How to Surf a Volcano

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Volcanoes: They’re not just for disaster movies anymore. Since its invention in 2005, the extreme sport of volcano surfing has become a hot way to spice up any vacation. If hurtling down an active volcano at over 50 mph sounds like something you should add to your bucket list, here’s what you need to do.

1) Find a Volcano

Don’t worry, the steps get tougher as we go along. When searching for a volcano, seek out a steep cinder cone with a bald, gravelly slope. We recommend Cerro Negro in Nicaragua, the most historically active cinder volcano in the world and a major hub for volcano surfing. On its 41-degree slope, surfers can hit speeds over 50 mph. Check with geologists before you book your flight, though. Cerro Negro has erupted 23 times since 1850.

2) Bare Your Sole

Bad news for lazy surfers: there probably isn’t going to be a ski lift to get you to the top of the volcano, so be prepared to hike. Bring cheap sneakers that you’re okay with throwing away. Volcanoes like Cerro Negro are hot, and they can melt your shoe soles.

3) Get on Board

Early volcano surfers tried everything to get down the slopes: snowboards, surfboards, boogie boards, mattresses, picnic tables, and even mini fridge doors. They eventually settled on a makeshift toboggan of plywood and metal. The bottom is coated with plastic laminate to increase speed.

4) Forget Fashion

Forget looking dapper - you’re going to need an industrial jumpsuit and goggles. The ride down will spray up loose tephra—volcanic material—which is rough, jagged, and unforgiving. If you wipeout, it will cut you. Coveralls will not only protect you from scratches—they’ll also keep cinders from wedging themselves where the sun doesn’t shine.

5) Take a Load Off

Don’t stand on your board – that’s the slowest way down. Tephra is coarser than sand, so the board will get bogged down if you ride it like a snowboarder—the top speed will barely eke over 10 mph. You’ll go quicker if you treat the board like a sled.

6) Pregame with Pilates

If you want to go fast, you’ll need a strong core. Lean back on the board and take your weight off your feet. Not only will it give your abs a great burn, it’ll also propel you to the top speeds. To slow your descent, lean forward. To brake, tap your toes into the ash rushing beside you. But don’t dig too deep—it’s a recipe for wiping out.

7) Keep your Mouth Shut

It’s going to be a bumpy ride, and whether you’re screaming from joy or terror, you’ll be met with the same result—a mouthful of pebbles. Glue your lips and enjoy the ride!

Once you make it to the bottom of the volcano, you’ll have pulled together a new story that will make you more interesting. It’s time to gather your friends, toast your luck, and cool off with an ice cold Dos Equis.

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July 30, 2013 - 7:30am
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