Early morning on the Eisbach (“ice brook”), a man-made waterway that cuts through Munich’s Englischer Garten with a surfable rapid that was created by accident: concrete blocks sunk by engineers to slow the waters created a kind of perpetual break. “It’s my happy place, being on the board,” says engineer Marian Heimann (pictured), who’s surfed the Eisbachwelle for 18 years. “It’s so linked to nature. Summer can have a totally different wave to winter, it all depends on rainfall.”
Surfers queue along the river banks during the busy pre-work period; only one surfer can ride the wave at a time and there’s a well-established running order to make sure everybody gets their turn.
Former snowboard pro turned marketer Sebastian “Basti” Kuhn has been coming to Munich to surf for the past decade. “It’s an awesome place to leave our hectic daily routine behind,” he reflects.
Kuhn uses the steeper part of the wave to do a “Backside Ollie“ trick. “It’s not like the ocean when you have to wait for the right wave to come in,” he explains, “you can keep on trying different moves until you’re too tired.“
The new wave
Long-time surfers say more kids – known as “groms” – are getting into the sport. In fact, “The groms are taking over!” laughs Heimann.
Although the surf crowd is diversifying, Kuhn warns, “This is not a beginner’s wave – you need experience to know how to handle it.”
Points of view
Surfers draw large crowds year-round to the leafy river banks and the bridge, with long rounds of applause for the surfers’ best tricks.
Despite it being illegal until 2010, Germans have been riding the wave since the 1970s. Now, surfers come from around the world.
Kuhn calls it day and heads for a cold beer at the park’s post-surf hang-out, Goldene Bar. Others will keep surfing after dark, he says: “Local surf crews like the famous FUS-Crew show up at night-time, hang lamps on the bridge and have the wave to themselves.”
Surf instructor Stephanie Pirron fights the current. A group of surfers have finessed the wave, adding a system of long underwater planks secured by chains drilled into the Eisbach’s concrete walls to channel it into two smoother, U-shaped waves. Without this, it would be wild white water, much harder to surf.
A pair of surfers share a joke while awaiting the next free spot. For many, the endless break of the Eisbachwelle is a chance to meet like-minded people