From sand dunes to ski slopes

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Neal Uys is not your typical snowboarder.

The Namibian native has swapped sand dunes for snow after following his heart to California for a woman he was dating.

It was at Mammoth Lakes, California, that Uys “tried to impress” his love interest by snowboarding.

At the time, he was new to the sport and the closest he had come to experience snowboarding was on the sand dunes of Africa.

“My uncle thought it was a good idea to take me up there with a press board [like heavy duty cardboard] and floor wax,” he said.

“That would be my first real sliding-down-anything kind of experience.”

Now it was an everyday ritual for Uys, who teaches others how to snowboard on the slopes of Mt Dobson where he has been working the season as an instructor.

Seven years on from his first Californian snowboarding experience, Uys has mastered the tricks of the trade and loves passing them on to others, especially at Mt Dobson.

“What I like about Dobson [is] it’s completely open.

“The terrain doesn’t really have too much in the way, which is a pro and con, but on powder days like this it is amazing because you get access to everything.”

Uys was also enjoying Mt Dobson for its laid-back attitude and lack of commercialism.

Overall, it was a “bunch of friendly people” working in an operation a lot smaller in comparison to other fields he had been involved with.

As a result, there was a strong focus on the sport itself, not just the business side of it, he said.

“That’s the primary distinction between here and most other places.”

He said one aspect that remained the same, no matter where his snowboarding took him, was the fact he was always “at the mercy of nature”.

Uys, who is living in Fairlie, is glad to have ventured to New Zealand.

“Oh yeah,” he said, when asked if he was pleased to have experienced a Mt Dobson snowboard season, complete with record snowfall.

“I just finished off in California. They had a record-breaking snow there as well. I think I’m just really lucky.”

And what happened to the love interest?

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by,” Uys said.

She moved back to Maryland, got married and had a child. He ran off to Hawaii and “became a hippy”.