Posted: Aug 17 2018
When you think of surfing you think of California and beaches, of surfer vans and long hair. You don't think of Munich, Germany. A city known for classic architecture, biking to different beer halls, and old town squares with markets and vendors. A city that is landlocked, its closest large bodies of water being the North and Baltic Seas on the other side of the country. A city that since 1972 has had its own surf culture that presently attracts about 100 surfers a day, and even more spectators, to its English Garden in the city center.
Here you'll find the Eisbach. A man made channel that creates a standing wave for river surfers to ride all year long. For almost 30 years it was illegal to get in the channel in the park and for almost 30 years a clandestine meet up of surfers would gather to ride the current, always having to keep one eye on the rushing water and one eye out for the cops. It was a constant back and forth over the years with authorities trying to bar people from surfing the river. At one point they even considered demolishing the channel to put the conflict to an end. A petition from the local surf community kept that from happening and finally in 2010 surfing was permitted. Now the Eisbach has different points of surf for beginners and experts alike. River surfing is different from the ocean because there is no paddling out and waiting for a wave to come in. River surfing starts as soon as they drop in on the board, keeping balance so that they are not immediately swept away. Once they pop up they have an 8 yd wide (on the expert end) space to rip through back and forth. The crowd that gathered on the bridge above cheers, the audience claps on the banks.
Near Austin, Texas a similar scene has developed. On Highway 71 is NLand Surf Park, the largest man-made surf lagoon in North America. The inland surf spot offers waves up to 6 feet high every two minutes for people to ride as well as classes for beginners and a restaurant and brewery for those that want to relax and watch. Tanker Surfing in the Houston ship channel is another form of alternative surfing where surfers ride the waves that big barges create while going in and out of the channel. It's roots could be traced back as far back as the late 60s but it didn't become a common knowledge practice until about 2001.
Doesn't matter if it's in the capitol of a German state, the Lone star state or a ship channel in the Gulf of Mexico, surfers find a way to surf despite being landlocked or miles away from more fair conditions. The places they go are different from the typical beach but the feeling is the same. They end up finding a wave.
Tanker surf photo: James Fulbright