains outside of Cape Town, just after a good dump of snow in late August.

The grey sky spat raindrops at us as we went through the safety drills on a flat concrete runway at Cape Town International. We packed the helicopter, a six seater Bell long ranger, and strapped ourselves in tight. This was my first ever ride in a chopper, so as I clicked in the seatbelt and put on my headphones, all my Nam war fantasies were briefly realised before dissolving at the anticipation of the less violent day ahead. My stomach churned as we floated noisily into the air, the great blades whirring like windmills on speed.

The view changed from the airport surrounds, to squatter camps, to rich suburbs with pools, to farmland and eventually to the foothills of the Matroosberg. Entranced by the novelty of flying so close to the ground and the amazing perspective it offered of the toy landscape beneath, no one said a word until the pilot Bronte cracked in his Kiwi drawl, you are allowed to speak, you know. That kind of broke the ice and we started to speculate on the conditions and get amped on what lay ahead.

Before long we left the clouds beneath us and passes, previously only seen through a cars window as we headed up here in previous years. We would be boarding by the time the ground support crew had even seen the first snow covered peak.

Our first glimpse of snow was on the distant peaks, and then it lay thick everywhere beneath us. As our chopper clapped its way over Waaihoek, we saw ski club there. Our first revelation of the conditions though, was the powder being blown of a cornice blasted off a dune, a fine white mist of swirling white particles. Proof that the snow lay thick and soft across the wintry landscape.

We decided to head on to beyond Matroosberg, and eventually settled on a peak that looked like it offered some runs and opportunities for cliff jumps. As we set down, and jumped out, I absorbed the full enormity of what we had achieved so far. Cape based snowboarder Axel Zander somehow read my mind and we shook hands, grinning from ear to ear. A dream both of us had talked about for years had been realised and we were so stoked. If we had a glass of ale in our hands we would have toasted the moment and drank deep.

Deep, unexpectedly so, that was the state of the powder. After a few tentative runs, we spent a few hours slashing up the smooth white duvet of snow at our chosen spot. Axel and German invitee Carsten Kurmis carved it up for a while, saving every ounce of energy for riding by hitching a ride with the chopper. It’s an experience that has got to be insane every time you do it; but especially in Africa, for the first time in thick, powdery snow.

Before long both had tackled the cliff jump. Axel ate shit on one early attempt and came up smiling. The powder was soft, like a big mattress and after that he hucked and stuck a series of grab variations.

Carsten found a rock gap only really accessible to a goofy rider on his frontside and bust a grab across it, landing inches from another exposed rock. The boys carved the white shit out of a small ridge at the edge, one high speed backside carve of Carstens creating a loud crack as he ground the boards rail over the rocks at the edge of a serious drop.

As the session wound down for lunch, Axel found another tight gully, filled with several large scoops of vanilla ice cream. He bombed it like a madman, sending up a fan of spray in the now heavier midday snow like Kelly Slater carving a cutback on some hapless wave. Carsten then joined him and the two of them decimated the remaining pow.

Whilst the crew chilled with lunch and re-energised with the obligatory Red Bulls, I got a chance to ride. It never ceases to amaze me how much fun snowboarding is. It doesnt take much to learn how to gain a modicum of control over the board, especially if you surf or skate, and the few runs, my first of this year, that I had down the sublimely soft and soapy run were so enjoyable. Although being the photo dude stealing a few runs between snaps, I didnt have the luxury of the chopper and had to risk cardiac arrest by hiking back to the top, I guess I can still scratch heli-boarding” off my list of things to do this life. What an experience.

During his chill, Carsten had noticed a potential run on the back of another nearby peak; south, towards the ridge and cliffs we had flow over earlier (the same ones that the SA base jumping posse fling themselves off like the madmen they are). We decided to go check it out.

But first the boys bombed the official run of the Matroosberg club. The members, a hardy bunch of ski enthusiasts, have placed nets to trap the snow on the leeward side of the range at the top of the valley. Thanks to their work, deep drifts of up to three metres of ice base and snow covering coated the mountain, and Axel and Carsten flew down it as we follow-filmed from the chopper. But this was just preparation for what came next, a full on hardcore downhill, backcountry assault on a virgin peak.

A cliff drop we guessed easily of 1000m, greeted us as we flew through the saddle to examine Carstens proposed run. Although the snow here appeared to be the thickest that we had seen all day, the slope ended abruptly in the highest section of this cliff face. To run it would not be advised without a parachute, James Bond style.

Further south we found another slope on the same side of the ridge, and Bronte expertly set the bird down and the boys disembarked. After a bit of deliberation, which they told us later was a nervous adrenalin overload, the tow of them set their lines and threw themselves down the virgin with the gusto of those about to deflower a sacred place.

This run was so much longer than the previous one, and in the chopper we could only imagine how their brains were reacting to the stimuli coming at them. Axel later said he was operating purely on instinct, often not being able to see to far ahead of obscured the next section. All the time the knowledge that this eventually ended in a huge cliff sent his adrenal gland into overdrive.

Carsten, with far more experience of such riding, edged ahead as Axel took another route behind him. Carsten hit full speed down one snowy section and bounded like a hare over some gaps. Eventually Axel rejoined the trail set by Carsten and the two of them hurtled down the hill until Carsten suddenly changed direction across the fall line and slid to stop.

The chopper had been flying down above them at pace and whilst the riders stopped, we didn’t. About 30 metres below them the chasm that the cliff comprised opened beneath us and the mountains echoed with our screaming. This must be the first time such an inaccessible run has been ridden properly. The moment will live with us all forever.

We returned to the main slope for a final freestyle session. We settled the chopper and hiked onto a large field of lovely snow. The crew then built a kicker and bust out a few airs, the highlights of which were some spectacular slams in the beginning and then Axels indy backflip, and Carstens switch frontside 180˚ grab.

Both of them were exhausted now, after a few hours riding. As the sun began to sink towards the horizon and home, we left our little kicker and trudged back up to the chopper, sunburned, weary and super stoked.

There was again silence in the chopper as we cruised back, flying low literally, but flying high figuratively, back to Cape Town International and the depressingly snow free real world.

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Telephone: +27 21 422 0388
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