Roller Derby Books
Roller Derby Videos
Skating the Dikes of Holland
By Daniel Edman of Sweden
Swedish skater Daniel Edman
shares what it's like to skate on the dikes of Holland
where he encountered smooth pavement, strong winds,
and absolutely beautiful scenery (select any of the
photos on this page to view a larger image).
Thanks to the almighty World Wide Web, I heard about and made contact with, the German Skating group
T-N-S (Tuesday Night Skate) in Frankfurt. Having read about skating in the Netherlands for quite some years, I thought
it was a great opportunity when I read about their planned Holland trip in early April. This was during February, when in-line abstinence in Sweden was at its peak, so after briefly refreshing my German language skills, I sent them some email, and asked if they could stand a foreigner on their trip. They seemed to understand what I wrote, and they were glad to see foreigners participate in the event, so I decided to join.
On the evening of Friday, April 6th, 2001 the 17:00 (5:00 p.m.)
SAS flight took me to Amsterdam. Two hours later I arrived
at Schiphol Airport, and found out there was a train strike
in the Netherlands. The meeting point for the tour was the
Hotel De Magneet in
Hoorn, some 30 km (20 miles) north of
Amsterdam, and somehow I managed to catch the last train
for the day, both from the airport to the Central station,
and further on to Hoorn. When I arrived in Hoorn, I walked
the narrow streets to De Magneet and less than two Heinekens
later, 49 Germans and one Dutch arrived by bus. The Dutch
guy also read about the trip on the web.
Saturday morning arrived with a blue sky and dry conditions
and a temperature around
10-15 C (50-60F). We had a good breakfast and made some
sandwiches for lunch. The luggage was stored on the bus,
and at 10:00 a.m. sharp we took off. There were 51 skaters
altogether, and we skated in a huge group, going west from
Hoorn following the coast line. (Using
even bicycle paths and minor roads can be viewed in this area.)
During the early stages of our skate we experienced side
and tail winds, which by the way were very nice, because
wind in Holland is the default, and strong winds are very
common. The wind was very strong this day, making the fairly
long green grass lie flat along the ground and increasing
our speed way beyond normal for the amount of effort put in.
The 51 people in the group quickly spread out, since this
was a pleasure trip rather than a speed event, and skating
ability varied. I preferred to stay just behind the front
runners to observe what was going on, and try not to make
a fool of myself too early in the day.
Still, I was prepared to defend our Swedish "blue and yellow"
if there was going to be a sudden speed increase.
Anyway, that sudden speed increase didnīt come and we kept going at
an even pace, following the water on some kind of embankment.
I guess this embankment is what has
kept the Netherlands on land all these years, and not at the bottom of the sea,
since most of this country is actually lower than sea level.
On top of each embankment there is normally a paved road with
conditions varying from good to skatable. The roads, which
considering their widths should be regarded as paths, are
utilized by bicyclists, skaters, pedestrians, cars and buses,
and I found out that Dutch drivers donīt pay much
attention to skaters, even when there is
a large and disorganized group of skaters going all over the
place. They just honk and pass, assuming that all the skaters
are in full control and are paying full attention to what is
happening around them. Iīm not saying itīs dangerous there,
not at all, but I would have expected more caution from
the drivers, especially in the narrow brick streets of a
typical Dutch village.
Anyway, we kept skating and sometime later we reached the village of
Enkhuizen. There was a pause to gather the group together, and I
did some map shopping in a nearby tourist office. When the group
was assembled we took off, and skated to an old wooden bridge
where we stopped to take a group photo.
Skating through Enkhuizen was a pain, due to the street surface.
The streets seem to be several hundred years old and were constructed
using millions of tiny red bricks placed side by side. These
conditions called for careful skating but most of all it was
a real foot killer. And especially if you are a "skeeler" with
a rigid boot, metal frame, and very hard wheels. (One of the
lessons I learned during this weekend was that in Dutch a
"skater" is on 4 wheels, while a "skeeler" is on 5.)
Several thousand bricks later we exited Enkhuizen and found the "Embankment
bicycle path" again. Frank, one of the tour leaders, stopped
the group and informed us that there were 25 km of asphalt
between us and the Village of Medemblik, and anyone who was
"speed minded" should take the opportunity.
