I love ditch jumping. Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d find myself saying. Partly because I didn’t know what it was until today.
Half an hour’s drive from Amsterdam is the site of the World Championship Ditch Jumping ditches, 2 wide ditches with ramps of various lengths leading up to them. The object of ditch jumping is to run down the ramp and fling yourself onto a waiting pole sticking out of the water. As the pole begins to carry you over to the sand on the other side you scramble as far up the pole as you can before flinging yourself off at the last minute and seeing how far you can land across the sand. The winner is the person who lands the furthest. It’s basically a cross between pole vaulting and long jump with the added risk of ending up in a stagnant ditch.
Peter, an ex-champion, was keen to show us the ways of this uniquely Dutch sport, explaining that it originated from people wanting a quick way to cross the canals and ditches that zig zag their way across the flat Dutch landscape. After a few goes flinging ourselves off poles into the practice sand and climbing the stationary poles at the side of the field we were ready for the main event. A few hundred enthusiasts who had turned up to cheer on the kids in today’s Children’s Championships humoured Iain and I as we tackled the water for the first time, and we landed in the sand with considerably less grace and ease than their kids. We had two cracks at it and I managed to leave an imprint a few centimetres ahead of Iain’s and be crowned the winner.
To be honest I’d have loved a few more goes. You get quite a thrill launching yourself off the platform and clinging on to the pole as you go hurtling over the water towards the sand, and the shock of it all meant that both Iain and I completely forgot to do any climbing up the pole on the journey across, as we were concentrating far too hard on not falling in the water. Not that it really mattered in the end as our director asked us to throw ourselves in as it would finish off the item nicely!