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The story of the wave

It’s midnight, you’re in the middle of a city; surf's up!

It’s an odd feeling when you happen upon the Eisbach in Munich for the first time. Above the evening hustle of the city you suddenly hear this incredible rush of water, you see folk hanging out, looking out over the bridge and you’re drawn towards it. You peer over the edge and there they are, surfers.

Munich, in Germany, has been the home of river surfing since 1972 when Arthur Pauli first surfed on the Floßlände. While there are a few surf spots in Munich, it’s the Eisbach (German for “ice brook”) which attracts surfers everyday mesmerizes onlookers from all around the world. It’s why we’re here to tell our latest ‘Come And See’ story, City Surfers.

This 2 kilometre river, split off from the Isar, flows through Munich’s biggest park, the Englischer Garten. This perpetual wave was created by precisely sinking concrete blocks on the riverbed. A makeshift plank and rope system also allows the surfers to actually shape the wave. As Alex, one of our surfers says, “Well the difference between surfing in the ocean and the river is that, in the ocean the river pushes you and on the river, the wave pulls you so the distribution of your weight on the board is different”. Sound dangerous? Well it is. This is no place for novice surfers, in fact up until 2010 it was illegal to surf the Eisbach and the wave was threatened with demolition until the local community petitioned to save it.

The community here is close-knit and it's plain to see that those who surf the wave are fiercely passionate about protecting it. Newbies aren’t tolerated until they have proven themselves on a smaller wave a few hundred metres downstream. Karina, another of our surfers describes the scene as: “If you’re in you’re in, but to get in is very hard”.

It’s amazing to observe the unspoken politics of the Eisbach; the democratic, orderly queuing of the surfers, the silent tension of competition which is only broken when acknowledging a good run with the thumping of their boards. Though each surfer stands alone on the wave they ride over and over again, they are never-the-less connected by it.

Explore our City Surfer interactive experience here.