We are joined by Sarah Leighton, an adventurer and outdoor challenge enthusiast who tells us about mountain boarding in Wales, and how she threw herself into the sport by taking on a pretty crazy challenge.
Mountain boarding might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Every single time I stand at the top of a mountain, lock my feet into the bindings, and stare down the line, I quiver as if it’s my first ride all over again. So why do it? Well, it’s like any other board sport, or indeed any other outdoor adventure sport. It makes me feel alive!
There’s something about carving my way across a grassy mountain slope, reacting to lumps, bumps, and rocky terrain, cruising gentle slopes, and riding dirt tracks. Ultimately, it’s down to me to control that board to get me to the bottom or the end. There’s not a lot else I can focus on but me, that board, and the environment. Exhilarating yet somehow peaceful at the same time.
I only started mountain boarding this year. How I got started is a somewhat random story. It was February, and snow still lay on the ground in the Brecon Beacons National Park. I’m a big lover of outdoor challenges, particularly those that give me an excuse to do something a bit different, crazy or new. Eager to devise a winter challenge, and with the child in me itching to play in the snow, I decided to attempt sledging 100 mountains in the Brecon Beacons before the snow disappeared. Sounds ridiculous right? Well it was.
The snow lasted all of about 4 or 5 days, and I was left with 87 mountains still to sledge. Not one for giving up on a challenge, my stubborn self started looking for an alternative way to finish what I’d started. If I couldn’t sledge the mountains, then I’d have to find another way. That’s when I discovered mountain boarding. A friend mentioned it in passing, but sure enough, there I was that evening searching online for more information. It looked crazy, but I didn’t overthink it. So focussed on finishing the challenge, I contacted the biggest name in mountain board design, Trampa Boards. They were keen to help.
A couple of weeks later I found myself doing a crash course with one of Trampa’s riders. I went to Harthill Adventure Park in Cheshire, where I had my first taste of the sport. Fast forward a couple of weeks more, when I made my way up Fan Frynych, a hill in the Brecon Beacons, to tackle my first slope. A rocky track for most of the way – possibly not the best choice for a first go on reflection. But I survived it. Not filled with confidence, nor convinced that this was a sport I’d ever be good at, I took on my second mountain a few days later.
I finished the challenge in May. My final ride was down Pen Y Fan, the highest peak in South Wales. As it turns out, mountain boarding 100 completely different mountain routes was pretty difficult. I had to be more selective with the mountains and routes. Rocks weren’t my friends. So I repeated some of the best routes during the challenge. Oddly, one of my favourite routes was down a mountain called Picws Du in the Carmarthen Fans. I say oddly because it’s one of the steepest slopes. But the least rocky, and has a nice wide slope which allows me to carve across the face.
I wouldn’t say that I’m any good at mountain boarding, but I’m proud of myself for not giving up on the challenge, and for throwing myself into something I’d never tried before. It’s unlikely I’d have tried this sport if it wasn’t for the challenge, but it turns out throwing yourself into something is a great way to learn, develop your ability to overcome hurdles, and push yourself through the fears to reach enjoyment!
I’d advise anyone thinking about giving it a go to just go for it! If you can, go to a mountain board centre with tracks designed specifically for the sport, for at least an introduction. Buy yourself some protective padding, and enjoy it! I’m so glad the snow melted and gave me the opportunity to try mountain boarding. I had a blast, and have continued riding since finishing the challenge. I’m already looking at new challenges, so watch this space...
If you're feeling inspired for more check out The Journal for more epic adventures and stories.