So Fam Boyd gets to the Dutch beach destination of Zandvoort for a down weekend in late April and it’s a blustery 50 degrees Fahrenheit with 20-plus miles-per-hour gusts off the North Sea. Considering it was cold and cloudy with intermittent showers, the one thing we didn’t expect to see was a bunch of people kitesurfing. Yet, there they were, zipping up and down the coast. Yeah, they were in wetsuits, but still ….
If you’re a newly arrived expat in the Netherlands and you brought your kitesurfing rig with you, welcome to one of the best places in Europe to indulge. We’re drawing from interviews and aggregating sources to give you a few ideas about where to go. This is not a comprehensive post because kitesurfing is a passion, not a hobby, say the people with whom we talked. And if you’re already deep in the sport, you’re checking out the sport websites.
Moreover, a number of countries from Portugal to Greece to the Nordics have great kitesurfing. We’re going to stick to the Netherlands here and have follow-up posts from other top spots in Europe geared to beginners and expats who might want to dip a toe into the sport, so to speak.
By the way, the Netherlands has some competitive advantages, including about 1,000 kilometers of coastline (most with sandy beaches) and winds that blow the correct direction, allowing kitesurfers to run parallel to the beach rather than getting blown out to sea.
Conditions change with the seasons, so here’s a link to Kite Jungle, a site that has recommendations and weather conditions for all the Netherlands based on the month.
As of July, 2021 is shaping up to be our year without a summer for expats in the Netherlands … consistently cool, cloudy and rainy. But as long as the sun is up and the wind is blowing, someone is kitesurfing somewhere in the Netherlands winter, spring, summer and fall.
We met kitesurfer Jeffrey just a few minutes after arriving in Zandvoort. We had watched him and a dozen other kitesurfers skimming the surface of the North Sea just a few feet off the beach and it was hypnotizing. So we literally stalked him when he came out of the water for a break and asked if we could talk. We followed up with a series of questions via WhatsApp.
Jeffrey told us he learned to kitesurf in the Philippines, “which is the best place in the world, I guess.” But if you can’t make it to Asia, he has some tips .. though he won’t reveal his favorite place. “I won’t tell because then it will get too crowded.” The sport is now that popular here.
But he did recommend:
Wijk aan Zee de Bunker
While you will see kites all along the Dutch coast, the most famous spot in in the Netherlands is “de Bunker” at Wijk aan Zee, which is just north of IJmuiden, the port for Amsterdam. You know you’ve found it when you see the bunker, left over from the Atlantic Wall coastal defenses the Germans build during WWII to keep the Allies from invading the Netherlands. Today, this wide sandy beach remains fairly undeveloped and a Mecca for kitesurfers.
The town of Wijk aan Zee, while it draws a lot of tourists, is still pretty much just a seaside town, and there are plenty of restaurants and places to stay.
• Jeffrey recommends De HangOut at Wijk aan Zee for lessons.
• DITTIS Sunsea is the beach hangout, with rooms, showers, drinks, music and food.
This is another recommendation from Jeffrey, basically a huge shallow lake to the northeast of Amsterdam formed by a dike that blocks off an inlet of the North Sea. IJsselmeer is big piece of water and kitesurfing centers include Hindeloopen on the east side of the IJsselmeer and Medemblik on the west side.
Jeffrey says Schellinkhout on the west side of IJsselmeer is a great destination when the wind is blowing from the east.
• KBC outside Hindeloopen bills itself as the professional kiteboarding school for the Netherlands. Beginner courses start at 215 euros, and four-day intensive kite camps are 385 euros. You can also take advanced courses and get instructor certifications. There are accommodations at Welgelegen, an affiliated bed & breakfast and camping site.
They also book trips to kitesurfing destinations in Morocco, Egypt, Italy and other destinations.
• KiteFEEL Surfshop bills itself as the only permanent kitesurfing school in Schellinkhout.
This is the go-to sun-and-sea destination for the Dutch. And like Wijk aan Zee to the north, it has miles of big, wide sandy beaches. It also has a big – but not too big – cluster of beach bars and beach rentals. Its proximity to Haarlem and lots of restaurants, cafés, clubs and activities means it can get really, really crowded in the summer.
There are also multiple places here to rent gear and take lessons including:
• North Sea Watersports, where you can take lessons starting at 105 euros.
The Netherlands has a lot of places with nearly ideal wind conditions for experienced kitesurfers. We looked it up. What you want is cross-onshore or cross-shore winds blowing about 20 knots per hour. You always want the winds to blow you back toward shore. You don’t want cross-offshore or offshore winds unless you want to find yourself in Norwich.
Like its cousin sailboarding, kitesurfing is not the easiest of sports to learn, and you certainly can’t expect to master it in one day. So should you decide to try it, set aside at least a weekend. Jeffery, who describes himself as a kitesurfing addict who can go for hours, says it took him three days to learn, “but that was really fast. Usually it takes five days, I guess … five days of windy days.”
We’ll add more tips about kitesurfing in the Netherlands as we get feedback at: [email protected]
And we’ll ping our contributors in Portugal, Spain and Greece for posts about the scenes there.