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How to Surf a Volcano

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Thinkstock

Volcanoes: They’re not just for disaster movies anymore. Since its invention in 2005, the extreme sport of volcano surfing has become a hot way to spice up any vacation. If hurtling down an active volcano at over 50 mph sounds like something you should add to your bucket list, here’s what you need to do.

1) Find a Volcano

Don’t worry, the steps get tougher as we go along. When searching for a volcano, seek out a steep cinder cone with a bald, gravelly slope. We recommend Cerro Negro in Nicaragua, the most historically active cinder volcano in the world and a major hub for volcano surfing. On its 41-degree slope, surfers can hit speeds over 50 mph. Check with geologists before you book your flight, though. Cerro Negro has erupted 23 times since 1850.

2) Bare Your Sole

Bad news for lazy surfers: there probably isn’t going to be a ski lift to get you to the top of the volcano, so be prepared to hike. Bring cheap sneakers that you’re okay with throwing away. Volcanoes like Cerro Negro are hot, and they can melt your shoe soles.

3) Get on Board

Early volcano surfers tried everything to get down the slopes: snowboards, surfboards, boogie boards, mattresses, picnic tables, and even mini fridge doors. They eventually settled on a makeshift toboggan of plywood and metal. The bottom is coated with plastic laminate to increase speed.

4) Forget Fashion

Forget looking dapper - you’re going to need an industrial jumpsuit and goggles. The ride down will spray up loose tephra—volcanic material—which is rough, jagged, and unforgiving. If you wipeout, it will cut you. Coveralls will not only protect you from scratches—they’ll also keep cinders from wedging themselves where the sun doesn’t shine.

5) Take a Load Off

Don’t stand on your board – that’s the slowest way down. Tephra is coarser than sand, so the board will get bogged down if you ride it like a snowboarder—the top speed will barely eke over 10 mph. You’ll go quicker if you treat the board like a sled.

6) Pregame with Pilates

If you want to go fast, you’ll need a strong core. Lean back on the board and take your weight off your feet. Not only will it give your abs a great burn, it’ll also propel you to the top speeds. To slow your descent, lean forward. To brake, tap your toes into the ash rushing beside you. But don’t dig too deep—it’s a recipe for wiping out.

7) Keep your Mouth Shut

It’s going to be a bumpy ride, and whether you’re screaming from joy or terror, you’ll be met with the same result—a mouthful of pebbles. Glue your lips and enjoy the ride!

Once you make it to the bottom of the volcano, you’ll have pulled together a new story that will make you more interesting. It’s time to gather your friends, toast your luck, and cool off with an ice cold Dos Equis.

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How to Cross a River Without a Bridge
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ThinkStock

Need to cross a roaring river? It’s always best to find a bridge, but if you absolutely must make it to the other side on your own, a few easy steps can keep you high and relatively dry.

1. Scout Around

Invest a little time in finding the best place to make your crossing. Avoid bends in the river, where water whips around the fastest. Once you find a suitable spot, walk downstream a few hundred feet to make sure there aren’t any hazards. It’s always good to know about the pesky 30-foot waterfall around the bend.

2. Don’t Be Narrow-Minded

They look tempting, but narrow crossings can be the most dangerous—they’re often the deepest part of the river. Look for the widest section instead. Keep an eye out for mild ripples—which are safe to cross—and avoid whitecaps, which can be treacherously slippery.

3. Ditch Your Duds

If the water will reach your knees, strip down to your skivvies - your pride isn’t worth getting hypothermia from wet clothes. Even if the river is shallow, remove your socks and put on a second pair of shoes if you have them. If you’re backpacking, unbuckle your front straps so you can quickly slip out of your pack if you fall.

4. Shuffle Up

Face upstream, lean into the current, and move across the river with shuffling sidesteps. You’re less likely to fall while sidestepping since you don’t lift your feet as high. If you’re with a group, link arms. The technique creates more contact points with the streambed and gives everyone a more solid footing.

5. Become a Bump on a Log

If the rapids are too fast, shuffling across may be a bad idea. Look for a log that spans the whole river instead. But don’t walk on it! Wet wood can be dangerously slippery. Instead, straddle the log and scoot along until you reach the other side.

6. Float Away

In situations where the river is deep but the current isn’t very swift, a football or soccer ball can be a handy improvised flotation device. Tether it to your wrist and grab on when you get tired of swimming. Or hug it with one arm as you sidestroke for extra buoyancy.
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Once you make it to the opposite shore, dry off and toast your successful crossing with a round of Dos Equis.

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