Volcano Boarding in Leon, Nicaragua

| by Aracely | 15 Comments » | Adventures, Central America, Nicaragua

Volcano Boarding on Cerro Negro

Volcano Boarding on Cerro Negro

It had been a long travel day for us; we spent 9 hours on the road on six different buses and crossed two land borders.  Jason and I were relaxing over drinks at Big Foot Hostel Bar in Leon, Nicaragua when we noticed a sign that read, “Volcano Boarding Top Speeds.”  It had two lists of names.  One list of females and the other for men.  Each list had a speed associated with the name.  We asked our friendly bar tender and hostel attendant, Alberto, “What’s Volcano Boarding?”  He smiled and pointed to some pictures on the wall of people wearing orange jumpsuits, goggles and each were holding what looked like laminated wooden boards.  “Why don’t you guys sign up and find out,” he said, “You’ll love it.”  So we did.

For $23 per person Big Foot Hostel offers Volcano Boarding trips any day of the week when they can get enough people to sign up.  The group got picked up at 9:00am in the morning and everyone piled into the back of a pickup truck for a bumpy 45 minute ride to the base of Volcano Cerro Negro.  Along the drive we passed several settlements and waved to the workers leading their cattle to the farms.

We arrived to a small ranch styled building where each person paid another $100 Cordobas or $5 US dollars entrance fee to the volcano park.  Everyone was then handed an orange bag and a wooden board with a laminated piece on the bottom for speed.  The board was

Arrival at Cerro Negro

Arrival at Cerro Negro

large and a bit awkward to carry so I gave mine to Jason and I offered to carry his light orange bag and our daypack.  Our guide, Danny from England, led us up a rocky path to the top of the volcano’s crater.  As we walked he educated us on Cerro Negro and about Nicaragua’s volcanic chain which we could see in the distance.  Once we reached the top, he instructed us to put on the jumpsuits and goggles.  After taking some group pictures in our silly outfits, he gathered us around for further instructions on how to make it down the mountain fast or safely.

“There are two sections to this slope,” he began.  “You will start off at a slower speed and then half way down you hit a 45 degree angle where you will pick up a lot of speed.  You won’t see it approaching, but you will feel it.  To keep from being thrown off your board, you must keep it straight by taping your heels on the gravel one at a time.  Once you hit the 45 degree angle, if you want to go for gold, just hold your legs up and hope for the best. If you want to slow down, continue to tap your heels on the ground in an alternating rhythm.”  He also reminded us the top speeds were around 75km/h for females and 85km/h for males.  We were all a bit nervous, some more than others.  In groups of two we began to volcano board down the black volcanic gravel.

Amy, a traveler from New Zealand, and I were the second group to go.  My heart was racing.  When I heard Danny say, “Go!”  I gave

Jason carrying our boards

Jason carrying our boards

myself a push by forcing my body forward and I began to tap my heels: left right, left right, left right.  Tiny bits of rock was pelting my face.  The sound of the board sliding against the gravel increased as I gained speed and descended further down the desolate volcano.  The gravel began to turn and cover my board.  I tried to remember Danny’s instructions and lifted one leg up to straighten my board, but there was no fixing it; I flew off.  I can’t really describe what happened, I was completely disoriented.  I told myself, “Look for the board, get back on and keep moving.”  Once I found it I mounted the wooden plank and continued to slide down the volcano: left right, left right, left right. I felt myself picking up speed again.  I picked up my feet and began to feel the tiny rocks hitting my face quicker this time; my heart was racing even faster.  Again, gravel took over and pushed me of my path and off again I went!  This time I hit the ground a bit harder.  Completely disoriented I looked for my board and mounted it once again.  I made it all the way down the volcano.  I picked myself up and took a look around; I began to feel a sting on my leg.  I looked down and saw I had a descent size bloody scrape with gravel still in it.  I ignored it and began to watch the others fly down the mountain.  Amy had not made it down yet.  I could see her still on the slope trying to make her way to the bottom.  Two by two, the groups began to descend.  I watched everyone flip, tumble and crash.  Everyone had either scratches or bruises when they made it to the bottom, except for the super flier, Andreas from Germany.  He was 1km/h shy of making the fastest male list.

