Things you expect to see in Munich… Beer, Lederhosen, churches, Biergarten…. But, unless you’ve been clued in, you don’t expect to see surfing in Munich. Munich might be 300 miles from the nearest Ocean, but that doesn’t stop expert surfers from carving through the waves. It turns out, a man made wave in an arm of the Isar on the edge of the English Garden is the perfect place to hang ten.
Surfing in Munich
The Isar River flows from the Alps in Austria through Munich where it runs through the English Garden. In order to control the current and flow of the Isar through the Garden, the city created the Eisbach (Icy Creek) a man made offshoot that emerges from beneath a bridge on Prinzregentstrasse at the south end of the English Garden. Natural rapids formed where the water comes up, and to control them, engineers dropped in underwater ledges and block to slow the swift current. This slowed the water, but also formed a natural wave near the bridge that became known as the Eisbachwelle (Icy Creek Wave). Locals started adding bricks and boards to the water to make the wave more consistent, and today, the Eisenbach has a year round perpetual break.
Unlike massive and changing ocean waves, the Eisenbachwelle is only around 1 meter high, and 10 meters wide. But it’s ALWAYS there. And for the past 40 years, in the locals in Munich have been surfing it in a Bavarian twist on the Endless Summer, all year round.
Be aware, the Eisbach is well named. The water is COLD. Snow melting in the Alps doesn’t get much chance to warm up before arriving in Munich, so it’s usually between 50 and 62 degrees Fahrenheit in summertime. Most surfers wear wetsuits. And in Winter, when the snow on the ground keeps most people indoors, Eisbach surfers wear full body suits. Besides the cold, the water is unexpectedly fast and treacherous. Every year people drown in the Eisbach, or fall and hurt themselves on the obstacles underwater.
For this reason, surfing the Eisbachwelle is not for beginners. Only seasoned or professional surfers should brave the wave. And even if you feel “confident”, there is no place in Munich that will rent you a surfboard to test it out.
But you can still enjoy watching! You’ll find plenty of room under the trees on the banks of the man-made creek to sit and enjoy the show. Even better, the view from the bridge puts you right above the surfers!
In what almost looks like a choreographed dance, surfers stand in lines on ledges on either side of the creek. Only one surfer goes into the water at a time. Unlike ocean waves, you don’t paddle in and “catch” the wave, it’s more of a jump in and ride until you come off, then the next surfer takes their turn.
Take time out from Museums and Biergartens to enjoy the show!
(the Eisbachwelle is near the English Garden, the Haus der Kunst, and around the corner from the Residenz)
Floßlände in Thalkirchen
But the Eisbach isn’t the only surfspot in Munich. Upstream next to the Thalkirchen Campground you’ll find the Floßlände, the first wave ever to be surfed in Munich. This milder wave only exists from April to September when the snow melt is heaviest. And because it’s milder, the wave is more suitable for beginners. Rafts, canoes, and kayaks come through this creek, and surfers must make way, but there is plenty of room for all.
To keep up with the demand and popularity of surfing, in 2023, ANOTHER site for surfing in Munich will open to local surfers of all levels, the Hybrid One. THis retail and office site will surround a GIANT surf wave pool with endless waves for surf fans. See more about that here Hybrid One.
So, wax up your board, and get your Bavarian surfer slang ready. Who would have ever expected landlocked Munich to become a surfing Mecca?