The story of a BAG, DEN 'TV BAG

It all started in group 7 at the Dalton school St Jozef in Lemmer. Master Hilko explained to us that the Dutch Wadden Islands are one of the most beautiful pieces of nature in Europe and that there is an easy mnemonic to remember the order of the Wadden Islands. TV-TAS stands for Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and finally Schiermonnikoog.

After starting KiteActive in 2011 and starting our downwinders in Brazil, we got a taste for organizing adventure trips all over the world. During our first KiteActive trip we sailed around the Wadden islands in a traditional sailing clipper, the Manna of skipper Roel, in search of the best kite spots. A legendary trip and the beauty of the Wadden Islands with its great kitesurfing spots immediately had us in its grip. Every year we organize several Wadden trips and during one of these weekends the idea arose to conquer the TV-TAS on a kite board.

Pro kiter Roderick Pijls has been closely involved with KiteActive since the beginning and has guided many of our trips, but from 2020 onwards he is also more actively involved in the planning and organization of our trips. When I shared my idea with Roderick to set up the TV-TAS downwinder, he didn’t have to think twice, ACTION! Roderick worked behind the scenes on the logistics, permits, safety and route of the tour. In 2022 the time had finally come, the downwinder was put online. Our first (hopefully not the last) trip that sold out within 24 hours. Our customer service (led by Mr. AJ Boek) was flooded with emails, apps and telephone calls asking if there was still a place available. With more than 60 people on the waiting list, we realized that we had something very special on our hands.

But hey, you can have a great plan, we all have that sometimes, right?! The implementation and realization of a nice plan is where the difficulty lies. An all-determining factor in the sport we practice are the weather conditions. We need very specific conditions for this tour. Namely a reliable wind force 5-6 WEST, preferably two days in a row. With a wind window of only three weekends in September, we knew we needed a big dose of luck. Of course, September and October are a nice windy period in the Netherlands because the well-known autumn storms are starting to arrive.

During our Wadden Festival, which we had the first weekend of September, we looked at the forecast and saw wind force 7 NW appearing on the horizon for the first planned weekend. I slowly but surely felt the tension increasing and began to realize that these might well be the conditions for this gigantic hike. The weather gods had heard our prayers and the wind god Aeolus applauds our plan of DEN TV TAS Downwinder! It soon became clear that the conditions were going to be too intense for this to continue responsibly and we had to decide to cancel this weekend, which in retrospect was a very wise decision. With a number of the KiteActive team we have decided to sail part of the trip to get to know the area even better and to train for the upcoming weekends. If you want to read the story of this trip you can find it in this blog .

Weekend two it quickly became clear that the tour could not go ahead, but weekend three soon looked very good with a pure west wind force 6 in the forecast! We could hardly believe it, but these were exactly the conditions we had hoped for!

Every day you check the weather forecast 100 times, you live by it, will the wind go out? Is it increasing? Will he turn? We had to be sure because there are quite a few logistics involved. Fortunately, with the correct predictions from Tobias from surfweer.nl, we were able to see quite quickly that there would be good wind from the west for two days. Perfect to keep the tour going. The original plan was to start at the head of Texel, but we received reports that a huge delay on the Texel ferry was predicted for this weekend. Fortunately, there was a nice solution for this. We decided to start the downwinder in Den Helder and DEN’ TV-TAS was born!

Saturday morning, October 1, 2022, the time had finally come. After a restless night with a storm raging over the Netherlands, the rain pounding non-stop against the window and a few nightmares, we drove from Lemmer with the KiteActive team at 07:30. When we arrived at the Afsluitdijk, we saw that the storm had completely subsided and that there was much less wind than the forecast indicated. Once we arrived at Den Helder, 33 people were eagerly waiting in their wetsuits and the adrenaline was rushing through the air. We also call this the well-known kitesurfing jitters.

After a briefing from our team, assigning the buddies and handing over SafeTRX watches, the club started with Felix in the lead and Thomas in charge of the broom wagon at the back. You can compare the function of our team with that of a group of sheepdogs. Our goal is to keep the group together, set the pace and ensure no accidents happen.

Unfortunately, it soon became clear that our online briefing and the many warnings about how difficult this tour was was not enough to get everyone to start at the right level. The first two dropped out at Den Helder, followed by one on Texel. Unfortunately, they were not able to complete the trip.

Because we lost a lot of time in the beginning, we started with a disadvantage. The pressure was increased, we had to continue with the club that could do it.

