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Surfing Holland, all you need to know

Hailing from the Netherlands, longboarder and Patagonia ambassador Nienke Duinmeijer is passionate about her home town Holland. We got together with Nienke on the Cornwall leg of the Worn Wear Patagonia tour to get the low-down on her homeland’s growing surf culture and even enjoyed a surf together at Fistral.

Nienke, how did you get into surfing?
I grew up in a small coastal town in Holland. Surfing was not really known in the area, except for windsurfing which was really popular at that time (some people in Holland still think I use a sail when I say I surf). When I was 12 I joined the local lifeguarding community as a youth member together with my nieces. We always loved the beach and doing sports, so this was a great way to be active on the beach and at the same time learn about currents, life saving and waves. The senior lifeguard at that time was one of the few surfers of the area and he learned how to surf in Australia. He taught us how to surf in Holland and I loved it immediately. From that moment I spent all my money on surfboards, wetsuits and trips… and still do 17 years later!

Why did you choose longboarding?
I surfed both shortboards and longboards for a long time, but in the end I found out that I improved a lot more in longboarding and got better at it. I liked that. I also loved the fact that you can put your own style in it and make it very personal in that way. Plus the waves in Holland are usually a bit smaller so picking a longboard guarantees you much more waves. I still use a longboard 95% of the time, but I also enjoying bodysurfing and surfing my fish just to have a different approach of surfing sometimes. Longboarding is also very technical. To learn how to turn a 9’4 foot board in a different direction takes some technique for sure.

Do you get a lot of girls surfing in Holland?
Yes a lot of girls and the number is increasing fast. I remember when I started surfing, I only surfed with men for many years. There weren’t many girls in the North then but now there are lots of girls in the water and that’s really cool. Even when it is freezing and onshore they paddle out. They’re pretty hardcore.

Describe the surf culture there?
Oh I love the surf culture in Holland. During my travels I found out that nobody really can beat the Dutch in terms of determination and stoke for surfing. The Dutch are so keen to surf in any kind of conditions and temperature. They will paddle out in 2 foot mushy waves or onshore 7ft on a winter day. There’s so much stoke and joy for surfing.
The surf culture is also still relatively small and young, so everybody has a connection with somebody which creates a nice community.

Describe the scenery in Holland?
The coast of Holland has one huge stretch of sand from the North to the South and there are some islands on the north. There are two big jetties which provide a bit of shelter during SW or N winds. So we don’t have any points or rock bottoms, just loads and loads of sand. I come from a place which is called ‘Camperduin’, a beautiful, natural area with a big forest, dunes and big beach. Because the sandbanks and waves are always shifting and never really perfect, your ability of reading waves and timing improves very quickly here. The interior of Holland is very, very flat and covered by canals, beautiful old houses, mills and incredibly beautiful cities such as Alkmaar, Amsterdam and Delft. Holland is very small, so in one day you can combine a surf session with a visit to Amsterdam and a nice bicycle ride on the country side.

What are the names of the top surf spots?
Wijk aan Zee and Scheveningen are the main spots because of the jetties. But when there is swell and not much wind, you can basically go anywhere to score waves. The islands in the North are worth a visit as well. The surf in Holland is not as consistent as in France for example, but we can get pretty good Northern swells now and then. Just don’t set your expectations too high, and you will be surprised by the surf. But I guess that’s how life works in general.

Any sea animals to keep an eye out for – whales, dolphins, seals?
We have some seals living in the North Sea. They are usually very curious and stick their heads out of the water when they see a surfer. We named one of the local seals Eugene – he is pretty big.

What board size and wetsuit thickness best suits a surf there?
The right wetsuit thickness depends a lot on the time of the year. August and September are usually very comfortable and you will only need a 3/2 mm or even a shorty when the weather is nice. In February and March though, you will need a full 6 or 5 mm suit including booties, hat and gloves. And some balls. Regarding board size; I always like an in between board in Holland. A minimal or fish for example. A shortboard which is too small and narrow (we call these boards tooth pickers in Holland) won’t really work in most conditions and a too classic longboard won’t work as well. You will need a bit of rocker and flex in your board in order to absorb irregularities in the waves but also some volume as the waves are not that powerful most of the time.

Post surf, what is a local food and beverage item to tuck into?
We have plenty of typical Dutch food. But the best after a surf would be to sit around the fireplace in Aloha at Wijk aan Zee and have an apple pie.

How busy are the waves there?
Scheveningen can be really crowded as it is the main spot in Holland and also Wijk aan Zee can have some crowds too. But anywhere else in Holland is very uncrowded. You can easily have a session with just you or your friends.

How long have you been a Patagonia ambassador for and how did this come about?
I think for about two and a half years now I have been a local athlete for Patagonia. It’s the only brand I would represent right now and I am very proud I can. The whole philosophy of Patagonia is so special and a great example for all companies in the whole industry. Such a game changer. I don’t know any other brand on earth who actually tells their customers not to buy a new jacket, but rather repair the old one. Ever thought about how crazy that sounds from a company who actually earns their money selling clothing? But as Yvon Chouinard says; “Profits happen when you do everything else right”.

Describe the Netherlands culture?
The Dutch are very multicultural, especially in some areas in the West and South such as Rotterdam and Amsterdam. And off course the culture is famous for its bicycles. We have more bicycles than people. Kids go to school on their bicycles and lot of older people go to work on their bicycles. Also the Dutch are strong and hardworking but very friendly people with a good sense of humour.

What’s a cool Dutch saying (in Dutch and it’s meaning)?
For surfers in Holland that would be ‘Dikke klotsbak’. It describes the sea when there is a lot of onshore winds and very mushy wave conditions.

What is the Netherlands famous for?
For its huge tulip fields around spring time, apple pie and ‘haring’, the canals through cities as Amsterdam, Volendam, the bicycle culture and the very flat countryside.

Apart from surfing, 3 things a visitor should do in your country?

  1. Visit some old cities such as Amsterdam, Volendam and Delft
  2. Discover the islands on the north on a bicycle
  3. Take a boat ride through the canals of Amsterdam on ‘Koningsdag’ or Gay Pride

Check out Nienke on her Instagram and her surf travel company Single Fin for longboard trips.

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