This article originally appeared in Slap.
Who wouldn’t want to check out a country where prostitution and marijuana are legal, drugs are given out for free by the government (if you’re an addict) and scenic windmills cover the land? I’m talking about Holland, land of the free and home of the hos on houseboats!
As the Team Manager for Emerica, I’m always asked to deliver team riders to different contests and events. When the WSR 05 contest in Rotterdam was brought to my attention, I jumped at the chance to make an Emerica trip out of it. We had a good crew for our mission to Holland. Tosh Townend, Leo Romero, Matt Allen and I flew out to Amsterdam, where we met up with Fred van Schie from Left Distribution, our tour guide for the trip.
Fred drove us to our hotel in Rotterdam, where we met up with Aaron Suski and Slap photographer Joe Brook. Local filmer Hijko Deen, nicknamed Hi-Cool by Leo, met up with us at the hotel, as well. Hi-Cool drove the second car for us the whole time we were there. Suski was already in Europe hitting up some of the other European contests, and Joe flew out a few days early to take advantage of so many skaters being in Rotterdam for the contest. Suski was killing it and had shot a bunch of photos with Joe before we even got there.
Now that our group had linked up, it was our goal to stay awake all day because we had a nine-hour time difference. We arrived in Amsterdam in the morning, but we had already been awake for 16 hours. Once we checked into the hotel, we knew we couldn’t hang out in the rooms or we would all fall asleep and throw off our sleeping schedule for the trip, so we decided to get out and check out Rotterdam.
Being in the land where you can buy and smoke weed legally, it was natural for Tosh to want go directly to the coffeehouse a block away from the hotel. After he hooked up a sack of their sweetest cheeba, we all went on a skate mission around Rotterdam. We ended up at an abandoned building that had banks on the roof. The building was about 10 stories tall and there was no wall or rail surrounding the roof, so it was kind of sketchy.
The banks that we heard about were covered in really soft sandpaper roofing material, so they weren’t really that skateable. There was also this odd concrete structure on the roof. It was about 10-12 feet tall, about two feet wide with two-foot wide banks going down both ends. This thing was sketchy just to walk up and stand on. We thought that there was nothing you could do with this thing and got ready to take off when Tosh said he wanted to Ollie into the bank from the top.
Let me remind you that we had been sitting on a plane for 13 hours and had been awake for about 20 hours. We set up the cameras and Tosh climbed up the bank. After looking at it for a minute, he walked across the tall balance beam, set his board down and pushed across the super narrow runway and popped an Ollie into the bank. He made it first try. It was gnarly, but the craziest part about it is after rolling down the bank, it shoots you right toward the edge of the building. Tosh carved away about six inches from the edge of the 10-story drop. It was insane. Tosh proceeded to Ollie into this thing four more times.
We spent the next three days at the Ahoy Stadium in Rotterdam, where the WSR contest was going on. In between skating the contest, we also checked out some spots close by. We went to a train station with super smooth ground and a big nine-stair. We skated there for a while. This old man wasn’t too stoked on us being there, and he yelled at us in Dutch. We ignored him and kept skating until the police showed up and kicked us out. The contest was pretty standard. Leo ripped all weekend and made it into the finals. He got 7th place and won $1000. Not bad.
We decided to check out of our hotel in Rotterdam and posted up in a more centrally located hotel in Utrecht for the rest of our stay. While we were in Holland, Fred had set up a couple of shop signings. We went to a shop in a town about 45 minutes from the hotel called B Sports. Once the signing was finished, everyone wanted to skate. After driving around and hitting up a couple of mediocre spots, we heard about “the perfect rail” from some of the local skaters.
By this point, we had been driving around all day and this “perfect” rail was another 20 minutes further away. We figured we’d check it out. We finally arrived, only to find a steep 10-stair rail with a rough brick landing that you could hardly roll on. Everyone was over it and ready to go back to the hotel, but the kid that told us about the rail started skating it. He was trying to lipslide it and kept sticking it but the ground was too rough to ride away on. He slammed about 15 times in a row. It sucked. The rail beat him on this day, but I heard he went back the next day with some plywood for the landing and pulled it pretty quickly. Good for him!
As for Matt, Leo, Tosh and Suski, they decided to call it a wash and try their luck the next day. On the drive back to Utrecht, we stopped by this restaurant in Fred’s hometown that he used to work at. There was a huge festival going on all round the area. There were fireworks and tons of people. The restaurant was on the second story and it overlooked everything. There were so many people that there was no space between anyone. Everyone was crammed together like sardines. It was insane.
