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.
The first surfers discovered the Eisbach in the 1970’s. Safety issues — whether the canal, with its rapid current, is too dangerous for the sport — has persisted for as long as people have surfed here. A small canal connect to the Isar River, the Eisbach can be treacherous. Three people drowned in the canal in 2007, and swimming is strictly forbidden throughout the English Garden.
But the temptation of Eisbach’s wave has always been enough to make even the most law-abiding surfer flout the rules — and the phenomenon has been a nuisance for the city government for years. Politicians in the past have called for a surfing ban, and one plan even suggested reworking the bed of the canal to eliminate the wave entirely.