A second tour operator stood at the bottom of the volcano operating a speed gun.  Everyone was eager to find out their speed.  My speed was 36km/h, the fastest girl of the day by a long shot and the girl with the biggest scrape too.  Still, I felt a little proud of that.

Volcano boarding is probably not for everyone, but it is definitely an adrenaline rush.  If you decide to go boarding down Cerro Negro, remember that not everyone enjoys it and you will end up with some scrapes and burns to show for it.  Regardless, you’ll have an exciting story to tell.

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Tags: volcanoes

Written by Aracely

Co-founder of TwoBackpackers.com. Aracely has been traveling, writing and taking photos since 2009, when she departed on his first year long travel backpacking journey. When she isn't seeking new adventures, Aracely is usually building Excel models as a financial analyst professional. Visit my website

15 Responses to “Volcano Boarding in Leon, Nicaragua”

  1. Rob Paris says:

    Volcano boarding sounds amazing. I wish there was video!

  2. sophie says:

    Love reading this. I was there I know those guys…you should have asked alberto and danny about the crazy canadian girls they met this summer. Hahaha.. I miss you guys!!!!!
    BIG BIG HUG!!! keep on doing what your doing

  3. Jeanne Castellani says:

    Wow, the volcano boarding sounds like fun. Aracely, you done good!! I know Jason likes that kind of stuff. How did he do? The scrapes and bruises don’t seem fun, though.

    • Jason says:

      I was terrible at it Mom! I had no balance whatsoever going down the mountain at 30mph. There were some serious crashes, but Aracely and I didn’t really get hurt that much.

  4. Nomadic Matt says:

    no shot of you actually boarding? :(
    .-= Nomadic Matt´s last blog ..There is No Such Thing as “Must See” =-.

    • Jason says:

      Exactly, so we really screwed up on this one. We didn’t even get video. I thought the first person could ride down on their board with the camera, then film the others as they came down. The problem was actually riding with the video camera. The way Aracely and I both crashed an rolled down the hill violently, would have surely busted up the camera. We ended up having to hand it to the guide, to walk down the volcano with it. And of course, he was the last one to go down on foot. I do have video of us leaving from the top, but it isn’t nearly as fun.

  5. Earl says:

    I thought I would never have to think about my volcano boarding experience again! I had to extend my stay in Leon for five days because of the wounds to both arms and legs, many of which are still visible 3 months later…at least the drinks upon arrival back at Big Foot helped out a bit…
    .-= Earl´s last blog ..Why Every Traveler Must Visit INDIA =-.

    • Jason says:

      It was very dangerous, some from the group did get scraped up pretty badly. The next day we opted to run down on foot; an experience I definitely preferred over boarding.

  6. TheWorldEffect says:

    Great post, we loved the volcano boarding (although we also got a little beat up). It sounds like the operation over there has gotten a little more “High Tech” since we were there earlier in the year… no cool prison jump suits or speed guns. We were still finding volcanic gravel 3 countries later in our clothes. We’re looking forward to the video.
    .-= TheWorldEffect´s last blog ..Always make time for a Market: Istanbul, Turkey =-.

  7. Stephen says:

    Sorry for the buzzkill but does anybody know about the environmental effects from volcano boarding….like say erosion? I was recently at BigFoot Hostel in Leon and debating whether or not to go boarding. It does sound fun, though.

  8. Garrett says:

    Just went through Leon and Volcano Boarding was definitely the highlight. I would recommend Quetzal Trekkers for the tour. They are a volunteer group who spend all proceeds to help kids living on the street in Nicaragua. Its two dollars more, but they supply lunch and a second ride down. After the first ride, I couldn’t wait to get back for the second. The bit more of confidence made it that much more fun.

    • Jason says:

      Glad you enjoyed it Garrett. We did 2-day hike with Quetzal Trekkers there to El Hoyo. It was an amazing hike with excellent exciting guides. If you head to Bolivia, there is also a branch called CondorTrekkers with whom we volunteered with. They run treks out of Sucre, Bolivia.

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