The Elfstedentocht (eleven cities tour) is a Dutch ice skating classic. The tour connects the eleven historical cities of the Dutch province Friesland. Since the last edition went down in 1997 it has become popular to do the tour by bike or on inline skates. Last year, John Paul and Helena were the first to do the tour by longboard. In 2011 we already an attempt was made by a couple of skaters but due to bad preparation and physical constraints they did not make it. This year we were better prepared because John Paul already skated the tour and had a gps log of the route. Lonneke and Luutse were our support team, they followed us by car to provide us with food and water.

Our lovely support team!

Our lovely support team!

We left Leeuwarden at 7.20 in the morning and skated to the first city: Dokkum. After a few kilometres we were already welcomed by a small pig, which probably broke free somewhere. The asphalt was quite bad at some points. Since Dokkum is the most eastern city of the tour we had to skate the same road back to get to the next city: Franeker.

Local wildlife encounter

Between Franeker and Harlingen Rick had a little date with the asphalt despite his trucks, board and shirts saying ‘don’t trip’. In Harlingen we took some time to visit the supermarket and had something to eat. Skating to the next stops, Bolsward and Workum went quite well although we were facing some pretty strong headwinds. After Hindeloopen we went to Stavoren, the last bit to Stavoren was a dike where we faced some shit, literally. We also did our first bit of ‘klunen*’.

Klunen near Stavoren

Klunen near Stavoren

Serious shit!

Serious shit!

In Stavoren we rested a bit at the sluice and continued afterwards to Sloten. This was the point where fatigue started to kick in (for everybody except Rick). John Paul decided that he would continue on his own pace and went to the supermarket in Balk. In Sloten everybody was hungry so we ordered some fish and/or chips. Since we had to wait pretty long for our food John Paul passed us at this point. When we continued Rick decided that it was time to skate 20km/h, for me this was way to fast so Stan and I let hem go. In IJlst the whole group was back together and we decided to skate the last 30 kilometres together. Our plan was to finish at around 9:00pm in Leeuwarden, we finished just before 10:00pm. This was because the breaks we took were a little longer than planned.

Group reassembled in IJlst

Group reassembled in IJlst

Overall we did the 194km in slightly less than eleven hours of skating (10h:54m:55s). The whole tour including breaks took us about 14.5 hours. The things I learned from this trip is that sleeping well the days before the tour is very important, I had two very short nights (5 and 4 hours of sleep) before the tour. Having a support team is not a must but does make the trip a lot easier. I drank a lot of water (about 7-8 litres) and also consumed quite some food. Not having to carry this or having to worry about where the next supermarket or tap is is a great relief. Having John Paul skate with us and navigating for us the entire way was also very nice. Thanks John Paul!

Finish in Leeuwarden

Finish in Leeuwarden

Map of the route

Map of the route

In general I would say that this tour is doable for the experienced distance skater if he or she is well prepared. Leaving as early as possible is the way to go since skating in the dark is not nice when you are tired and if you don’t have a navigator like us.
(If you decide to bring Rick Pronk, put some sand in his bearings and stones in his backpack to keep him with the rest of the group.)

– Lennart

*Frisian language meaning walking on your ice skates. At some points during the Elfstedentocht the ice is too thin to skate so people would walk around it.