Go with the flow: Ride volcanoes

Surfing started with big waves and wooden boards. Then it moved on to ski slopes and sand dunes. But those are nothing compared to the latest thrill – riding active volcanoes. Simon Usborne reports

When Captain James Cook and his lieutenant, James King, landed on Hawaii in 1778 they were struck by a strange sight in the surf. Men with "oval pieces of plank" were riding waves that "sent them in with a most astonishing velocity". The passage in King's log was the first recorded account of surfing. Little did he or those early daredevils know how many extreme sports it would spawn. The latest addition to a list of boarding prefixes that includes kite, sand and horse (no, really): volcano.

Yes, volcano boarding is the hottest thing on the Nicaraguan backpacker trail. Intrepid travellers are hiking up the precipitous Cerro Negro, near the western city of León, before hurtling back down its rock-and-ash slopes at eye-watering speed. Adrenalin junkies at the Bigfoot Hostel are provided with orange overalls and plywood sleds. More experienced daredevils use adapted snowboards. Either way, balls are not provided.

"The volcano is active," says the hostel's owner, Phillip Southan. "But the biggest risk is getting scratches if you fall off." And those scratches are likely to be big – volcano boarders regularly reach speeds of up to 60km per hour. "It's hot, dusty, a little scary – and crazy enough to be fun," says one of thousands of backpackers who have taken on Cerro Negro, which has erupted 20 times since it first blew in 1850.

All board sports can trace their origins to surfing, a pursuit rooted in Polynesian culture centuries before Cook rocked up on Hawaii, but whose exact origins are shrouded in the mists of time. It was then all but forgotten until the early 20th century, when Duke Kahanamoku, a champion swimmer from Waikiki, led a revival that soon swept the world.

But surfing is a slave to the weather, not to mention proximity to a coastline. It was bored surfers in Los Angeles who, on an unrecorded day in the late 1940s or early 1950s, screwed wheels to small pieces of wood and invented skateboarding. Those wheels were ditched and the boards fitted with a rope at their tips by a Michigan man in 1965. His "snurfer", a surfboard for snow, sold by the million. One fan by the name of Jake Burton screwed bindings to his and cut the rope. Snowboarding was born.

The big three board sports – surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding – have been joined by a host of evolutions. Wakeboarders get towed by speedboats, kiteboarders use the wind and sandboarders take on dunes. We've even seen videos of surfing hamsters and skateboarding cats, but horseboarding?

Daniel Fowler-Prime is chair of the British Horsesurfing Association, a group that uses horses to tow them on boards through shallow surf or, with wheels, along the ground at speeds of up to 40mph. At the end of this month, the Association is hosting championships at its base in Harefield, West London. "We're doing drag races where boarders and horses go head to head," Fowler-Prime says. "Some have called it the world's first team extreme sport – you have to work with the horse to go as fast as you can but you can't go flat out because even the best pros will get spanked."

No need for horsepower on Cerro Negro, where volcano boarders have almost brought the sport full circle. The Polynesian pioneers were not content to ride waves. They developed a sport that has much in common with the exploits of backpackers in Nicaragua. "He'ehölua", or mountain surfing, is as old as its aquatic counterpart. More than 2,000 years ago, men used 12ft sleds to careen down manmade courses of hardened lava or grass to honour Pele, the goddess of fire. Or they did it for the thrill. As King observed of surfing: "[It] must, I conceive, be very pleasant; at least they seem to feel a great pleasure in the motion which this exercise gives." Whether you're being dragged by the wind, a horse or plummeting down an active volcano, some things haven't changed.

Sport
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne celebrates after salvaging a point with the Southampton equaliser
footballAston Villa vs Southampton report
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Out and about: for 'Glee' character Bert Hummel, having a gay son was a learning curve
lifeEven 'cool' parents need help parenting gay teens
News
peopleJack Monroe accuses David Cameron of 'misty-eyed rhetoric'
News
The illusionist believes hypnotism helped him to deal with the lack of control he felt growing up
people
News
Tana Ramsay gave evidence in a legal action in which her husband, Gordon, is accusing her father, Christopher Hutcheson, of using a ghost writer machine to “forge” his signature
peopleTana Ramsay said alleged discovery was 'extremely distressing'
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Windsor and Aljaz Skorjanec rehearse their same-sex dance together on Strictly Come Dancing
TV
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Life and Style
fashion'To start singing with Pharrell is not that bad, no?'
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Argyll Scott International: Risk Assurance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Hi All, I'm currently recruiting for t...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible