When I think of the North Sea, the first word that usually comes to mind is COLD! Especially when compared to the beaches I am used to on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the North Sea is downright frigid most times of the year. But for the three days of the year that it actually gets hot in the Netherlands (okay, I am exaggerating a little here…it gets warm for maybe three weeks), the Dutch invade the beaches on the North Sea coast and the Netherlands feels like a proper beach destination. And since yesterday was the hottest day of the summer to date, Willem and I joined everyone else in the country in a day at the beach.
We left the apartment around noon, and headed towards the Hague and Scheveningen Beach. Even though Scheveningen is not the closest beach to Haarlem (Zandvoort and Bloemendaal are both lovely seaside resort areas only a few kilometers to the west of Haarlem), we drove the extra half hour to Scheveningen. Why would we drive an extra 30 minutes when there are perfectly nice beaches nearer to Haarlem? Well, Scheveningen happens to be a paradise for beach and water sports!
This weekend, The Hague Beach Stadium, which sits right on the beach, was hosting a series of international beach soccer matches.
Amazingly enough, all events at this 2,000 seat stadium are free and open to the public. We walked right up to the venue, found some seats, and settled in to watch the final match of the tournament played between the Netherlands and Italy:
While beach soccer was the focus of this weekend, the Hague Beach Stadium also hosts other national and international sporting events (beach volleyball, beach hockey, and beach tennis) throughout the summer. If you are in the area, definitely try to catch an event at this stadium. It truly is a wonderful venue to enjoy some (free!) summer spectator sports.
After the Netherlands-Italy match finished (the Netherlands lost, boo!), we walked down the beach to catch some rays and check out the water. The beach was PACKED. I have only once seen a beach more crowded than this one, and that was in Alexandria, Egypt on a day with temperatures pushing 110°. All of the people in the water made me lose my senses for a while and imagine that the water must be warmer than it was when I last touched it. Nope. Either the Dutch have some strange evolutionary resistance to cold water that I am missing, or they are all insane (I think it’s the latter).
I walked in the shallows while Willem jumped in and tried to convince himself that “the temperature’s fine once you get used to it”. A hundred meters down the shoreline, we found out that Scheveningen beach was also hosting the Nacra 17 Class World Sailing Championships while we were there. We watched as the boats from 22 countries (including the USA!) came in to land on the beach after performing some practice runs.
I don’t know very much about sailing, but I looked up some information after we got home and discovered that Nacra 17 is the newest sailing discipline for the Olympics, and will be one of the medal categories in the Rio 2016 Olympics. Pretty awesome, right? Like the events at The Hague Beach Stadium, the sailing competition is also free and open to anyone to watch. The organizers also plan to have viewing areas with big screens set up on the beach so people can see all the action on the water as it happens. The competition is running through Saturday July 27th, so I may have to return and cheer on the USA later this week!
If you’re not interested in spectator sports, there are plenty of more adventurous activities on offer at Scheveningen. We passed multiple surf schools and places to get windsurfing lessons, and there are places to rent stand-up paddle boats, kites, and jetskis. I wasn’t about to try and get on a surfboard that day. With the number of people in the water, I probably would have run someone over on my first try. But maybe one day I will go for it, and come back to the U.S. with a new skill!