The next day started off on a way better note. We went to this gap-to-rail at the Holland Casino right down the street from the hotel. This spot was a well-known bust, but somehow, we lucked out and got to skate it for over an hour. I was filming a line of Leo and after he pulled it, we were getting ready to pack up and leave. A security lady came walking up to us and demanded that we stay there and that the police were on their way.
She said she was going to take our film and videotapes, so we quickly packed up our cameras and I passed my tapes on to Fred to hide in the van. We didn’t stick around long enough to see if the cops showed up. It started raining, so we ended up skating this sick skatepark in Amsterdam that was in this huge industrial warehouse. This park was crazy, it was built on these stilts and in was kind of hovering above everything else in the warehouse.
After the rain let up, we went skating around Amsterdam, but didn’t check out the famous red light district there. Instead, Fred took us back to Utrecht and showed us the red light district right down the street from his house. In Holland, there are a lot of canals and waterways everywhere. The red light district in Utrecht consists of a bunch of houseboats lined up along a canal that stretched about a half mile. Each boat has two girls. Each occupying a half of the boat. This phenomenon was dubbed “Hos on Houseboats”. It was a very strange experience to see all of those prostitutes on the boats. We drove by all the boats and the girls called out to us, trying to lure us in.
The following day, we had a signing at a shop in Daventer called Burnside. It was raining, so it looked like we weren’t going to be doing any skating. We got to the shop and found out that there was an indoor skatepark right behind it. Although we were there just to do a signing, Leo, Tosh, Suski and Matt started skating the park and it quickly escalated into a demo. The place was full of kids stoked to see these guys ripping. After skating the park, the guys did a signing out in front of the shop. Street skating was out of the question that day due to the rain, so we went back to Utrecht to try and find something to do.
It turns out that Utrecht was having a huge festival right near the hotel, so we decided to go check out some Dutch culture. The festival was filled with food booths, beer booths, and a bunch of tents with different performers in them. I saw one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life at this festival. Fred told us about a headphone disco, which was a gazebo with a DJ with headphones on and a whole dance floor full of people with headphones on dancing away. We couldn’t hear the music, so it just looked crazy seeing all of these people dancing to silence. It was pretty weird.
On the last full day we had in Holland, we decided to do something touristy. We were going to go skate in Rotterdam. Fred told us about a place on the way to Rotterdam that had a bunch of windmills. They are used to move water around all over Holland, because most of the country is under sea level. The spot where Fred took us had a bunch of windmills along this waterway with a bike trail along the side of it. You could rent bikes by the hour there, so we all hopped on some old busted bikes and rode by all the windmills.
Before long, Tosh, Matt, and Leo were racing each other down the path and pedestrians were jumping out of the way. When we got back to the van, Fred said, “I’ve never seen anyone get so excited about windmills!” We were done being tourists and made our way to Rotterdam to get some skating in. After sessioning a flat gap, we went to eat at a restaurant that was on the beach not far from Rotterdam. While we were eating, a bunch of fireworks started going off right above the restaurant. For some reason, we kept eating at restaurants that had a fireworks display on this trip.
We got back to our hotel and it was about 11:00 at night. This was our last night in Holland and we hadn’t even checked out the red light district in Amsterdam. I rallied Tosh, Leo and Matt to go check it out. Suski was over it and wanted to get some sleep. We had a flight the next morning, but we figured we could just sleep on the plane. Fred had been driving us around the entire trip and I think by this point he was pretty worn out, but he was still down to show us good time. After pounding an energy drink, he was rejuvenated and we drove to Amsterdam around midnight.
Surprisingly, there were a lot of people out. This place had something for everyone, transvestites, fat girls, skinny girls, old and young. Leo wanted to take photos. but it’s pretty sketchy to do that around there. They don’t like cameras. There was a skinny walkway with girls on both sides and it was really crowded. The girls were grabbing at people trying to get them in their rooms. It was insane. We checked it out for a while and decided we had seen enough.
A few hours later, we had to get up to go the airport. Fred and Hi-Cool drove us there, where we said our goodbyes. We were going through the security checkpoint and we had all checked our skateboards, except for Matt. They told him he couldn’t carry his skateboard on, and that it had to be checked. We spent so much time waiting in the security checkpoint line, that we were about to miss our flight.
Matt didn’t have time to go back and check his skateboard. I told the security girl that Matt needed his skateboard because his job was skateboarding. She wanted to see Matt do a trick, and I thought maybe she would let him take his skateboard on the plane if he did something for her. This security girl held up a super long line at the security checkpoint while Matt did a kickflip for her. Matt must not have impressed her enough, because she still wouldn’t let him take his skateboard, so he ended up leaving it. We jumped on the plane and went home.--Jeff Henderson