Words, Photos & Video: Gareth Colyer
Mountainboarding is one of the most exciting and fastest growing board sports around the globe and can now be found in more than 30 countries, including South Africa. Not only is it easy to learn and fun, you can pretty much ride anywhere and all year long.
Photo credit: Gareth Colyer
For those not familiar with mountainboarding, it's essentially snowboarding but on grass, dirt or the pavement. You use mountainboards, which is like an 'off-road' skateboard that is strapped to your feet and has four pneumatic wheels. Although there are elements that are similar to snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding, it has developed into a fully fledged sport of its own and includes racing, freestyle, freeride and kiting disciplines.
Mountainboarding is an extreme sport, so falling, bailing and wiping out is all part of the fun and learning. However, safety is always of paramount importance, so here are some essentials when riding. Wear a helmet, elbow pads, knee pads and wrist pads. Sometimes when I'm trying something new or riding somewhere I'm not familiar with, I like to keep my butt protected from the hard ground with some crash pants, which are basically padded boxers that protect your thighs, butt and coccyx when you fall - and you will fall! If you're not falling, then you're not trying hard enough.
For some time now, mountainboarding (also known as dirt boarding) has slowly been working its way into the country. I started riding about four years ago at the Jozi X Adventure Centre. Since then, I've been constantly learning and trying to get better, while at the same time enjoying the rush of adrenaline that comes from trying new jumps and stunts. Some more extreme than others, like using a bungee cord to launch myself down a big air jump - as if it wasn't already fast enough on its own. After that rush, I had to take it to the next level and launch myself even higher and further. Picture the scene. I'm standing at the top of the track at Jozi X, which leads to the big air and where two guys are struggling to pull and stretch out the cord so that they could pass it to me. Nervously, I grabbed the cord as it was pulled back faster and faster towards the jump. On release, I was launched head height into the air for 8 metres before I landed and rode away. Flying through the air at speed was a totally awesome feeling.
Video credit: Gareth Colyer
One of my favourite places to ride is in Hazyview with Quisto van Greenman, the owner of Hazyview Adventure Backpackers and host of South Africa's first mountainboarding competition, the Dirty Dayz, held in September 2013. In Hazyview, you will find some of the most insane and technical forest runs that offer 5 kilometres of constant downhill. On these runs you can hit speeds of up to 50 kph. Going downhill that quickly, on dirt, is definitely something that will get your heart racing and adrenalin pumping! There's also a new 800-metre-long boardercross for racing. This is a slope-style section that has lots of different courses made up of a sequence of jumps, boxes, a spine and a tree for doing grinds on. A short trip to the Jungle Cafe at Adventure Backpackers and you will find a big air jump capable of launching you 4 metres into the air. I remember looking at this jump and thinking, "This looks like nothing." I was so wrong. There's a 4-metre-high roll in to get you up to speed so that you hit the jump fast enough to clear a 3-metre-wide gap before landing. I was so amped to hit this jump that I started rolling in and as I hit the jump, my heart stopped for a second when it suddenly, and unexpectedly, launched me into the air before I plummeted back down for the landing. It took me a few attempts to master this jump, with bloodied knees and shoulders to show for my efforts.
Other great places to ride are any dirt downhill trails that we can find, as well as forest runs down hills and mountain sides. We enjoy testing ourselves, so we're constantly on the lookout for new, difficult routes, such as mountain biking trails, paths through parks or any open fields, which have a decent slope that we can enjoy practicing tricks on or just cruise around.
Photo credit: Gareth Colyer
Inaugural mountainboarding competition
The first mountainboarding competition in South Africa took place last year in September in Hazyview, with competitors participating in the Big Air, Slopestyle and a couple of Downhill racing events. The atmosphere on the night of the Dirty Days 2013 competition was amazing, with bands playing, people dancing and tons of spectators, who came from all over to watch us hit the jump on boards they had never seen before. Amid looks of astonishment at the stunts performed and hearty cheering from the crowd, I took first place for the Big Air event and third place in the 5 km Downhill.
The standard of competition was amazing, and I hope to see a lot more new faces at the next mountainboarding competition, tentatively scheduled to take place in May at Jozi X, in Johannesburg.
For those daring enough, mountainboarding is a fantastic action sport for all ages. All you need is your board, a hill and your sense of humor. So why not give it a try?
Jozi X, in Johannesburg, offers lessons and slopes to practice on, as well as gear hire or you can purchase your own mountainboards and parts. For more information, visit jozix.co.za
To follow what's going on, upcoming events and who's doing what in mountainboarding, in South Africa, like this page: www.facebook.com/136forlife