River surfing in Munich

Eisbach, Floßlände, Wittelsbacherbrücke surf waves

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Editor Bob
Despite being many hundreds of kilometres from the nearest ocean, Munich has a reputation as a surfing hotspot. Local surfers are a popular photo motif, a hit with visitors to the city, and are mentioned in almost every tourist guide on Munich.

River surfing in Munich is possible at three spots. They are:

  • Eisbach (artificial river) at Haus der Kunst, on the edge of the English Garden, this is the main wave
  • Floßlände in Thalkirchen, this is more of a beginners' surf wave
  • River Isar at Wittelsbacherbrücke, only possible during high water and by very advanced surfers
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Eisbach

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The Eisbach is an artificial stream that runs through the English Garden, Munich's largest public park. The surf wave is located at the southern edge of the park, next to the Haus der Kunst. See the exact location on Google Maps. The wave is about 1 m high and about 12 m wide. The flow velocity is about 5 m per second. See photo right.

History:

The wave, if left to it's own devices, is unstable and can sometimes disappear for months at a time. The instability is due to variations in the amount of water flowing in the river, as well as the build up of silt. Several people in the local community, however, found that planks of wood can be used to shape and stabilise the wave. These planks are "hung" in the flow, suspended via ropes attached to the bridge arches. This practice started around the year 2000 and since then surfing the wave has become more and more popular.

Dangers:

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Beginner are very strongly discouraged from surfing here. The flow-braking rocks that the stream's builders set into the concrete of the riverbed are invisible but dangerous. The photo right shows these rocks. Photo was taken when there was no water flowing in the Eisbach.

Impacts on the rocks are hard and happen all the time after uncontrolled falls. The many injuries from the rocks have included the complete loss of a kneecap, a broken shoulder, and a ruptured main thigh aorta with near amputation of the leg. These accidents could force the city to close down the wave permanently. Consequently, all beginners face severe pressure from the experienced locals to injure themselves elsewhere.

Note also, jumping into the wave from the bridge is extremely dangerous. The water is not deep enough. In June 2003 a 26-year-old attempted this, suffered spinal injuries, and has been paralysed ever since.

Threat of removal of the wave:

In 2007, as in most years since the Eisbach was first built, there were a spate of deaths in the river. These included the deaths of an Australian tourist, a 61-year-old local teacher, and a PhD student at Munich university. These deaths prompted calls by a city council member to remove the wave. Naturally the local surfers were appalled at this idea, and they started a petition called save the Eisbach wave. In early 2008 the council finally decided not to remove the wave. The rationale being that nobody has actually died as a result of surfing here. The only deaths have been from swimmers. Surfers generally know what they are doing. Swimmers, however, are casual users are are often reckless. Surfing is now tolerated, but swimming is banned and offenders can be fined if caught.

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Floßlände

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This is a wave on the canal that joins the Isarkanal with the Floßlände. The wave is perhaps around 50cm high, i.e. smaller than the one on the Eisbach. This makes it more suitable for beginners. To get to the wave take the U-Bahn to Thalkirchen, then walk upstream along the river for about ten minutes. Then turn right and find the canal that runs parallel. See the exact location on Google Maps.

Annual competition:

Since 2004 there has been an annual surf competition at this wave. It usually takes place on the last Saturday in July. In 2008 the date will be Saturday, July 26.

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Wittelsbacherbrücke

This is a wave that forms on the river Isar just downstream of the Wittelsbacherbrücke bridge in Isarvorstadt. This is just next to Zoozies cafe bar. See the exact location on Google Maps. The wave only appears during very high water, i.e. after lots and lots of rain. Usually it can't be surfed immediately because of all the junk that gets washed down with the floods. Surfing is only safe a few days after high water comes. The wave is only surfable for a few days a year (exact number not known).

Tube6 - Artificial surf wave construction plans:

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In July 2005 the local Munich news was full of reports of plans to build "the perfect wave" at Wittelsbacherbrücke. The idea behind tube6 was to tap the unused water sports potential of the Isar's inner-city stretch, in cooperation with the city, and to provide surfers in Munich with legal facilities approved by the city council. If the €300k to €400k in sponsorship money could have been raised, the artificial wave system would have been installed in 2006. The ramps will be mechanically controllable so as to always create the perfect wave despite the river's changing water levels. The wave would have been suitable for surfing and rodeo kayaking. Right is an artists impression of what the wave would look like. Sadly these plans have not yet come to fruition, nor does it look like they will do any time in the near future.

