Holland may not be Surf Central but the Netherlands is home to hundreds of stoked surfers (see the video below). That stoke was somewhat deflated recently when The Hague city council announced that they’d be closing Holland’s most popular surf spot, De Zuid in Scheveningen, in the city of The Hague.
Why? “Surfing is too dangerous,” said the council, as they made moves to make De Zuid the first beach in the world to close for this bizarre reason. According to Frank Heijster, “The act seems to be based on an incident last year when a swimmer got into trouble and was rescued by the Voluntary Rescue Brigade of Scheveningen, who themselves got into trouble during the rescue operation.”
Ironically, the city of The Hague has future plans to make Scheveningen a surfing mecca, and for good reason. “The South is known for its good surfing conditions and is an absolute magnet for surfers in the Netherlands and surrounding countries,” says Heijster.
As the council clearly didn’t have a good grasp on the whole surfing thing, locals decided to educate them in a peaceful, respectful way, as well as to exploit the weaknesses in their arguments. The Holland Surfing Association organized a paddle out at De Ziud, where they formed a circle and joined hands in a kind of memorial tribute to their wave. This was followed by a bracing paddle up a city canal to the Town Hall where they met the council leader, presented him with a flower lei and a framed photograph of a perfect wave at De Zuid (they do happen!).
Stefan Koper of the HSA was then invited to speak at a council meeting on the matter where he pointed out that there has never been as serious injury to a surfer at this beach; the rescue service has never been called to assist a surfer; that surfers are more ocean savvy than summertime swimmers anyway; and that closing the beach would push more surfers to the nearest surf spot, north of the jetty, thus making it more dangerous. Incredibly, the council listened.
Heijster sent this email through this morning:
“I have very good news. The protest went very well. Approximately 100 surfers showed up (which is a lot in Holland) for the ‘circle of love’ and paddled to the Town Hall. It was in the newspapers and on national news. The chairman was impressed by the surfers and all parties on the council agreed with HAS’s argument. They told the Alderman that the new Beach Act should be corrected, and surfing in De Zuid in Scheveningen should be allowed.
This act still has to be changed and officially passed, but things are looking good. Fingers crossed.”
Maybe it’s only the discerning Dutch who’ll listen to a good argument and change their minds, with no shame, if they agree. But Surf Central or not, Holland’s surfers have demonstrated that a good old protest, some solid facts and figures, and a measure of respect shown to those whose minds we’re trying to change, can sometimes help us save a wave.
You can find out more or contact the Holland Surfing Association via their website: www.hsa.nl