Arrived at the Razende bol, quickly wave at seals and continue to Texel. Huge waves came in here, but luckily everyone played it safe. No room for mistakes, we want to make progress! Due to the fuss at the back, the leading group and the rearguard became far too far apart and we and the leading group had to wait a long time at post 17. Fortunately, we were well looked after there and we were able to eat some energy bars and drink water. After Jelle Hak and Klaas Einte Adema sailed back 7 kilometers to help with the rearguard, we reconnected with the group and could continue, but we had lost a lot of time, more than 2 hours delay. The pace had to increase and the message was clear, we have to go to Vlieland. After this we were fortunately able to pick up speed and sailed past the Slufter (a beautiful lagoon on Texel). We reached Cocksdorp in half an hour and saw the Vliehors in the distance. The nautical team of Fryslân was located between the islands. Walter van Berkum and Joris de Wit, two seasoned skippers from the brown fleet and good friends, have been asked to ensure safety between passages with a RIB. This is perhaps an even greater adventure than on the kite. As a kitesurfer you are very flexible in almost all conditions, you cannot say this about a RIB in sky-high waves from all sides, sandbanks, etc. These men have risked their lives to guarantee your safety and in my opinion that deserves a standing ovation!

What we were wrong about was that we had lost a lot of time, and therefore also water. The water was receding and this means that the Vliehors (also called the Sahara of Fryslân, a huge sandbank at the head of Vlieland) was largely dry. In one go we had to sail not a downwinder, but a sturdy upwinder to get around this sandbank. When we arrived on Vlieland, gigantic rollers came in from the North Sea, you really had to think twice about which way you were going. A number of people made the mistake of going too downwind during this crossing, which cost them dearly, namely even more upwind sailing. It is extremely important to follow the lines of our team when crossing.

When we arrived on Vlieland, everyone was quite out of energy. It was already 2:00 PM and we hadn’t eaten anything yet except some energy bars and we had been on the water non-stop for five hours. Combined with many breakwaters on Vlieland that create strange waves, it was a bit of a stretch to get to the Badhuys where we went from hardcore conditions on the North Sea to fine dining in one fell swoop, nice and warm inside in a lovely ambiance, having lunch with a soup and a sandwich. croquette and a healthy sandwich.

Lunch gave us enough energy to brave the last crossing of the day, Vlieland – Terschelling. A large crossing of 13 kilometers and infamous for its currents, sea swells and hidden sandbanks. When we left Vlieland the waves were beautiful, “downwind downwind, wave after wave, turn after turn” (listen to the downwind song on Spotify ). Once on the road, the group ended up in mega-high sea swells of up to 4 meters. It was an incredible feeling to be lifted high above the water by Mother Nature, to have the complete overview and then slowly in slow motion to be swallowed up again by the gray North Sea mass and to see nothing around you but water. The trip went well and everyone sailed safely. Halfway through we came across a fantastic sandbank where the waves flowed beautifully. Then another sandbank with perhaps 200 seals that looked at us curiously. It was like being in a nature movie. A few full rainbows, the dunes of Terschelling in a golden glow, clouds and vistas that Van Gogh could only dream of. I think I can’t just speak for myself that everyone had goosebumps in that moment and realized how unique this experience was. NATURAL HIGH ON LIFE!!

We slowly traveled down the coast via the secret spot and saw the finish for day 1: West aan Zee! 1 by 1 the participants crossed the finish line and happiness burst from your screen. 🙂The Arriva bus was neatly ready and took us directly to our hotel in West Terschelling. A great place with a beautiful view. Where we had a lovely shower and then continued to the Wigwam to all have a delicious meal and tell cool stories in a competition. The leading group went for a few beers in the skipper’s cafe ‘t Zwaantje and eventually everyone lay in bed exhausted and 100% saturated.

Sunday morning

We woke up with renewed energy and a delicious breakfast. Today the TAS Downwinder was on the program. Sailing from Terschelling to Schiermonnikoog. About a 65km trip. The challenge for today was the wind, which was slightly softer the day before. 16-20 knots WEST. We did have clear blue skies and wonderful weather. At half past nine we were dropped off at West aan Zee and everyone pumped up a size. The message during the briefing was clear. The speed had to increase and everyone had to sail with concentration. There is no room for mistakes, especially when crossing.

With the wind at our backs the group raced off under the leadership of Thomas Vidal who was in the lead today. It was truly a pleasure. Day 1 I was on a strapless Appletree Klokhouse and day 2 on a Lieuwe Shotgun . I really enjoyed both boards. On our twin tip we could really race across the flat water at great speed. Just below the beach along planks with the top speed, from our trainer Klaas Einte Adema (Dutch Kite Champion 2008), 89.9 km/h !! We had a good pace and were soon at the end of Terschelling. The dunes slowly become smaller and turn into a widening sandbank. In the distance you can clearly see the Hollum lighthouse protruding from the landscape and the goal is clear. All heads together, briefing for the crossing and go with that banana. The nice thing about this crossing is that it is not that long and you clearly have a point to sail towards. However, it is a white water course between the islands. Whirlpools, sloshing pools, pyramid waves, a gigantic egg carton, in short, chaos that you have to kite over as if you were on a rodeo horse. If you are thrown off, you are actually out immediately, the current grabs your board and in those conditions it is extremely important to immediately catch it again and jump back on your board. Fortunately, the crossing went without any problems and we sailed on a nice course towards Ameland. Upon arrival on Ameland we were immediately at the secret lagoon where we had a short session and a pit stop to have a drink and recover. Then we continued straight away with incredibly beautiful waves, top conditions and a wonderful session, the coast disappeared and we arrived at the Hôn van Ameland. A wonderfully beautiful place where we enjoyed our packed lunch and enjoyed the surroundings. Now there was one more obstacle on the program, the longest and also the toughest crossing from Ameland to Schiermonnikoog.

