Riding the Eisbach Wave with Munich’s City Surfers

Posted on December 24, 2014

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One of the best urban surf spots in the world is Munich’s Eisbachwelle in the heart of the Bavarian Capital.

In the midst of Munich’s bustling city centre a stone’s throw from the Bavarian National Museum and ten minutes walk from the Hofbrauhaus where Hitler and the Nazi Party formed their plans for the third reich, lies the green oasis of the Englischer Garten.

Flowing through and parallel to the gardens are the magnificent River Isar and its smaller man-made partner the River Eisbach. Although only two kilometres long compared to the Isar’s majestic 295km (183 miles), the Eisbach – German for “ice brook” – plays host to one of the world’s best urban surf spots, the Eisbachwelle or Eisbach Wave.

Built as a hydraulic jump where the water’s flow is restricted and channelled to form a standing wave, the city’s surf enthusiasts gather (more than 1,000 are thought to live in Munich) to test their skills on the Eisbach’s rapid waters.

Against the backdrop of the city roads and amid the park’s emerald grounds people gather on the bridge to watch surfers twist, turn and pirouette on the fast flowing surge. Move further into the garden and there is a second wave where less experienced surfers learn the skills needed to graduate to the first wave.

This is where I met Martina, a 21 year old daughter of Polish immigrants studying in Munich and keen to improve her surfing stature. She told me that rookies had to start on the second wave because locals frowned on learning at the faster, more dangerous first wave. Swimmers and local kids often jump into the Eisbach on hot summer days and this disrupts the surfer’s practise, but this is a small price to pay for wave riding in the finery of Munich’s Englischer Garten.

Surfing was only officially sanctioned here in 2010 but surfers have been in residence here since the early 1970s and more than 10,000 locals are thought to have tried it out. Sports enthusiasts may more readily recognise the towering international success of local football team Bayern Munich, whose stadium is around 10km from the Eisbachwelle, but the waves here play their part in a priceless sporting culture that breeds the next generation of city surfers and dawn voyagers.

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