Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Yes, you can surf in Munich

It seems there is not much that you can't do in and around the Bavarian capital. Not only are there beaches right in the middle of the Alps - you can even surf one of Europe's best waves on Munich's man-made Eisbach river.

I encountered this famous surf spot by chance during a stroll through the English Garden, a large park in the centre of the city. Time spent in the garden always feels like a bit of a holiday, with all kinds of bands and festivities going on, yet it is still big enough to find some peace, quiet and lots of fresh air.. Next to the bridge that crosses the Eisbach at the Haus der Kunst, there is a man-made standing wave - about a metre high - where experienced surfers keep going as long as their balance hold. Apparently this is trickier than it looks.

The Eisbach surf wave is not the only surf spot in Munich either. At first I thought it was a joke when I heard that Munich is a bit of a surfing hotspot - but indeed the river surfing opportunities draw surfers from far and wide to try something more than just a little different.

At the Wittelsbacherbrücke on the Isar River there is another very advanced river surfing hotspot. It is close to one of my favourite cafes, Zoozie's. The river wave here is natural and only suitable for surfing after heavy rain. However when the conditions are right it is a very popular spot for Munich's surfers.

Not that surfing is generally the safest sport on earth - but river surfing in Munich can be exceptionally dangerous because of the shallow water and the rocky river. In fact, surfing in the city was forbidden for this reason until the summer of 2010. Since then the famous urban waves have added another feather in Munich's tourist hat, both for the surfers and the spectators.

There is another smaller wave close to the Thalkirchen where it is possible for beginners to learn the tricks of river surfing, although it is not exactly encouraged. At the same time it is possible at a push find surf board for hire in the city - but they do charge for damages and the boards often break on the rocks. It depends on how badly you want the experience, I guess.

Somehow, having the surfers running around in their flip-flops and wetsuits make me feel even more at home in the city - and while the imminent danger of the rocky shallow water adds to the adrenalin rush, surely surfing with sharks in Cape Town takes a bigger daredevil!

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