PROTECTED: The Munich surfer in the waves
SURFING MUNICH: One of the oddest memories people take away from Munich is from watching surfers ride the swells in the Englischer Garten park.
here is wearing a helmet. Not many others do.
They jump in, manage a few turns back and forth, might get in a trick or two and are then dumped into the water, left to pull themselves out a little further downstream.
It’s fantastic to watch and there’s usually a healthy crowd of onlookers marvelling at the sheer quirkiness of it all.
But how did it start? Is it safe? And how cold is that water, exactly? Let's take a look.
How it started
The story goes that American soldiers stationed at the former barracks nearby (now the Haus der Kunst) first tried surfing Munich's wave after missing the board-bound action back home.
The wave, which breaks 1m high, was created in 1972 after authorities added submerged concrete blocks under the bridge to break up the current.
If you look below the bridge you'll see a couple of ropes with submerged planks trailing through the water - they were added by the surfers to bolster the height and shape of the wave.
The temperature of the water ranges from a chilly 8C (46F) in October to a frigid 4C (39F) in April and down to 1C (34F) in the depths of winter.
Nonetheless, surfers don wetsuits and keep at it throughout most of the year.
WIPEOUT: A surfer cutting the breaker in Munich's Englischer Garten.
Surfing Munich. Is it for you?
UNDER THE BRIDGE: At the base of the bridge you can
see the ropes the surfers installed to improve the wave.
If you’re crazy enough to be travelling through Europe with your surfboard give it a go by all means.
But take heed, it's recommended just for experienced riders.
It’s a tough wave to ride and the stream is shallow in parts, and your insurer probably won’t cover you if you bang your head on the bottom and end up in hospital. No-one’s ever died there, though.
Be polite, too, if you don’t want to piss off the locals. The wave’s only wide enough for one rider at a time so you’ll have to line up and wait for a bit.
The surfing was officially forbidden but ignored by the police until 2010. It's now legal, and a new sign next to the wave warns : "Due to the forceful current, the wave is suitable for skilled and experienced surfers only".
Opposition to surfing Munich
Surfers are now fighting a new push to destroy the wave after an Australian tourist drowned in the stream in 2007 (although he was no where near the surfing area).
The surfers also have to contend with an increasing band of “playboaters” – guys in small kayaks – who want to share the wave.
SURFING MUNICH WITH STYLE: Posters from the 2008 and 2009 Munich Surf Open events.
Believe it or not, this isn’t the only place to surf in Munich. A second standing wave forms down at the Floßlände, near the Flaucher beer garden
in Thalkirchen in Munich’s south.
It’s wide enough to take a few surfers at a time and is a better bet for board-beginners wanting to get their feet wet in Munich.
It’s a much more chilled-out setting with fewer spectators, but the wave here only typically only breaks from April to September when the Alpine snow melts pumping extra water into Bavaria’s river system.
Riding the standing waves of Munich’s waterways has become such a cult pastime that it’s even spawned an annual surf-off, The Munich Surf Open
It’s been running for about 10 years, not in the Englischer Garten, but at the Floßlände in Thalkirchen.
Organisers claim it’s not only Germany’s biggest surf event, but the world’s most famous freshwater surf festival – nice claims to fame but when you think about it, there can’t be too many others out there.
The comp attracts Germany’s best surfers as well as wave riders from across Europe and the USA. There are Open, Women’s and Juniors’ competitions and you can register at www.grossstadtsurfer.de.
Directions and map
View Munich surfing in a
Here's a map showing the locations of the two surfing spots in Munich.
The nearest U-Bahn station to the Eisbach is Lehel. You can also get Tram No. 17 (Direction Effnerplatz) and get off at Paradies Strasse.
If you're going to Thalkirchen, your best bet is to get take the subway - get the U3 (Directon Fürstenried) to the stop Brudermühl Strasse.
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