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Surfing in Munich

Updated on March 7, 2012

Surfing in Munich?

If you happen to be heading down Prinzregenten Straße towards downtown Munich you will notice, just before you pass the New Museum of Modern Art, a small crowd has gathered on a bridge. You might be surprised to discover that what they are watching, just below, are some of Munich’s most daring surfers.

The main river that runs through Munich is the Isar and it has many off-shoots. One of them, called the Eisbach, which literally means icy brook and gets its name from the frigid temperatures of the water, is where you are always bound to spot a few people trying out their talent as a surfer. You won’t find any Hawaii 5-0 waves here, but where the river shoots out of the tunnel the current is especially strong and creates the perfect conditions needed to “ride a board.” The width of the Eisbach is only about 3 meters, so there is only room for one surfer at a time. The others wait patiently on the sidelines for a wipeout. As soon as that happens the next one up throws his board in the water and jumps on top.

The surfers always wear full body wet suits except in the absolute warmest of weather (the day I took these pictures the temperature was in the mid 90's). Believe it or not, almost all year round you will find someone to watch on the Eisbach. Although the water isn’t deep, it probably only comes up to a grown man’s waist, the sport is still very dangerous. The Eisbach is man-made so it doesn’t have any soft and muddy banks to crash into. It is lined by pure concrete—not necessarily the best combination for a fall at high speeds. In spite of this, serious accidents seem to be a rarity.

About a hundred meters or so down from the surfers is a beautiful artificial damn, complete with a mini waterfall and rock formations. The current here is reduced to a slow pull and in warm weather you will find a lot of swimmers. Although, the term swimming is used very loosely—dipping is more like it. At the bottom of the falls the shallow water rushes with such intensity that it is possible to “water-ski” barefoot for a ways. Unsurprisingly, this is an especially popular spot with the pre-teen set.

One brave man surfing on the Eisbach an offshoot of the Isar
One brave man surfing on the Eisbach an offshoot of the Isar

The river continues into the English Garden, (but don’t let the quaint name fool you. This is no little backyard flower patch. The English Garden is actually the largest city park in the world and extends for miles from one end of Munich to the other. It gets its name for the layout which is English style or “tamed wild.”) At this point, the river divides two popular sunbathing sections. You will know which side you are on by the amount of – or lack of- clothing that the sun worshipers are wearing. The side closest to downtown is FKK or Frei Korper Kultur, which is for the nudists and the other side is for everyone else. But don’t worry, the rules are not so strict, so if you happen to wander into the wrong area no one is going to scream at you to get dressed (or visa-versa).

If you happen to get hungry while enjoying the water sports, Gino parks his ice-cream cart right between the waterfall and sunbathing sections. He’s got some of the best hazelnut ice-cream in the city.

Article by Anne Alexander Sieder

Marc's Munich


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    • LetitiaFT profile image

      LetitiaFT 5 years ago from Paris via California

      Hilarious! I'm sharing for all my surfer friends back home in California.

    • scottrights profile image

      scottrights 5 years ago from San Diego

      I've been there and watched! Amazing. I heard they didn't let Kelly Slater get in there. So the "local" problems in surfing can be found anywhere.

    • Lalulinho profile image

      Lalulinho 6 years ago

      Gruess Gott, edelhaus! Thanks for this Hub, I love it. I worked in Munich for some time a couple of years ago--it was quite something to watch the surfers there. I never understood--is there some sort of tarp or cable that they put in the river to create the "dent" in the water that allows them to surf?

      They are all pretty good surfers as well--they are all on short boards (I can barely stand on a long board).

      Also re: the FKK area in the English Garden. A German friend of mine (NOT from Munich) told me to go there because, and I quote, "really, dude, you'll see naked chicks!" I was skeptical given that whenever public nudity is involved, it almost always involves 70 year old men. Still, because he insisted, I went. I was, unfortunately, right.

      Anyway, you're lucky to live in Munich, it's a lovely city.

    • edelhaus profile image

      edelhaus 7 years ago from Munich, Germany

      I know - that's what I thought but its true! I saw them standing on the bridge (watching the surfers below) just today as I drove by and it was only 6 degrees Celsius - brrrrrrr!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 7 years ago

      ...Surfin' in Munich - somehow these words don't seem to go together - lol lol - I guess you could say that Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys missed out on this one all those years ago - lol

      ...but the world, as they say, is a very small place, when we appreciate each other's differences (cultural and otherwise) and it takes someone special like you to come up with this fascinating hub subject that truly makes you a 'renaisssance woman' .......