Early in the morning on 2 January 1909, the skaters competing in the first Elfstedentocht ice-skating tour arrived in Dokkum. Among them was Minne Hoekstra from Wergea. The first few editions of the legendary ice-skating race through Friesland’s eleven cities were ‘all about the North’. This turning point in Dokkum was the first check point where the skaters’ cards were stamped.
In 1909, the event was held three days earlier than planned because the ice was starting to thaw. But many skaters decided that it was too dangerous. Only 23 showed up at the start in Leeuwarden. The chairman counselled them to: “Pace yourselves! The first person to get to Dokkum may well be the last to get to Stavoren.”
Minne Hoekstra to this to heart and arrived in Dokkum in the middle of the pack. Throughout the race he conserved his strength so he could speed up for the final stretch. After 13 hours and 50 minutes, Minne was the first to arrive in Leeuwarden.
The turning point in Dokkum is still one of the most memorable moments of the Elfstedentocht. The benches next to the water symbolise the turn the skaters have to make here. Since 1929, Dokkum has been the last check point where the skaters’ cards are stamped. Why? In the interest of safety. Once it gets dark, it is easy for skaters to get lost on the Frisian Lakes.
Since 1997, everyone has been eagerly awaiting the 16th edition of the Elfstedentocht. Every effort is made to allow the ice to set. This includes not permitting ships to moor in the Kleindiep in the winter. Friesland, and maybe even the whole of the Netherlands, can’t wait to witness the legendary spectacle once again! Ready, set, it giet oan!