Sixty years after the infamous Elfstedentocht 1963: ‘Was a battlefield’

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NOS SkatingWednesday, 4:14 PMAmended Wednesday, 7:15 PM

“You heard them fall, you heard them curse. Some of them couldn’t get up. They were hurt. It was a battlefield.”

Exactly sixty years ago, at 05:30 in the morning of January 18, 1963, the ignorant skaters participating in the twelfth Elfstedentocht ride into an icy hell. Sixteen degrees below zero, biting wind. Even before the sun rises, a large part of the trip stops. Bad ice, frozen limbs, broken skates.

That famous edition of the Elftstedentocht in 1963 is now seen as the toughest and most legendary ever. The unforgivable headwind from Stavoren is still in the memory. Just like the live television report that completely failed due to the harsh weather. And above all, the almost hundred kilometers long solo of the later winner: Reinier Paping, who died in 2021.

Participants in the tour gathered today in Hindeloopen, where memories were reminisced:

60 years after Hel van ’63: ‘Elfstedentocht started with -17!’

Would you like to know more about the 1963 Elfstedentocht? Ten years ago, Other Times Sport made a reconstruction of the grueling journey in 1963, based on newly found archive material. With a retrospective of the full top three of that day: Paping, Jan Uitham and Jeen van den Berg.

Watch two episodes of Other Times Sport about the 1963 trip below.

Sixty years after the infamous Elfstedentocht (the Eleven Cities Tour) of 1963, the event is remembered as a battle of man versus nature. The Elfstedentocht is an ice skating tour of the eleven cities of Friesland in the Netherlands, and it is held only when the ice is thick enough to safely accommodate the race. In 1963, the tour was held in harsh conditions and the racers endured extreme cold and strong winds.

The tour began in the early morning hours of February 13, 1963. The weather was so cold that the ice cracked and the racers had to push their skates through the cracks. The wind was so strong that it blew skaters off their feet. The racers had to battle to keep their balance and fight against the elements.

When the race ended, only twenty-nine skaters had managed to complete the tour. Many of the racers suffered from frostbite and hypothermia. The race was so strenuous that some of the racers had to be carried off the course.

The 1963 Elfstedentocht has been dubbed “the battle of the century” because of the extreme conditions that the racers had to endure. The race was so difficult that some of the racers said that it felt like they were fighting a war.

Today, the Elfstedentocht is still held, although it has been changed to accommodate modern skaters. The tour is now held in two days, with the first day taking place on the canals and the second day taking place on the lakes. The race is still a challenge, but modern skaters are better equipped to handle the harsh conditions of the tour.

Sixty years after the infamous Elfstedentocht of 1963, the event is still remembered as a battle of man versus nature. The racers of 1963 had to battle the elements and push through the icy cracks in order to complete the tour. The tour is still a challenge today, but modern skaters are better prepared for the conditions. The Elfstedentocht will always be remembered as a battle of the century.