Cerro Dragon - Iquique - Chile

Nearest City - Iquique

Sandboarding the dragon: Iquique, Chile, nestled between the Pacific and the Atacama Desert, is the birthplace of dune surfing

Advocate, The, Nov 8, 2005 by Cristobal Edwards When the sun begins to set over the south Pacific Ocean, sandboarders make their pilgrimage to the summit of Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill), the magnificent sand dunes that guard the port city of Iquique (e-KEY-keh) from the parched Atacama Desert. This is an evening ritual--sandboards slide faster when the dunes have cooled down.

We trudge steadily through the sand all the way to the top. The sandboarders' legs are pumped up. From the sinuous crest of Cerro Dragon the view of the city, the coastline, and the desert is breathtaking. The hike is too. The climate is like that of the central coast of California: never too cold, never too hot, always mild, often cloudy. Many foreign backpackers traveling to the mystical Atacama stop in Iquique to enjoy its cool ocean waters, and some of them fall under the spell of sandboarding. I soon find myself falling under it too.

First practiced in Chile in 1987, sandboarding gained widespread attention around 2000 as "that ski sport in the sand." Only a few hundred Chileans sandboard, but they adore it. I traveled two hours south by plane from my hometown of Santiago, the capital of Chile, to join a group of five friends on one partially cloudy fall afternoon. They are happy to have a visitor. The sandboarders are in their 20s, all quite fit, and easygoing. They have funny nicknames for each other--one is jokingly called "Chato," meaning "pothead." They wear baggy shorts, sweatshirts, and bulky sneakers. So far this is mostly a guy sport, but a few girls are as good, they say. They treasure their boards, some of which they make themselves by hand out of fiberglass and a wooden core. They decorate them with graffiti art stickers

Submitted by: Cristobal Edwards