A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

Surfing in Winter?

Defying bad weather is something the Dutch are very good at. No matter how windy or rainy it is, you’ll see them biking around town and doing what Dutch people do.

Now picture this: It’s a particularly cold day in January, and you feel inspired by the Dutch weather resistance. So you decide to go for a run at the beach. You wear about ten layers and even mid-run you feel like you might just freeze in place. You alternate between mentally applauding and cursing yourself for leaving the house. Suddenly someone crosses your path: A dude in a wetsuit. Surely enough, you must be hallucinating. The temperature is below zero and it’s windy as hell. No way anyone would willingly take a dip in the ocean now. Right?

You decide to investigate.


Surfers waiting for the next wave

As you reach the shore, there is no denying it – Dutch people are indeed surfing in winter. At least twenty of them are in the water, impressively catching wave after wave. You would like to pause and watch, but it’s just too cold to stop moving. You ask yourself: “How are they not dying of hypothermia?” After all, there is only so much a wetsuit can do. Finishing your run, you vow to solve that mystery.

Fast forward to March. I admit it’s warmer now, but you still feel like a sane person wouldn’t go surfing. Naturally, you and your friends end up booking a lesson anyway.

As the day arrives, you really start to question your sanity. It’s below ten degrees and extremely windy. You wouldn’t even want to bike now, but there is no turning back.


Photograph by Laura Cirigliano

The staff at the surf school doesn’t seem concerned about the weather, if anything, they seem thrilled at the prospect of getting into the water. You and your fellow surf students wet-suit up: thick wetsuit, shoes, gloves and cap – you feel like a human Michelin man.

After “warming up” on the beach and some instruction on how to surf, you all apprehensively approach the water, prepared to spend the next hours in an agonizing cold. With one last glance at your teammates, you step into the ocean.

Imagine the surprise when you realize that you will not freeze to death. The wetsuit is doing an impressive job at keeping you warm. And as soon as you start moving, it’s actually nicer in the water than on land. You’re euphoric: Now the only challenge you have to face is the surfing-part of the surf lesson. Let me tell you, it’s extremely funny to watch your friends fall off their boards and even funnier to fall yourself. Leaving the water, you have completely forgotten about the cold.

Heads up though, this is not a fairy tale. The cold has not forgotten about you. There is this minor detail of changing out of your wetsuit. And my friend:




It feels like a frozen version of hell. But only for a minute. Then, you get to take a warm shower.


Verdict: Absolutely worth it!

To break it down, the Dutch can teach us a valuable lesson: We should not let bad weather keep us from doing what we want to do.

Even when it’s cold, you can still go surfing and immensely enjoy it! And while you will get cold at one point, it doesn’t last for long. To be honest, it even adds to the fun somehow. So get into that wetsuit (don’t forget the shoes, gloves and cap) and hit the waves!

P.S.: Do you have any favourite surf spots? Let me know in the comments!

4 comments on “Surfing in Winter?

  1. Island Traveler
    January 8, 2020

    Fun adventure

  2. Maya
    February 1, 2020

    Despite the fact that this article convinced me to try it, I still think you’re crazy!

    • Laura Cirigliano
      February 3, 2020

      Looking forward to it!

  3. surf report NZ
    April 4, 2020

    Very informative post. Surfing in Winter, Defying the bad weather is something the Dutch are very good at. The tips you have shared in this post is very informative. I would definitely try to follow your tips. Here’s the see

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This entry was posted on January 7, 2020 by in Laura, Leisure, Living in Holland, Local Customs, Nature, Student Life, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , .

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