See a kayaker riding dunes in the desert

Eric Walter experienced an epic sand-kayaking ride in the desert, helped by three paragliders.
By Francois Palissarde

Eric Walter is a highly experienced kayaker used to dropping some of the biggest waterfalls in the world. The 22-year-old German rider is usually travelling the world, looking for big rivers full of rapids: water, water, always water.

So when was searching for the most surprising place to send him, it looked like a totally dry desert would be very appropriate. That's how Walter ended up in the towering sand dunes of Namibia, armed with just his paddle and his boat... and probably became one of the very first kayakers the desert has ever seen.

To support him on his trip, he teamed up with three world-class paragliders, Tim Alongi, Jean-Baptiste Chandelier and Cyrille Marck. So, what does it look like to ride a sand dune with a kayak? Our new expert (and maybe one of a very few in the world) tells you everything you need to know about the brand new discipline of… sand kayaking.

You can go very fast with a kayak on a sand dune

Kayaker Eric Walter in the Namibian desert with paragliders
Fun in the desert © Fabian Equey

“I was curious to find out how fast I could go," Walter explains, "and you can actually get quite a lot of speed! I think I went around 60kph.” He rode down quite a few dunes, most of which were around 100m high. Over several days, he went up and down the dunes: quite exhausting when you also have to pull a kayak. “It’s way better to go with paragliders! They helped me to pull the kayak back to the top, thanks to the wind.”

You ride far longer on a dune than on a waterfall

Eric Walter kayaking the sand dunes
Kayaking the desert © Fabian Equey

Riding down a sand dune with a kayak is quite a new experience. “Actually, you can enjoy the ride much more than on a waterfall. You slide longer. But watch out: it can be dangerous if you slip over while going really fast.” The key aspect is to find the right spot. “The harder the sand, the faster you go”, Walter explains.

Sand kayaking is a bit limited when it comes to potential manoeuvres

Kayaker Eric Walter and paragliders at the top of a sand dune in Namibia
Kayaking and paragliding the sand dunes © @Fabian Equey

Sand kayaking is a bit limited when it comes to manoeuvres. You don't have much control and you can’t really turn, “even if the paddle can help a bit”, according to Walter. In the end, all you can do is going down, in a pretty straight line… “I’m not sure there is a bright future for the discipline of sand kayaking to be honest. But that’s the most fun thing I’ve ever done!

More images of kayaker and paragliders having fun in the desert

Stay tuned! More clips from the desert coming soon.

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