After a massive night out during last year’s Oktoberfest the last thing I really wanted to do was go trekking around looking for these surfers that reportedly surf in the river at the Englischer Garten (English Garden). Although I was super glad that we did find these guys and settled in for an hour of interesting people watching and trying to sound knowledgeable about surfing.
Munich is not normally a city that most people associate with surfing. Not surprisingly considering it sits 500km from the coast and over 1000km from any decent ocean surf breaks. Yet it is the birthplace of river surfing and has several man made waves with the most popular being at Eisbach. Eisbach (German for ice brook) is a man-made river that flows through a large urban park called Englischer Garten and is an offshoot of the Isar River. It is here that the popular manmade standing wave has been created. The standing wave allows the surfer to cut and slice through the wave while effectively staying still.
This wave was unintentionally created by some engineers in the early 1970s when they were trying to slow the flow of water into the English Garden to help create a serene atmosphere. To attempt this they submerged concrete blocks just beyond the bridge and their efforts did slow the water down but it also created a rapid. In the beginning it was only possible to surf the wave when there was the right amount of water flow. Although over time the surfers have learned how to manipulate the height and shape of the wave by submerging boards and fastening these to the bridge pylons. In the process they have created not only an impeccable, continuous wave but also a small community with obvious camraderie. The surfers wait patiently for their turn, chatting to each other, cheering when someone completes a worthy move and asking after each other when someone falls off awkwardly or nudges the wall.
Because of the submerged rocks and the narrowness of the river the Eisbach is very dangerous. Signs along the bank warn inexperienced surfers not to attempt it and I’m not sure the locals would not take too kindly if a foreign, weekend surfer just rocked up with their board.
However, even if you’re not skilled enough to surf the river going to have a look at Eisbach should be added to your Munich “must do” list. It really is something different that you can only see in a handful of places around the world. Allegedly the park is also known as a spot for nude sunbathing if the weather is right. So you might see a nude sunbather or two or even a nude surfer!
Youtube video filmed by GoPro McGee.
River surfing in Munich address: English Garden, Munich, Germany
Directions: Near the crossing Prinzregentenstraße/Bruderstraße — at the south end of the park, next to the modern art museum.