Costa Rican local and Germany based Brandwave Account Executive, Claudia Schulz trades in her bikini for a 5mm wetsuit to get a taste of the Munich surfing scene. Six months out of the water is enough to make any surfer go stir crazy. Claudia, accustomed to the warm waters and perfectly formed Costa Rican and Peruvian waves, decides to bite the bullet and try her luck with the unique river waves of Germany. Read on to find out about Claudia’s experience.
When you are learning to surf in a bikini and you’re used to tropical water temperatures of 20 degrees, the ocean is a warm, salty and an enjoyable surf environment. Now in Munich, the heart of German surf culture, the conditions couldn’t be more different but the winter is over and I was ready to attempt river surfing. For the past few weeks I have tried 3 waves: the E2, the Floßlände and the infamous The Eisbach wave located in the heart of Munich. All are distinctly unique in the way they are built and how you enter to ride the wave. I decided to go first to Eisbach wave and then try the others, knowingly choosing the most challenging one first.
Funnily enough, river surfing was not the only new experience, I had also never used a wetsuit before. Thanks to our friends at O’Neill, a 5”4 TB2 wetsuit landed in my hands and I was fully equipped. The thought of squeezing into a non-zipping, neck-entry wetsuit was slightly overwhelming. Once over my waist, I wasn’t sure how to continue without having the sensation of the world closing in on me; a truly alien feeling when accustomed to slipping on a bikini for a surf session. Once actually on, the scary sensation passed, it felt more like a second skin. Truly comfortable, not at all like I had previously imagined. I had bought a secondhand 5”4 Manual Surfboard river board, almost untouched, and was itching to get in the water.
My first river wave experience at the Eisbach wave was at sunrise. I arrived with not a single surfer in sight. I waited 10mins and two fellow surfers appeared and agreed to show me how to get into the Eisbach. Slightly intimidated by the speed of the water moving, I placed my board in. Being completely honest, I was scared to get in. I got a helping hand to place my board into the water and then proceeded in getting a few beautiful wipeouts into the water.
After the 5th time of trying, I managed to stand on the board and stay on. After the adrenaline wore down, I noticed my first rookie mistake in wetsuit gear, the gloves. I hadn’t placed them underneath the wetsuit, which meant all the warmth I had collected was being filled with water, I adjusted slightly and continued. I felt like a duck in the water with the outfit. After an hour I was physically exhausted so I came out. I had brought a change of clothes expecting to freeze throughout the session, but I had clearly underestimated the neoprene and fabrics of this wetsuit. I threw a jumper over the suit and rode my bike back home.
The weekend after, I attempted the E2 wave, less dangerous than the Eisbach but by no means less powerful. Already mentally prepared for the cold, I jumped in and swam to other side, following the instructions of a nice Munich Surfer. On this wave you have to jump in with your board and somehow find your balance on the wave. Finding this tricky, I took to boogying into the wave, until I could find the right speed of the wave to get up. The rush of standing up was incredible but the wipeouts far more gruesome than the Eisbach. In Eisbach, being goofy footed (right foot first), I would fall in and paddle to side of the river Eddy and walk out of the wave. On the E2, I felt like a seal rolling around on the ice, but rather rolling into the edges of the riverbank. A one hour of tricky exists left me bruised and battered but I enjoyed every minute of it.
Lastly, I gave Floßlände a try. An artificial wave south of the Tierpark, hidden in the trees but unhidden to local surfers. Starting in the month of May, the wave clocks in at 2pm and lasts until 7pm. I arrived on time and there was already an apprehensive crowd watching the whitewash, waiting for the wave to fully take form.
At first, the wave was unusual to get into. Upon instruction, I placed by board in and found my balance on my feet before letting go and trusting my entire body weight on the board. Eventually getting the hang of it, I was able to move along the wave and began gliding across. The exist was by far the easiest, no fighting against the current just walking around and out. Using less energy fighting currents allowed me to last until 6pm before my body wore out.
Any ocean surfer understands the importance of reading the wave and timing. However, my experience with ocean surfing only helped with the familiar sensation on the board. I began to understand that river surfing is entirely different; it is its own style and technique. River waves are constantly changing as a result to water level and the speed at which the water is moving underneath you.