3 November 2023 · Mazda Stories
Dune and Dusted
A snowboarding on sand adventure in the Mazda CX-30
By Shannon Meyerkort
There’s something ominous about the way the sand is curling and whipping through the air. It’s beautiful, in an abrasive, stinging kind of way and makes me wonder whether our day trip adventure to the dunes at Lancelin with my daughters was such a great idea.
I had toyed with the idea of not telling them our destination when the Mazda CX-30 arrived for a week-long visit. Just the novelty of having a shiny new car in the drive was probably enough, let alone the soft leather seats and the widescreen display on the dash, which my youngest daughter pronounced ‘really fancy’.
But you can’t spend a day on the dunes - 90 minutes north of Perth in Western Australia - without some preparation, and I later wondered whether I should have packed more; full body Hazmat suits and breathing apparatus perhaps.
I could have chosen a trip to the Margaret River wine region, or chased the early wildflowers that paint the west coast of Australia each spring. But something about Lancelin, one of the larger towns on the laidback surfing coast had appealed to me. Its European history is longer and deadlier than the town’s 1950s gazetting would suggest, back when it consisted of little more than fishing shacks. But most visitors don’t head to Lancelin for its antiquity, they go for the world-class beaches and sand dunes, which tower over the township and provide adventure in the form of sandboarding, which is basically snowboarding for people who hate the cold.
When we arrive to collect our sandboards, the dreadlocked guide eyes the three of us, clearly not outdoorsy types, and hands us goggles and board wax with what could be a grimace, or might be a grin. He glances over my shoulder at the bright and perky Mazda CX-30 and nods. “You’ll be fine in that, just keep to the hard track. Park at the bottom of the dunes.” The stylish SUV may be bred for the city, but it holds its own in the country.
What we then drive into could be a scene out of Mad Max, the rows of dune buggies lined up, people milling around in dark hoodies and goggles, and the empty white dunes stretching away into the distance. It’s too early in the season for local visitors, and too early in the day for the lumbering tourist buses. We collect our boards – wider than a skateboard, shorter and thinner than a surfboard – and throw them in the Mazda’s boot. Our photographer, Andrew, arrives and adds his enormous camera bag. There’s still plenty of room.
Sandboarding is about as out of character for me as typing is for a horse. When given the opportunity for an adventure drive in the CX-30 G25 Astina, I’d been half joking when I suggested the dunes. But the stories of the coastal towns 90 minutes north of Perth had appealed to the history nerd in me, while the dunes themselves are thousands of years old, cared for by generations of the Yued people of the Noongar nation.
For someone who considers pulling up on the curb at the local school a form of off-roading, driving on the sand was a new experience. It could have been terrifying (it was) but the Mazda’s all-wheel drive and traction control kept me out of trouble.
And so I found myself parking on a rocky outcrop that could easily pass for a moonscape, except I’m pretty sure there are no blizzards on the moon. We pile out, each grabbing a brightly coloured board. Adrenaline and pride propel me to the top of a dune – common sense keeps me there. It’s higher than I expect, with a steep 45-degree slope. I wax the boards like I’m Patrick Swayze in Point Break, impressing my daughters who had looked at the white cubes with suspicion. I fiddled with my hair, trying to tame it under my hat. Our snapper Andrew’s hat has already blown off and is now half-buried in sand, 50 metres down the dune. “‘That’s my favourite hat,” he bemoans.
Eventually, there are no more excuses, and I position the board at the edge of the dune. There’s no way I’m going to attempt to stand while there’s a camera pointed at me, so I lower myself onto the board, feeling it tip precariously. I push off, sliding only a metre or two before stalling. More wax, I think, before I lurch suddenly and find myself halfway down the dune and gathering speed. There’s no dignity in landing face down, bum up in the sand, but it’s exhilarating and I know I’m going to regret it if I don’t go again. And again.
On the drive up, I had regaled the girls with stories of the numerous shipwrecks in the area, some well over 300 years old. They didn’t seem to share my love of history and decided they’d rather listen to music using the CX-30’s Apple CarPlay system and powerful Bose sound system. I took the hint, reluctantly. But when we were wandering the shops after our obligatory bakery lunch of pies and jam donuts, I spied a map laying out the location of wrecks from Lancelin, south through Ledge Point and Seabird, down to Guilderton, so named for the discovery of a skeleton surrounded by Dutch guilders, possibly from the wreck of Vergulde Draeck in 1656.
I can’t resist giving them another history lesson. “One of the most common cargos on the wrecked ships was guano,” I tell the girls, just waiting for one of them to ask what it is. “Other cargo included whale oil, convicts, wood and wine.” For some reason, shipwreck survivors tended to rescue the latter.
“What’s guano,” the 11-year-old finally asks. “Bird poo, commonly used for fertiliser and to a lesser extent gunpowder.
It’s not the same bird poo used for cosmetics, though.” “People put bird poo on their faces?” the youngest daughter shrieks. “That’s gross.”
The eldest one plugs her ears with her Airpods muttering something about all my stories being crap. It would appear the history lesson is over.
The drive back to Perth is quieter. Less chat, more tunes. The homeward journey is always faster. I relish being able to turn on the cruise control and know that the Cruising and Traffic Support (CTS) system will slow the car if the vehicle in front isn’t matching my speed. The CX-30 is full of safety features that make driving a breeze, whether it’s cruising at speed on snaking country roads or when we hit bumper-to-bumper traffic on the northern freeway. It’s easy to fall in love with the Active Driving Display, projecting all the information I need onto the windscreen, meaning I keep my head up, eyes on the road, not the speedo.
That night, the sandstorm all but forgotten, we good-naturedly compare bruises and watch videos of our day. The pile of sand by the front door – the result of emptying shoes and pockets and bags – is a mini dune in itself, and will likely stand for some time as a reminder of what ended up being an unforgettable day.