A total crossing of no less than 14 km. You can just see the lighthouse, with good visibility, from Ameland. The Reef is located in the middle of these two islands, a large sandbank that creates extremely turbulent water. Here we had the toughest conditions of the tour. Giant pyramid waves that sometimes just threw you up out of nowhere. It was really a huge challenge to be able to stay on your board.

I was the sweeper together with Jelle Hak and the trip went well until we arrived at the dead man’s corner. We soon saw that one person had stayed behind and could no longer keep up with the pace of the group. He had difficulty finding his board again, was thrown off again and again and, partly because he fell so far behind, suffered a small blackout in a place on the North Sea where you really don’t want a blackout and/or panic attack. to have. Through trial and error we coached him through this and brought him to calmer water where he found his spirit again and fortunately kept his head very cool during this entire event and kept his kite in the air at all costs. This incident was a combination of circumstances: exhaustion from 2 days of hardcore kiting, kiting on the edge of your level, losing concentration, losing your board, falling behind, you see the rest of the herd moving on, you are lying (in front of you) feeling, because Jelle and I were with him the whole time) completely alone in the roughest conditions you have ever been in. Then you have to keep a cool head and keep thinking. If you want to survive this, you must not give up and remain calm at all times. Our team did everything they could to give him the confidence to complete the trip well. After we entered calmer waters, we surfed the downwinder and it really felt like a mega victory to have the beach of Schier under our feet. to feel..

Summary of DEN’ TV BAG

For me this felt like the ultimate friends weekend. Together with the KiteActive team, we were the shepherds and kept the group together and ensured a safe process. Everyone has done their part and the achievement, the great views, the nature, the insignificance of man, the energy of people who achieve a world-class achievement, the strong friendships and the willingness to do anything to save someone’s life. rescue in the roughest conditions, like the KNRM of Ameland did 100 years ago with a wooden rowing boat, pulled into the sea by horses and trying with all their might to get to the shipwrecked people without losing their lives.

The tour really had everything the Netherlands has to offer. Clean waves, huge flat water lagoons, uninhabited sandbanks, beautiful nature, sun, rainbows, sloshing pools, sea swell, rain, hard wind, soft wind, seals and an enormous dose of fun.
This really makes this trip one for the books and I think we all cried out with happiness several times.

 

Level of the tour.

Your level is everything on this tour. People underestimate the waves, the strong wind, but especially the physical and mental aspects. Everything comes together during this downwinder. You have to be able to deal with hardships. You have to be able to keep your cool in panic situations and you have to be really strong. Especially at the end of the trip we noticed that some people were too tired to finish the downwinder safely. This is a difficult variable for us because we do not know you. A wise lesson for all of us: Know yourself, know your limits and don’t take any risks with these types of adventures. If in doubt, don’t do it!

Black riders

Before the departure of this tour we were warned about black riders. People who really wanted to do the tour but could not get a place and decided to do it on their own. We want to make a very clear statement here . Don’t use this blog as inspiration, don’t see this as an adventure, I’m just going to do this with a group of friends. The risks are enormous and the price you pay if anything goes wrong is high and without knowledge of the area you will get nowhere. Never ever undertake this journey yourself or with friends .

Safety of the tour

  • A total of 6 people dropped out during the tour. Far too high a number that should not have happened. A test downwinder will be held for next year where we will screen whether you can participate or not.
  • 9 supervisors on the water who have more than 15 years of kite experience, have sailed professional competitions and have surfed and performed rescues in all conditions in the world. The latter is especially essential, our team is specialized to save you. We also carry equipment for this in our waterproof bag.
  • Safety watches from Safety Tracks. Without this it would not have been possible to organize this trip. With 1 push of a button, this watch transmits your location to the KNRM via satellite and they try to organize a rescue operation.
  • RIB or Jetski, the big question is whether this adds safety. With a Rib you really have nothing to say in these places and you will be knocked over in no time. With a jet ski you could guide the passages better, but that is also very tough. For next year we will look at how we can organize this even better, but you must always assume that no boat can come near you, but someone from our team can!!!
  • Weather and conditions, in collaboration with surfweer.nl we had a good view of the forecasts and conditions so that we had the right knowledge and could make choices.
  • Experience and knowledge of the area. Thanks to our years of experience in this area, we know the area inside out, which also ensures that we can make the right calls and make a good assessment of the situation.