11 Dutch sports that are 100% weird (but wonderful)

They're certainly... unique! 😃

There are many weird and wacky sports in the Netherlands that will make you raise your eyebrows and question Dutch sanity.

We all know that Dutchies are obsessed with football, hockey, and ice skating, but many other countries enjoy these sports too. However, if you are bold enough to venture out into the Dutch provinces, you’ll run into a bunch of weird sports that are unique to the Netherlands.

Brace yourselves, because we’re about to count down the 11 weirdest sports in the Netherlands.

1. ‘Paalzitten’: the sport of sitting

Are you a fan of sitting? Well, the Dutch actually have a sport for that! This sport involves Dutchies sitting on a pole for as long as they possibly can (sometimes for over 90 hours!).

The poles do come with a board to sit on and short toilet breaks are allowed — but my word, this can’t be much of a spectator’s sport. 😅

2. ‘Fierljeppen’: canal jumping in the Netherlands

The Dutch sure make a sport out of everything! Image: Peter van der Sluijs/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

With the number of canals in the Netherlands, making a sport out of them was bound to happen. Fierljeppen is a traditional sport originating from Friesland in the north of the Netherlands.

In fierljeppen (Frisian for far jumping), there is a pole of around eight to thirteen metres in the canal.

The technique is to run towards the pole, jump onto it, and climb it as high and as quickly as possible while trying to control the direction of the fall. Then, they land on a sand bed on the other side of the canal.

That’s pretty crazy! 🤯

3. ‘Korfbal’: a Dutch blend of basketball, netball, and handball

In korfbal, two teams play against each other, each team with four women and four men.

The objective of the game is to get what looks like a football into a hoop, which sits atop a 3.5-metre pole. This fast-paced game has the same intensity and passion you’ll find in NBA basketball.

Although korfbal was invented by the Dutch, over 70 countries from around the world currently compete in this sport at the World Games. 🌏 

4. ‘Sjoelen’: Dutch shuffleboard

Don’t let appearances fool you, this is a competitive game. Image: Depositphotos

Sjoelen is a popular game that has similarities to shuffleboard. In fact, many Dutch families have a sjoeltafel hiding away in an attic somewhere. The aim is to slide 30 wooden pucks down the longboard and through small wooden arches to score points.

The game is surprisingly competitive, as players compete to get the top score out of a possible 148 points. 💯

5. ‘Kaatsen’: tennis with no rackets?

Kaatsen, or Frisian handball, is believed to be one of the oldest ball games in the world. As the name suggests, players hit a ball with their hands to each other across a field.

Scoring works similarly to tennis; the first team to win six games wins the match. Hitting such a tiny ball across an entire field with only your hand is truly an impressive skill to watch in action! 

6. ‘Beugelen’: a stone ball and a wooden bat

Beugelen was favoured by Holland’s upper classes back in the 1400s but has since become a popular sport right across the Netherlands.

In this sport, participants push a heavy ball with a wooden shovel with the aim of getting the ball through the ring in the centre of the floor. Ultimately, it’s kind of like a cross between croquet and boules. 🤷‍♀️

7. ‘Skûtsjesilen’: manure boat racing

photo-Skûtsjesilen-team-preparing-to-sail-friesland-with-this-weird-dutch sport
A Skûtsjesilen team preparing to sail. Image: @ebelewijbenga/Instagram

Skûtsjesilen is a sailing competition in which competitors race historic flat-bottom boats called skûtsjes.

The boats were originally used for transporting peat and manure to farms over shallow waters, but their manoeuvrability makes them ideal for a good race. Many of those who compete are direct descendants of the ancient Frisian skipper families.

The championship takes place every summer in Friesland and is a serious matter of honour for the villages and towns that enter the competition.

8. ‘Klootschieten’: chuck it as far as you can!

Humanity’s obsession with throwing balls is fully embodied in the game of klootschieten. Participants use speed, power, and technique to throw the kloot as far as they can — the world record is 106.2 metres!

A kloot is a wooden or plastic ball filled with lead that weighs anywhere from 200-800 grams. The winning team is that which can throw the kloot across the five-kilometre rural course in the fewest number of throws.

The game is said to have originated from a weapon that the Frisian people used to throw at their enemies. Yikes!🤾‍♂️

9. ‘Elfstedentocht’: skating on the canals

This is more of an unusual event than a weird sport in itself. Elfstedentocht is a long-distance skating tour over the frozen canals, rivers, and lakes of Frisian cities.

The route changes every year according to where there are condensed patches of frozen water but is usually around 200 kilometres in length.

Unfortunately, this spectacular event hasn’t happened in years due to a lack of ice.

10. ‘Marathonschaatsen’: the ultimate skating marathon

The Elfstedentocht’s indoor cousin is just as competitive! Image: Emiel Ketelaar/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

Since Elfstedentocht has become increasingly rare since about the 70s, the Dutch have instead organised the indoor marathonschaatsen (marathon skating), which takes place every year.

Competitors speed around the three-kilometre-long ice rink in Biddinghuizen for a whopping 125 laps in the men’s division, and 80 laps in the women’s division.

With strategics and team tactics, this sport is so much more than just a bunch of Dutchies skating in circles!

11. ‘Tegenwindfietsen’: cycling into a storm

You have to be slightly crazy to do this one. Tegenwindfietsen is essentially cycling straight into a headwind, which sounds like absolute torture (but sometimes unavoidable in the Netherlands.) Some Dutchies CHOOSE to cycle in the middle of a storm.

READ MORE | Dutch people turned headwind cycling into a competition — and it’s absolutely hilarious

The Dutch Headwind Cycling Championships take place on the Oosterscheldekering storm barrier and is announced three days before a storm is due to hit, usually in autumn or winter.

The course is 8.5 kilometres long and is biked in the midst of storms which can reach as high as wind force nine! Do you see what we mean by torture?

So there you have it! Of all the many sports you can play in the Netherlands, these have got to be the strangest.

Have you tried any weird Dutch sports? Are there any we missed from the list? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: Peter van der Sluijs/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

Emily Burger
Emily Burger
Emily grew up in South Africa but has also lived in Egypt, the UK, Canada and now the Netherlands. She first came here for her Bachelors in Arts and Culture at Maastricht University and soon fell in love with the land of canals, clogs and cheese. When she's not daydreaming about sci-fi movies or countries yet to explore, you can find her writing for DutchReview.

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