I took off along with 3 Germans, and with a strong wind 45
degrees in our backs, we reached good speeds. Keeping the
map fresh in my mind, I knew the path would soon make a 90
degree left turn, and one didnīt have to be directly related
to Einstein to realize what type of winds we would be facing
immediately after that turn
So I stayed behind and relaxed
as much as possible while that particular pleasure was still possible.
We reached the turn, turned, and all of a sudden the nice
tail wind proved to be a nasty head wind. Ahead of us was
flat land all the way to the Dutch shore, then flat sea all
the way to England so no wonder that wind had gained speed!
I decided it was time to do defend the Swedish King, so I
tucked down and tried to find a pace I could keep for an
hour or more and overtook the lead.
The Germans didnīt seem to like strong head winds at all,
so after a while I was completely on my own with no
possibility whatsoever of drafting or relaxing. I hoped
and prayed I wasnīt going too fast so the chasing group
all of a sudden would find me standing exhausted
Our King wouldnīt have liked that!
The village of
Medemblik slowly but surely approached, and after going
through some residential areas and a park I found myself on that
red brick surface again. Compared to the pain of the head winds,
the vibrations to my feet caused by those bricks was quite OK.
I found my way to the bus station which was the reunion point,
and not too many minutes later the group of skaters who defeated
the head wind started growing. We were lying in the green grass,
being warmed by the sun and listening to church bells playing
"My Bonnie" at 2:30 p.m. That was a great performance.
There must have been a great number of bells involved in the
tune, and at least I enjoyed it. But I couldnīt help wondering
what the neighbors felt about those bells and about "My Bonnie"?
I just hope they didnīt have to listen to it every 30 minutes
24 hours a day, but we didnīt stay long enough to find out.
From Medemblik we took the bus, for some reason, to the
"main attraction" of the day, the
Afslutdijk. The path
north from Medemblik looked very nice from the bus window
so I think we could have skated another 20-25 km before
using the bus to reach the Afslutdijk, but maybe the head
wind was the main reason for using the bus.
I guess this "Afslutdijk" requires some explanation. Look at a map of the
residential areas directly north of Amsterdam, and you will see a big bay.
Between this bay and the "real sea" there is an embankment built to
prevent the Dutch people from getting very wet. On this big bank there
is nothing apart from a highway and a bicycle path. Then there is
either strong head wind or equally strong tail wind, depending on
which direction youīre going!
We reached this Afslutdijk and the bus dropped us a few miles
from the south end, at a parking place with a bridge so we could
cross over to the other side where 21 km of excellent bicycle
path lied ahead of us. And the wind would come straight from
behind throughout all these 21 kilometers!
The Afslutdijk is 30-35 km overall length, but due to logistic
(and safety) reasons we had to find a crossover point that would
let us get all 51 skaters across the highway without any casualties.
Once over the highway and on the path, I reached speed on wheels
which I have never been close to before on a flat surface. I
regret I didnīt clock the time to cover these 21 kilometers, it
would have been very interesting to know exactly how fast I was going.
21 km passed very quickly and when reaching the bus at the other
end of the dike some rain started falling, and with 65-70 kilometers
covered during the day I guess most of us were satisfied and glad
to get out of the skates for the day.
The group gathered and the bus driver Tomas took us safely to
a few km
south of the north end of the Afslutdijk, where a hotel with good
Dutch beer in the bar and some good hot water in the shower
was welcoming us.
The day ended with a nice dinner, and finally some German "Apfelwein"
in one of the hotel rooms. What "German Apfelwein" is I guess
anyone can figure out on their own? The taste was good, it wasnīt
too strong and with a clear taste of apple, but served from a big
plastic container placed on the balcony.
I slept very well that night.
The second day came with similar winds and fairly good weather.
After Breakfast, at 10:00 a.m., we skated from the hotel while
the bus carried all of our baggage. South from Makkum towards
Hinderloopen we experienced sidewinds and tailwinds.
