I Dressed Like a Beastie Boy and Went Volcano Boarding


The setting is Leon, Nicaragua.

Myself, one of my closest friends from college, and a group of about 20 others are crammed into the bed of a pickup truck, puttering up a winding dirt road toward a string of volcanoes located just outside the city.

We are going "volcano boarding," which is pretty much what it sounds like. Our objective: to sled down the side of the volcano as fast as we can. At the bottom of the volcano, a local with a speedometer will be there to tell you how many kilometers per hour you went. Breaking the record, 95 km/hour, sounds terrifying—my goal is simply to make it down with all my limbs intact.

We approach the foot of the volcano and jump off the back of the truck. Equipped with a bottle of water, a bag filled with gear, and a makeshift toboggan of metal and plywood, we begin the 1,600-foot ascent to the top of Cerro Negro. We trekked up the winding, wind-blown path of loose rocks to the very top, my heart pounded with excitement

Located in the Cordillera de los Maribios mountain range, Cerro Negro is the youngest and somehow the most active volcano in all of Central America, having erupted approximately 23 times since 1850. Its last eruption happened in 1999, and it’s due for another sometime soon. Sledding down this mountain is #2 on CNN’s list of 50 Ways to Be a Daredevil (second only to flying a fighter jet over Russia).

The top of Cerro Negro is breathtaking. It feels like you can see all of Nicaragua, and the view from almost any direction features paths carved out by lava.

Then it hits you that the only way down (without getting made fun of) is to suit up, and slide down it through the volcano gravel.

The suit, provided by Bigfoot Hostel, looks like something out of the Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic” music video, or an episode of Breaking Bad. An oversized, orange jumpsuit to protect from wipeouts (nearly unavoidable), and a set of goggles to protect you from the gravel that flies up into your face as you propel down the volcano at top-speed.

Our guide reminds us how to guide our board: feet straight up for maximum speed, feet down to brake, and tap with your foot side-to-side to steer. My heart is still pounding.

The rest is an adrenaline-filled blur. I remember my heart beating as fast as possible, a million thoughts running through my head as I gained speed and the Nicaraguan horizon shrinking.

I came-to to with my board and body covered in gravel and ash, and a set of hikers cheering for me. I may not have broken the record, but it felt like I was flying.

Would I say Volcano Boarding is for the faint of heart? Absolutely not. Would I do it again? You bet I would. I still have gravel lodged in the bottom of my sneakers from it. They're keepsakes.

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