Surfing In The Netherlands: Thawing out and fighting frostbite for a few good rides

Many of you may have found yourself having to double take upon glancing this headline.

“What? Surfing in the Netherlands! Outrageous”, you exclaim. “There’s no such thing a surfing in the Netherlands”!

Well, you’re right actually. Surfing in the Netherlands is outrageous. In fact, it’s downright absurd from an Australian perspective.

But you’re dead wrong to think that Dutchies don’t surf.

You can dress in the nicest clothing, hang out with the most popular crew and drive the nicest car, but in the end, it doesn’t matter who you are… nobody looks cool learning to surf

Scheveningen, The Promised Land For Dutch Surfers

Classed as a subdistrict of The Hague, Scheveningen is ground zero for surfing in the Netherlands.

Scheveningen is, of course, more commonly known for its charming seaside setting and as the location where once a year, Dutch men, women, and children immerse themselves in the dark, frigid waters of the North Sea, in a presumed attempt to purge mind, body, and soul and get ready for the next 365 days.

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Scheveningen Beach
A south facing shot of Scheveningen Beach, looking almost appealing without the crowds and with blue skies

Scheveningen also holds a rather modest reputation within the European surf community. Locals, however, regard it as a mecca for Dutch surfing, where swell and sand bottom beaches meet to create semi-decent waves. And while these waves may not register as particularly appealing on an international scale, they do still whip up enthusiasm for the men and women that call it their homebreak.

That’s not to say the surf is all bad though, especially when you consider the number of factors that have to come together before a break is deemed surfable.

Alas, a surf trip to Scheveningen will probably leave you drawing the same conclusion I did. Which is, Scheveningen is probably only on the map because it’s the sole place with accessible surf in the Netherlands.

The Dutch Surf Community

Believe it or not, there are even a few world-class surfers that call the Netherlands home.

Yannick de Jager, for instance, is a semi-professional who cut his skills in the North Sea. Blonde, talented and surprisingly stylish given the quality of waves he grew up on; Yannick is a proud ambassador for Dutch surf culture.

There is also a host of surf schools that offer lessons during the warmer months. Hart Beach Surf School, Alohasurf and Tasha’s Surfcamp all teach the basics of surfing in summer and do their bit in contributing towards the ever-growing Dutch surf community. They also offer board and wetsuit hire with their lessons – perfect for beginners who want to get started right away, but may not have the necessary equipment.

The Surf Conditions In The Netherlands

The weather conditions in the Netherlands are doleful at best, sitting on the opposite end of the spectrum to what many would regard as surf nirvana. Palm trees and white sandy beaches are a recycled but well-earned cliché, as are the perfect waves and the tropical environments that may relate to the sport of surfing. In the Netherlands, palm trees only exist in paintings.

One could say that surfing in the lowlands is a “special” experience, in the sense that it requires a real dedication to the sport and an almost superhuman degree of acceptance when it comes to shitty conditions.

Windy, cold and grey. That’s probably the best way to sum up Scheveningen weather for the better part of the year. But to tell you the truth, that’s ideal for surfing. Generally, the stormier it is out to sea, the more chance there is of waves by the shore. This means that spring and autumn, however unfortunate given the temperatures, are actually the best time to catch some decent waves, thanks to the strong lows that send NNW swell pumping into the coast. 5mm steamer wetsuits, booties, gloves, and hoodies are a must if you want to brave the 2-degree water and go surfing in the Netherlands.

Booties, gloves, hood and full-length wetsuit is a necessity in winter. A smile, however, is optional.

If you’re just a beginner though, you don’t need the biggest and best swells, meaning you can probably find a little ripple somewhere along the beach outside of the colder months. Magicseaweed and Surf-forecast are worth checking out if you’re curious as to what the waves are doing. Both offer comprehensive information on tides, swell direction, wave height and wind that once deciphered will give you an alright picture of what the surf is like.

Why Would You Surf In The Netherlands?

The real question is why would anyone surf in the Netherlands? Why would you go through the trouble of suiting up, paddling out and trying to ride waves that for all intensive purposes don’t seem particularly appealing?

Hedonism and a penchant for suffering are some reasons why we surf. And from the outside looking in, it’s easy to label surfers as mad, stupid and borderline disturbed for going out in blustery conditions to surf less than average waves, while the initiated look on with a mix of interest and incredulity.

From a Dutch surfer’s perspective though, fogged by the relentless haze that dogs the Scheveningen coastline and most definitely distorted by fervent passion, those on the beach are the mad ones.

Why?

Because as surfers, we hump this hulking, all-consuming addiction through life with little care for what others think of us. Call it self-indulgent, but when it’s all said and done, a little frostbite is a small price to pay for being able to go surfing in the Netherlands.

Surfer about to go for a paddle
So, just how keen are you?

4 COMMENTS

  1. I moved from Indonesia to The Netherlands. And I went surfing in scheveningen just like 4 days after my arrival, damn was cold! But won’t give up, I’ll give this bloody cold water the warmest paddle I have!

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