Dyke Jumping: The Netherlands

Dyke Jumping: The Netherlands

First, Wooden Shoes, Now This

While some adrenaline adventures are deadly serious business, dyke jumping will no doubt go down in history as one of mankind’s sillier pastimes. It works like this: First, find a creek or a water-filled ditch (known as dykes in northern Europe). Run toward it, fully clothed, carrying nothing but a long stick or pole. Use the pole to vault over the dyke—or, if you fail to make it to the other side, get sopping wet and endure the ridicule of your dry dyke-jumping friends until your next turn.

According to legend, dyke jumping began less as amusement and more as a means of survival. Wandering vagrants would jump over the dykes that surrounded farmers’ land, steal eggs and other foods, then jump back over before getting caught. The sport originated in Friesland, a province in the northern Netherlands that remains the capital of dyke jumping. Shortly after World War II, the sport evolved—though not much—into a competitive activity known as “fierljeppen” that some folks take very seriously. Belgium, the U.K., and even Japan have mounted teams to compete in the world dyke jumping championships. If you decide to give dyke jumping a go, you may want to wrap the rubber inner tube from a bicycle tire around your ankles and/or feet—not for the fashion appeal, but to help you grip the pole as you vault over the dyke. As you dig the pole into the muck, remember to shimmy up the pole while it’s vertical to gain the necessary inch or two needed to make it across the dyke. Hopefully, your comrades in dyke jumping have prepared a soft landing spot on the other side made of sand or other material. You might not break the world record (currently set at an amazing 19m/64 ft.), but if you stay dry, consider yourself a winner.

$$$ Bilderberg Garden Hotel, Dijsselhofplantsoen 7 ( 31/20/570-5600; www.gardenhotel.nl). $$ Canal House, Keizersgracht 148 (31/20/622-5182; www.canalhouse.nl).

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