During this stage I made the first contacts with what in the
Scandinavian countries is known as "Faerist". Unfortunately
neither of my two dictionaries gives me a translation for it,
but Iīll try to explain it. The Faerist is also clearly visible
on at least one of the photos, where a German guy is gently
walking across it.
A "faerist" is the extension of an animal fence across a road, which does not
affect normal traffic. Did that make sense? Basically it is a grate,
in this case made of 1 inch steel rods separated by 3 inches and
perpendicular to the road direction. Cars and bikes cross over
it but cattle don't. Simple.
Being a skater you've got plenty of wheels, but they are tiny,
so donīt even think of crossing a Faerist at speed. The proper
thing to do is to stop and gently walk across it, or simply use
the gate that you will normally find
on either side of the road.
Having learned to cope with the "faerist" I suddenly had to learn
how to cope with those red bricks again. But this time they were
wet, and I can assure you all, they did become very slippery.
Facing that head wind and wet bricks, we barely made any progress
toward Hinderloopen. And if the wet bricks were slippery, a wooden
bridge right in the middle of the willage was even more slippery.
It felt like the bridge was sprayed with soap, and maybe it was?
By some kids in for a practical joke, who knows..?
In Hinderloopen the majority of the group opted to take the bus to the
final destination - the shower, bath tub and swimming pool in \
The remaining group of 11 people, were either the toughest or the
most stupid! At that point I wasnīt sure which, and when fighting
our way out of the village I was pretty close to selling my skates
in favor of a nice little stamp collection...
But things do change, and all of a sudden the rain stopped and the
wind turned. Or was it we, that turned? Anyway, we were on a path
made of big and smooth concrete blocks, wonderful to skate on, and
the speed increased again. Now I could hardly remember any thoughts
about getting rid of my beloved skates, and not even a Shilling Banco
with misprint would have made me think about stamps!
With good speed we covered the final distance to a pancake
house outside of Lemmer, where the
bus picked us up and brought us to the TLC of a hot shower.
The wonderful Germans with the bus driver Tomas behind the wheel then dropped me at the Amsterdam Airport on their way back home to Frankfurt. The almost empty SAS flight at 8pm brought me back to Stockholm and at 11.30 p.m. I could dive into my own pillow and be quite satisfied with the weekend.
Noch einmal, vielen Dank T-N-S! Auch sehr schoene Bilder.
So What Did I Learn About the Netherlands?
Well, that was it. Donīt be too surprised if I go back to Holland again
for more skating on occasion.
First there are no Dutch words or expressions for "calm" and "no wind".
The closest you can get is probably "10 knots".
Brick roads will kill your feet and they are very slippery when wet.
Holland is the number one country in Europe with respect to foreign
language skills. The entire population seems to be good at both
English and German.
The Dutch language can neither be spoken nor understood by ordinary
people. Not even after several beers!
The beer in the Netherlands is very good.
Skating in Holland doesnīt have to be planned very far in advance.
Tourist offices are easy to find and they provide very good and
detailed maps at decent prices.
Donīt forget to bring wind protective clothes.
You can skate all around this bay north of Amsterdam (called Ijsselmeer).
The distance will be close to 400 km (250 miles) and it would be a very nice
1 week tour in the Summer.
If you go skating in Holland, donīt miss the Afslutdijk. In the tail wind direction!
This trip to the Netherlands was organized by
T-N-S.de, a skate tour operator based in Frankfurt,
Germany. T-N-S.de organizes fun, casual, low cost trips
to destinations all over Europe. Skaters from all over
the world are welcome and encouraged to join any of their tours. For more
information connect to the T-N-S.de Web site at
The photos in this article were provided courtesy of
T-N-s.de and were reprinted her with permission
from them. The copyright for all of the photos on
this page belongs to T-N-S.de.
Join the Discussion
Have you ever skated in the Netherlands? Do you have
any stories or tips to share about skating in Holland or
other parts of Europe? Connect to our
International Skating Forum
and share information - or ask questions - about
skating in the Netherlands.
Skating in the Netherlands
Skating in the Sweden
Skating in 100 Countries
Translate Any Web Site or Phrase
Skating in Africa
Skating in Asia
Skating in Europe
Skating in Oceania
Skating in The Americas
Inline Skate Shop
Roller Skate Shop