Get a whole new perspective on sand in Florence, Oregon

How does sandboarding compare with snowboarding? Being a skier,not a boarder, I couldn't say. But my companion could.

"It's sandier," he said. Indeed.

"Lean back and close your mouth when you fall," was the partingadvice from the pro at Sand Master Park in Florence, Oregon, as weheaded out for the first time with a board. That, in a nutshell,turned out to be the key to a successful day on the dunes.

You've got to wonder what took so long for sandboarding and asandboarding park―the world's first―to take off at thecentral Oregon coast's 40 acres of dunes. A small cadre of boardersall over the world have been sliding down dunes for decades (andhumans have been sliding down dunes on their feet for millennia).This site's appeal? It's accessible, with a shop and big dunesright off U.S. 101, and it's full-service, renting, selling, andmanufacturing sandboards. First-timers can try it on their own, andmost do. But the park also offers lessons to help you learn tolean.

It's a lot like wakeboarding or snowboarding in heavy powder,the instructor explained. Falling on the sand was comparable to afall on hard-packed snow. Waxing before each slide seemed tediousat first but became routine. And after trudging up several dunes,we found ourselves looking around for the (nonexistent) chairlift.Then it all paid off with one perfect, long ride down a sweet angleof sand, tapering off into a slow slide that allowed me to end notwith a crash but a whoop and a (gritty) grin.

INFO: Sand Master Park (www.sandmasterpark.com or541/997-6006), in Florence, OR, offers sandboarding lessons and theSand Master Jam 2005 on May 28-29. Dumont Dunes (www.ca.blm.gov/barstow/dumont.htmlwww.ca.blm.gov/barstow/dumont.htmlor 760/252-6000), southeast of Death Valley, and southernColorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (www.nps.gov/grsa or719/378-6399) are good places to board on your own. Visit www.sandboard.com to find morelocations, but call before heading out; some environmentallysensitive sites are off-limits.

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