Munich, Germany offers a lot in the way of attractions, shopping and great restaurants – everything a big city should have. But they also have something you won’t see in most other cities: river surfing.
Every day, as many as one hundred surfers come to the Eisbach (German for “icy creek”) to catch a few waves. The Eisbach is a river that flows through the English Garden, and the river surfing can be found on the southern end of the park. Mark had read about it before we went, and he had an eye out for it. But we ended up stumbling upon it quite by accident!
The day we went to watch them was a chilly one too. Plus it was raining intermittently. But this didn’t stop people from jumping into the water on their boards and having a blast. Besides, what’s a little rain when you’re already hopping into a freezing cold river? (The water never gets warmer than around 15 degrees Celsius.)
The Eisbach is actually a man-made river, and the standing wave where the river surfing takes place is around a meter high. Since it is a standing wave, surfers can stay on it for as long as they’re able to keep their balance because it doesn’t ebb and flow like ocean waves.
River surfing technically wasn’t allowed until 2010, when it was officially legalized, but surfers have used it since 1972. Now they even hold surfing competitions here. However the current is quite strong and it’s recommended that only professional and very skilled surfers attempt to surf the Eisbach wave.
The wave is still not without controversy though. The authorities threatened to demolish the wave, but people in support of keeping it rallied to have it spared. There are also occasional clashes between the surfers and kayakers. As well, two people drowned in the river in the 2000s. So even though the city now allows surfing in the river, actual swimming is still illegal.
For the most part it seems pretty harmless though, as long as you’re an experienced surfer. These folks seemed to know what they were doing:
Hopefully it’s something that the city will continue to allow, because it’s a unique experience that can’t be replaced in Munich.