There's nothing quite like sledding down the smoking flanks of Nicaragua's Cerro Negro volcano to get the adrenaline pumping.
Is there nothing that says "R and R" more than donning an orange prison jumpsuit, slapping on a pair of safety goggles and then being pushed off the top of a smoking volcano? That's how some adventure-seekers are spending their vacations, anyway, near the not-so-peaceful town of Leon in Nicaragua's mountain-strewn northwest.
The summit that is ground zero for this odd and potentially scalding activity is Cerro Negro, the youngest volcano in Central America. Cerro Negro last erupted in 1999 and is definitely still active. Here's what the Wikians have to say about this lava-spitting peak:
Although a small-scale eruption did occur in A.D. 1999, another larger-scale eruption is expected to occur in the immediate future. Cerro Negro does not differ from most volcanoes, in that numerous hazards are associated with volcanic activity. These hazards include lava flows, mudslides, pyroclastic flows, and earthquakes, but the biggest hazard of Cerro Negro is the effects of the ash and tephra fallouts.
In other words, it's a totally sweet place to hang around. As the story goes, back in 2005 a hostel manager named Darryn Webb decided to try his Australian sandboarding skills on Nicaragua's more challenging terrain. (Certain folks dispute Webb's claim to being the father of the sport, but really, who cares?) He fiddled around with finding the right board, trying a mattress and a minibar fridge before choosing a reinforced plywood sled that looks like it was made from a prefab door. Webb took his Xtreme Vulcan Sleigh up to the top of Cerro Negro and then zoomed down its smoking flanks at speeds approaching 50 m.p.h. Voila: A new sport was born.
Tourists now seek out Leon as a jumping-off place for volcano surfing. They wear goggles to prevent hard grains of pumice from peppering their eyeballs. A local with a radar gun clocks their speed as they rocket down the obsidian slopes. What does volcano surfing feel like? Watch the video below for the reactions of two fresh land surfers: One woman who's covered with dirt so that she sort of looks like Pig-Pen proclaims it "absolutely incredible," although her friend then complains that she ripped her pants. (A good travelogue lies here.)
Cerro Negro lays claim to other odd activities, too: In 2002, French stunt demon Eric Barone set the world's speed record for bicycles by zooming down Cerro Negro at 107 m.p.h. Then he crashed and broke several ribs. Of course there is a video of that.