The birth of De Waard tents

How it all started

It was 1947, just after the Second World War. During the hot summer, a brief storm took place, which was enough to blow over Machiel ‘Chiel’ de Waard’s tent. At the time, a friend of Chiel’s let it be known that he finally wanted to camp in something that ‘…would stand the hell up if there’s a strong wind!’.

No matter who asked him, Chiel always told the same story: ‘Believe me, I designed the basic idea of that tent in 15 minutes on the back of an envelope shortly after the war. The Golden Quarter Hour, I like to call it’.

Sailmaker De Waard

Chiel gained his experience with fabrics and cloth at the Royal Navy in Den Helder, where he worked as a sailmaker. He then started his own studio in Schagerbrug, Zeilmakerij De Waard. The magic word for his designs was ‘streamlined’. If a tent could be devised in some way so the wind could not get a hold, it had to have sloping walls at the least.

Living lab De Lepelaar

Chiel rented (and later bought) a piece of dune land in North Holland, where he started the De Lepelaar campsite in 1950. Besides camping, he also used it as a laboratory. If Chiel’s tents could last a whole summer in this spot, among the low dunes, they could last anywhere.

The rise of the Albatros

At the De Lepelaar campsite, De Waard’s tents began their advance. It was here – among all those other square tents shivering in the wind – that they first stood out. Firstly, because of their tight pyramid shape and, secondly, because of the fact that they remained upright under just about any circumstances. Even in the powerful summer storms, the very first Albatrosses didn’t budge.

Piet de Waard: ‘I remember around 1963, there was such a huge demand for the Albatros in particular, that we had to put up a sign at the Goed Kamp fair in March saying the tents could not be delivered until the next season. But this didn’t stop people, of course. People kept queuing up for a De Waard tent. Then my father made the decision not to visit any more fairs for a while.’ This didn’t slow things down either. It only took one hefty summer storm that blew roofs off summer cottages like autumn leaves and shook caravans on their wheels, and people started calling Schagerbrug. Because a Zilvermeeuw tent, standing atop a dune top, had not budged, to everyone’s surprise. The same was true for an Albatros that stood on the same beach. ‘Sir, please provide me with a tent like that too’.

‘You knew exactly when the calls came in’, explains Piet. ‘If it the storms had raged heavily on the islands during a summer holiday, many of the ‘homeless’ would stop by Schagerbrug on their way back to order a tent. De Waard tents became almost magical’.

The names of the tents

Albatros, Lepelbaar, Zilvermeeuw, Goudplevier, Tureluur, Mantelmeeuw, Stern, Kapmeeuw, Bergeend, Kluut, Visdief, Watersnip, Strandloper, Wulp, Zeekoet, Smient, Oeverloper, Dwergmeeuw, Bosruiter, Zeearend, Koningsstern, Kleine Burgemeester, Kuifeend, Jan van Gent, Scholekster, Alk…

Piet de Waard: ‘If you list them all like that together… quite a list indeed. Most of our tents were given bird names. My father started doing so back in the 1950s. Indeed, a wonderful tradition!’

2018: From 2018

In 2018, De Waard was acquired by the Sunshine Group and moved into beautiful new premises in Hattem to fulfil its new ambitions:

‘Consumers from all over the world are increasingly able to find us’, says current managing director Willem Wagenaar, who has worked for De Waard since 2000. ‘Indeed, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have rediscovered the romance of camping. The cosiness, sense of freedom and connection with nature appeals to many people.’ In addition, De Waard now knows how to serve a new target group that has similar wishes, as well as a preference for rental accommodation with more convenience and comfort. On (nature) campsites, they can use our new range of models such as the Big Oak, Round Holly, or the Giant Fir. Once a De Waard camper, always a De Waard camper, that’s why we make the tents accessible to many more people!

‘We are really enjoying our new offices and our new adventure has only just begun’, adds Willem. ‘In the coming years, we look forward to helping more people discover the pleasure of a holiday in the middle of nature, in a sustainable tent with a familiar feeling of safety and freedom.’