Ice skating, THE national winter sport in the Netherlands. As soon as temperatures go below zero, the whole country gets excited. Indeed, freezing temperatures mean ice, frozen lakes and… ice skating!
Can we skate or can´t we? Every winter season this is an important question for many Dutch people. Since there is a lot of water everywhere, almost the whole country could theoretically turn into ice. When it starts to freeze, all the lakes, canals and other waterways will transform into one endless skating rink. When the ice is thick and strong enough, many ice clubs organize skate races and tours. Apart from the frozen open waters, almost every Dutch city has at least one official skating rink, most of the time a flooded sports field. Skating at an official rink is always safe, if you happen to break through the ice, the water is only a few inches deep. Skating on open waters is only safe when the ice is at least 10-15 centimetres thick.
The tradition of ice skating in the Netherlands goes back many centuries. In the seventeenth century doing sports on ice was already quite popular and common. The pictures of the Dutch painter Hendrick Avercamp show lively winter landscapes and people on skates.
There are several types of skates you can skate with, depending on how good you are. Professional ice skaters skate on clap skates. On those skates, the blade is attached to the shoe at the front by a hinge. This way, the blade stays longer on the ice and makes the skater go faster. Other skates used for speed skating are noren. They look like clap skates but the blade is fully attached to the shoe (see the picture). More traditional skates are Frisian skates. The blade is attached to a piece of wood and you bind them under your shoes with leather or linen straps. These skates are still very good for skating but nowadays not much used anymore.