Nick van der Kloot lost two things when he moved to the United States from the Netherlands in 1982 for a three-month internship at an accounting firm in New York City.
The first was his name. His full name was Nicholaas Tjeerd van Rhede van der Kloot and in the Netherlands he was known as Tjeerd van Rhede. Since Americans had trouble pronouncing Tjeerd, he switched to Nick and when he was being processed, the van Rhede part of his name was dropped off. Figuring he’d only be in the States for three months, van der Kloot didn’t object to the name change. But when he was offered a full-time job, the new moniker became permanent.
The second thing van der Kloot lost in his relocation was the ability to skate outdoors on natural ice. Like most children growing up in the Netherlands, he was a speedskater, having started with wooden skates with strap-on blades and eventually moving up to real speed skates.
“It was a big thing in my family,” he said. “My mother was pretty strict but if the ice was good, she would let us play hooky.”
The family skated outdoors on lakes, rivers and canals. “I don’t think I ever skated indoors until I came to the U.S.,” van der Kloot said.
After roughly two decades off the ice, van der Kloot learned about a man named Jamie Hess who sold Nordic skates out of a store in Norwich. Nordic skaters use cross-country ski boots with detachable blades which are as long as speed skate blades but slightly wider, making them more suitable for natural ice. Hess had an email list through which he notified people when the ice was good.
In 2004, when van der Kloot was living in Connecticut, he came home around midnight from a concert in New York City to find an email from Hess about an ice outing scheduled for the next morning at 10 a.m. from Converse Bay. He got up at 5 a.m. to drive to Charlotte and was rewarded with fabulous black ice.
“I was whistling the whole way home because I was so happy,” he said, “and that outing is one of the reasons I wanted to move here.”
Van der Kloot loves being able to skate on Vermont’s lakes, ponds and rivers. “It starts from the movement of skating, itself,” he said. “It’s one of the most beautiful movements; very rhythmic and very simple but it’s amazing how much speed you can get.”
He appreciates that there is always something to learn and once attended a speed skating camp in Salt Lake City to work on his technique.
One way in which skating in Vermont differs from skating in the Netherlands is the lack of popularity here.
“In the Netherlands, there are thousands of people from janitors to police to the prime minister,” van der Kloot said. “From a social point of view, it’s a lot of fun.”
An outing in Vermont can consist of five to 10 skaters gliding past a few ice anglers.
In the Netherlands, every town has a committee that checks on the ice and lets people know if it’s safe. In Vermont, skaters need to do their own due diligence.
In addition to skating, van der Kloot enjoys skiing in Vermont, the West Coast, Europe and Iceland, eschewing lifts in favor of skinning up the slopes he skis down. He has twice completed Vermont’s six-gap ride which covers 131 miles with almost 12,000 feet of elevation gain. Last year, he rode the Paris-Brest-Paris route, which is 745 miles and must be done in under 90 hours. This summer, he plans to cycle from Vermont to Vancouver with his son, Eddy.
Last year, Van der Kloot took a bad fall on the ice, breaking his wrist and passing out. There were a couple of groups on the ice, and they all jumped into action to help. One skater, Evan Perkins, tied van der Kloot’s arm to his body to prevent further damage and another, Diana Hanks, joined van der Kloot’s daughter, Kristin, and her boyfriend in taking him to the hospital.
“I’m really grateful to everyone who helped,” he said. “It’s a tale of caution, but it showed the camaraderie and team spirit of skaters.”
Van der Kloot recommends that those interested in learning more about Nordic skating check out lakeice.squarespace.com, a website created by the late Bob Dill, which provides information on skating gear, hazards and how to read conditions, and subscribe to groups.google.com/g/vtnordicskating, a listserv co-founded by fellow Dutchman Jan de Vries which provides up-to-the-minute information about skating conditions throughout the state thanks to over 700 members who scout “wild ice.”