This week we continue our photographic exploration of some of Europe’s little known and severly fickle coastlines with a quick jaunt to Holland via the excellent photography of Michal Pelka.
“These shots are all from the North Sea in Holland! Pretty diverse conditions, but I must say that 98% of the time it’s blown out onshore wind waves” he began. However, as his images illustrate, there are moments of brilliance. Here’s what else he had to tell us about surfing in the land of the Dutch:
“I’ve been photographing since I was 20 years old (36 now) and started with the very first Sony digital one megapixel camera. Five years ago I lived in Western Australia for two years and spent a lot of time in the water surfing and freediving.
“I figured it would be great to combine my two greatest passions into one and that’s when I got my first waterproof housing that started it all really. When I got back in the Netherlands it took a while to get known within the community and get the best surfers on camera.
“Now I’ve been living in Holland for the last two and a half years I’ve been shooting with the Dutch national champions. I’m also slowly getting to know some top ranked French surfers and we’re making plans to meet up in the future to shoot at some prime French locations.
“We don’t get a lot of groundswell so most of the swell is local windswell which can get up to 2m but is always onshore and very messy. On some rare occasion we get north swells from the Norwegian sea and if we’re lucky favourable winds from the south/southwest that produce the best surfing days of the year. Usually about five days in one year.
“The surf community is quite extensive, although the core of the community is located in Scheveningen, The Hague. Everyone kind of knows each other. Over the last few years it has gotten more and more crowded at more popular beaches and it’s very obvious that the community is still growing.
“The stoke we get from mediocre onshore windy days is very remarkable. The guys I know that surf really well get stoked at every single occasion when the waves are half decent. Doesn’t matter if it’s zero degrees celsius out there and we’re in 6/7 wetsuits. The guys that surf must be very passionate to go out in such conditions for sure. The time we get to travel to warmer nations (France/Portugal/Indo) it’s like heaven on earth and every day is a good day when we’re out there because we know the hardships of back home.
I love shooting in the Northsea because it’s so freaking difficult to get a good shot. It’s a challange! The choppy conditions make it hard to get a clear line of sight, the cold numbs my fingers and the lack of offshore conditions doesn’t exactly help to get a classic surfshot. Also when a session does work out great, the community responds in a big way and everybody gets stoked from my shots.
My most memorable session must have been when I got the shot from Kaspar Hamminga doing a huge aerial on a 1 foot wave in the middle of winter. It was February and I was out with my fisheye. Before we got in the water I already told Kaspar what kind of shot I wanted and that this aerial shot had been stuck in my head for a while now. We started the session and I got cold really fast. That’s when Kaspar nailed the best aerial I had ever seen in the Northsea by a dutch surfer and everything came together to nail that shot!”