Surfing Comes To the Streets of Munich

Officials may legalize surfing on Munich's canal - a major tourist attraction.

ByABC News
June 25, 2009, 10:36 AM

25 June, 2009— -- Two cyclists in shorts and flip-flops weave their way through the rush-hour traffic along Prinzregenten Street in Munich, with surfboards under their arms. A woman in a convertible whistles at them. At the same time, a group of surfers makes its way across the Hofgarten behind the Bavarian governor's office, and more young surfers are just emerging from the Lehel subway station, one already wearing a wetsuit.

It's 9 a.m. and the temperature in downtown Munich is about 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit). The sky is a brilliant blue. "It's a perfect day," comments the man in the wetsuit, who is walking barefoot.

Germany has coastline along both the North and Baltic Seas, and yet its best surfing is found in southern, landlocked Munich. The Eisbach, a small canal, flows through the city's famous English Garden (Englischen Garten), directly behind the Haus der Kunst art museum. Just beyond the Himmelreich Bridge, the canal surges over a bulge in the streambed, creating a standing wave a good meter (three feet) high.

On warm days, surfers from all over the city make their way to the Eisbach. They jump onto their boards from the concrete bank of the canal and the Eisbach's flow rate -- about one meter per second -- provides enough boost to let the surfboards glide on the surface.

The Eisbach, of course, is missing many elements of traditional surfing -- paddling out into the ocean, quickly standing up, the thrust of an approaching breaker. Instead, this is known as river surfing.

A Booming Sport in Bavaria's Capital

Thanks to the Eisbach, surfing is a booming sport in the Bavarian capital. The city boasts surf shops, and local clubs host surfer parties. Weekends see up to 50 surfers waiting in line for their next turn along the banks of the Eisbach. Professional surfers from Hawaii and California have had a go on Munich's wave -- and most have failed to ride it particularly well. Those adept at the sport can keep their boards on the narrow chute of water for several minutes, flitting back and forth as they show off their tricks. A surfer who loses his or her balance is immediately swept away by the current, and has to get back in line again.