photo credit: John Otis
Nicaragua’s Cerro Negro volcano has erupted 23 times in the past 100 years, burying homes, crops and people in lava and ashes.
But recently the menacing black mountain has become a tourist draw, thanks to a newly invented extreme sport: volcano boarding.
Thousands of thrill-seekers have climbed to the top of Cerro Negro, peered into its crater, then zipped down its rough-and-rocky 41-degree slope on homemade toboggans.
The volcano-boarding speed record, set by an Israeli woman, is 54 mph.
“The adrenaline rush of going down an active volcano is something that people crave,” said Anthony Alcalde, an expert volcano boarder and tour guide.
The sport was developed in the mid-2000s by Darryn Webb, an Australian who founded the Big Foot tourist hostel in the Nicaraguan city of Leon. Webb had climbed the nearby Cerro Negro but was looking for a faster way to get to the bottom. He tried sliding down on surfboards, snowboards, mattresses and even a refrigerator door before inventing a sit-down sled made of plywood with a Formica strip on the bottom.
“Darryn’s initial plan was to use a snowboard,” said Gemma Cope, a British woman who now runs Big Foot, which sponsors volcano boarding tours.
“But he realized you can’t carve into the mountain. It’s very gravelly, so you can’t cut an edge. So then he came up with the sitting-down option and realized you can go pretty damn fast.” …