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Learning to surf in Munich

As far as we know, surfboards can't be hired in Munich. This is probably because surfboards are too easily damaged on the rocky rivers. Either that or there is simply not enough demand.

Surfboards can be bought at the following Munich stores:It is recommended that beginners buy a 5'11" Bicsurf board. These boards are shaped so as to be stable for beginners to learn on. Plus they are made of plastic and thus are more resilient to the inevitable damage from bouncing off rocks. They cost around €250.

Advanced surfers are recommended a 5'11'' E-Type Semi Fish from Buster Surfboards. This board was designed by Munich locals specifically for use on the Eisbach wave. They are made of light but delicate fibreglass and cost around €400.

In the height of summer some surfers wear little more than a pair of board shorts. Others, however, wear a wetsuit. A 3mm/2mm neoprene wetsuit is suitable for the warmer half of the year. During the winter a 5mm/3mm including hood is recommended. Wetsuits cost around €150 to €300 and can be bought at the same stores as the surfboards mentioned above.

Surfing courses are apparently offered by: surfersspirit.com

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Further info

Related links:Some of the best YouTube videos:
Gen
Looks great! My brother-in-law surfs on the Eisbach all the time. It's not as good as Hawaii, but hey. You can surf at night there too, it's not that much more difficult, and less crowded. It's always nice to see the people lining up nicely on either side of the wave and taking turns going in, very disciplined. Obviously, they're not old ladies with shopping carts in a hurry.
robbieinmunich
I heard they want to grill the Eisbach surf wave at night. Bring down a fence so nobody surfs from 10:30pm till 5am because of the dangers. Lack of light easy drowning.

I agree cause last year we were there and some of the surfies were stoned and not tometnion drunk and were surfing. One guy slipped in the wave.

That wasn't the drama but finding him further down stream was.

It's all fun and games but when you live close by like I do across the road parking will be more of a hassle, more rubbish left behind and so on. I can understand the locals getting grumpy about it but being Aussie this new artificial wave would be KOOL too!
Darkknight
Well if you look at the above post it say "adjustable wave structure" for the new wave at Wittelsbacherbrücke. If this is true then they could just adjust it to not form a wave during the night and a grate/fence wouldn't be needed. Also I'd think such a device would become a giant filter/screen for all the crap that floats down the river.
UrbanAngel
Who would have the control over the wave size? Power!
Tom17
I think I will have to continue my plans of building my own surfboard again in the spring. Been meaning to do it for a few years now, this artificial wave looks like it will be the ideal spot to try it out on.
one51
Next we need an artificial snowboard hill, complete with off-slope trees and powder. Or maybe I need to take up surfing for the summers.
Editor Bob
We already have an artificial snowboard hill. See the Munich Skiarena on the Fröttmaninger Berg.
nzer
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The annual Grossstadtsurfer Quiksilver Surf Competition is on this weekend if you're interested in checking out some surf action.

60 competitors will have a chance to win the title at the Quiksilver Munich Surf Open on July 22nd, 2006. This is the sixth event of its kind to determine Munich's best river surfer. The open competition, on the traditional location on the river near Thalkirchen, will once again be a magnet for international surfers and wave riders from Munich, as well as many interested spectators.

Have a look here: quicksilver surf comp for info in German. Or here: quicksilver surf comp for info in English.

It's next to the Thalkirchen camping ground, upstream from the zoo. Fun and chilled atmosphere guaranteed!

Cheers,
Chris
Tom17
I saw surfboards in that quicksilver shop yesterday. Fookin 500+ yoyos for a board! Thats silly. Anyone know where you can pick up old junkers for river surfing for like 50 euros? I have been wanting to try making my own for some time and may yet try that.
MoiLV
Are people allowed to boogie board on the waves? I don't know how to surf, but I'm a fantastic boogie boarder.
Bannockburn
Awsome man! This may even motivate me to get the Topolino kayak out the cellar.
madgibson
Yesterday while sitting in our work cafeteria we were kept amused by three guys who pulled up in their car on Erhardtstraße and cool as you like stripped off into their swimming gear and with surf boards under their arms proceeded to stroll across the road as if they were on some beach somewhere instead of on a main road next to the Isar! Maybe they were heading to this "tube"?! Anyhow it was good entertainment.
jacobsrr
Do you know if anyone offers surf lessons on the English Garden wave?
Tom17
Once I source a board, I'm just gonna go out and try to learn it the old fashioned way. Just do it, watch and learn.

I did ask the people there once about learning and they were not very forthcoming with info.
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