Outdoors

Fall is ideal time to sandboard dunes in Florence, Oregon

Tyler Kent of IncLine Village, Nevada, catches air at Honeyman State Park in Florence, Oregon.
Tyler Kent of IncLine Village, Nevada, catches air at Honeyman State Park in Florence, Oregon. AP file, 1999

Answers to important questions nobody has asked me yet:

Q. How old is too old to try sandboarding?

A. I don’t want to say sandboarding is a young person’s sport, but two-time world champion Gabriel Cruz recently told me “older people” are more likely to be found riding the dunes on the Oregon coast during the fall.

“What do you mean by older people?” I asked.

“You know,” he said, “People in their late 20s.”

When I laughed, Cruz, 24, quickly pointed out that sandboarding is a sport for all ages. But, indeed, the clients at Sand Master Park in Florence, Oregon, do skew a little younger in the summer than they do in the fall.

“They’re the people who want to avoid (the Oregon coast) when it’s busier,” Cruz, an instructor, said of the fall clientele.

So they’re not so much over the dune as they are experienced travelers.

Sandboarding is a sport that looks a lot like snowboarding on sandy dunes, and Florence is the epicenter. Cruz, a California native, has spent 10 years in Florence honing his craft. He won the 2013 and ’14 world championships. He expects to finish second in the standings this season.

Before Cruz, Josh Tenge of Gig Harbor ruled the dunes, winning four world championships and earning a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest sandboarding back flip. He’s moved on, but occasionally visits, Cruz said.

“When you ride with him, he pushes you to the next level,” Cruz said.

But the sport is often thought of — if it’s thought of at all — as a summer sport. Of course, it is a great summer sport, Cruz said, but the fall is also a good time to strap on a board.

“As long as it’s not raining,” he said.

Sand Master Park is open through December and closes during the wetter months of January and February. Sandboards and sand sleds rent for $16-$25 for a day, and lessons start at $45 per hour. As for Dunes access, Cruz often recommends Honeyman State Park. Access is $5 per vehicle per day.

“It’s a lot cheaper than snowboarding,” Cruz said. “I think a lot of people like that.”

Cruz says the sports seems to grow in popularity a little more each year, and he expects it to keep growing. Even with those elderly pre-tricenarians.

“It’s a great, healthy sport,” Cruz said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Q. Is it too early to buy my 2016 calendar?

A. Not if you’re a BMX fan. The Tacoma South Sound Sports Commission recently landed a major BMX event for next summer.

Dean Burke, the commission’s executive director, confirmed Monday that Sumner will host a USA BMX National series race that’s expected to draw about 1,500 riders to the area.

The event will be called the Lumberjack National, and riders will participate in hopes of qualifying for that national championship. The event is scheduled for July 1-3 at Sumner’s River Valley BMX.

Burke called River Valley “a piece of BMX history” and says the South Sound area hasn’t hosted a major BMX event in more than a decade.

“BMX is definitely a lot healthier right now,” Burke said. “This will be a great event for the area.”

Q. How much did Liz Rocks rock?

A. Ever since professional snowboarder Liz Daley was killed by an avalanche last fall, the friends and family she left behind have been looking for ways to honor her.

Daley, a graduate of Stadium High, was killed in Argentina while filming a project for one of her sponsors, Eddie Bauer. Daley was an accomplished rock climber and carved out a reputation as one of the best in splitboard mountaineering. Splitboards are snowboards that convert into a pair of skis, allowing users to travel into the backcountry as easily as skiers without having to haul extra gear such as snowshoes.

Her friends are working to build a rock wall in Daley’s honor at Point Defiance Park, and on Sept. 26 they held their first fundraiser in Seattle.

Brady Bekker, a long-time friend of Daley and one of the leaders of the effort, says the Liz Rocks fundraiser was a success. They’d hoped to raised $50,000 (of their preliminary goal of $150,000) at the event.

They raised $75,000, Bekker said.

“In the months ahead we are going to be looking at outdoor public climbing facilities across the country, weighing the pros and cons of various designs (and) presenting some suggestions to Metro Parks (Tacoma),” Bekker said.

While the goal is to build a bouldering facility at Point Defiance, another possible location is Swan Creek Park.

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