“This volcano was the first and most popular place to go volcano boarding in the world,” explains the tour guide as our 4×4 barrels through the overgrown nature on this backcountry dirt road, traveling towards Cerro Negro. “A famous international stuntman tried riding his bike down this volcano to break the world speed record, and he did it. But then he wanted more. He came back three times, each time breaking the speed record he had previously set. Then on his third run, he was reaching 170mph…180mph…190mph and his bike broke in half! He went tumbling down the volcano at top speed, breaking nearly every bone in his body on the way down. So now the volcano is famous, he made it a landmark in Nicaragua.”
If I wasn’t nervous before, I certainly am now, I thought. We approached the volcano and then with boards and gear in hand, began our hike up the volcano. The skies are clear and we see some really stunning scenery on the hike up. It only takes about an hour, and as we near the crater the colors of the volcano just pop out. The blacks and whites and tones of reddish orange coalesce in patterns more beautiful than any artist could create. We make our way up to the top of the crater and I can feel the heat that the volcano is emanating warm the soles of my feet. It’s an active volcano, though not slated to erupt for some time. The heat its giving off paired with the exertion of the hike sends a bead of sweat down my forehead.
We get suited up in our protective gear: goggles, gloves, and thick canvas suits of clown-like proportions. I was mistaken before, this is what overheating feels like. But in a few moments I’ll be hurtling down the side of this volcano at a 45° angle, and I can feel the fear pulsing though me. This is much steeper from the top than it looked at the base. I watch the first crazy thrill-seeker push off and start zooming down the volcano. Doesn’t look so bad, I’ll go next.
I push off and begin picking up speed, more and more. Faster and faster. The fact that my feet are dragging alongside the board does nothing to slow my rapid acceleration. It’s exhilarating and fun but entirely terrifying. I would be screaming like I was on a Tower of Terror rollercoaster ride, if it weren’t for the volcanic ash and rocks getting kicked up into my face.
My speed continues to increase and I realize my protective gear is doing very little to protect me. The clown suit has ridden up and my legs are black from the volcanic ash. I have bits of ash and rocks inside my gloves, my goggles, my nose and mouth. And as I race down the volcano, as I reach my top speed and am certain that I will fall off and roll the rest of the way down to my untimely death, as I reach the peak of my fear, I approach the bottom and the curvature of the volcano slows me to a stop. The ride may have stopped but my mind, my heart are still racing. I stand for a moment to allow myself to realize that I am alive and intact, then I run over to the group with a big smile to share in the camaraderie of what we just experienced. Volcano boarding in Nicaragua was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, definitely the ultimate thrill ride!
Check out my video footage of the experience!
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