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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
- Sport Schuster near Marienplatz
- Santoloco in the city center
- Planet Sports near Harras
- Online from Buster Surfboards (a Munich-based company)
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
- Current water temperatures for the Isar at Munich (temps the last year)
- Current water levels in the Eisbach
- The online home of Munich surfers: Grossstadtsurfer 2000 e.V.
- Facebook groups: Save the Eisbach Wave and 1st Munich Surfers
- Similar activity on the Eisbach: Bungee river surfing
- Keep Surfing documentary trailer from pipelinepictures
- Promo for O'Neill surf gear
- Cool home made video - the song is "Lazy Eye" by Silversun Pickups
- Surfing the Eisbach naked - pretty funny
- Surfing the Eisbach in minus 7'C temperatures - madness
- Jack Johnson surfs the Eisbach - famous surfer and musician from Hawaii