Some six-hundred miles from the ocean in Munich, Germany is a thriving surf scene. In the heart of the Englischer Garten, Munich’s equivalent of Central Park, lies the catalyst for southern German surf culture. First recognized for its wave potential in the 1970’s and ridden using ropes attached to the overlooking bridge on makeshift boards, the Eisbach or “Ice Brook” is yet another example of municipal engineering accidentally creating a rideable wave. While the wave is no Superbank, for the locals who call the Eisbach home, it is a liquid skatepark. The wave is created by the downstream flow of the Isar river, which funnels down into the Englischer Garten where it encounters the two submerged u-shaped pieces of plywood which have been added to steepen the wave and a series of boulders added to slow the river down.
The riding the wave is completely counterintuitive. River surfing is nothing like ocean surfing. The fundamental difference is the direction of water flow. In the ocean, swell is coming in towards the coast, pushing in towards the beach. In river surfing the energy of the wave flows in the opposite direction, pushing out the back of the wave down river. With the water flow pushing out the back of the wave there is no real lip to hit and bottom turns aren’t really functional. High lines get you sucked out the back and shuttled quickly down river, past the eyes and cameras of tourist spectators. While soul carves are still respected, the choice maneuvers are generally quick sprays soaking tourists and various airs.
The locals have developed boards specifically fine-tuned for the unique demands of river surfing. Young shapers, who have grown up surfing the Eisbach, like Heiko Pfisterer of PT Surfboards, have recognized the major differences between river and ocean waves and shape boards specifically for the Eisbach. Eisbach boards are minimal with less area in the nose (since you’re not paddling), thinner rails, and much less fin area. Although fin setups vary, quads with two very small back fins, and thrusters with a super small rear fins are most popular. These configurations help loosen up the board allowing for tight arcs and slides.
The Eisbach has a devoted crew of locals riding this perpetual wave. It has become a hotbed of German surf culture and progression, which has brought a new era of local surfers and shapers who are redefining what it means to be a surfer living in a landlocked place. For Munich locals, the Eisbach is the place to escape the everyday urban rat race surf and a training platform for surf trips all over the world.