The title of this has a lot of symbolism. For those older folk reading this blog, “the wave” is typically referred to as the plan to which a group may follow. For example, if I were with my friends and asked “what’s the wave” it would mean, “what is the plan”, or “what should we do.” After our two school trips, Graham and I didn’t really know where we wanted to go. One of the girls we met on our trips told us she was going to visit her sister in Munich, and that we should come with. It took about two seconds for me and Graham to look at each other, shrug, and say “why not?”. We booked the cheapest Airbnb we possibly could and made absolutely 0 plans before we got there. That’s called “riding the wave.” The other meaning refers to the following:
About a year ago, I watched a video series posted by Vans called “Weird Waves”, where they travel the world for surfable waves in all different types of water sources, from rivers to lakes, to inlets. One of these episodes was about the Eisbach, a river wave in Munich. Check it out if you have some time, it’s a really cool video and surf spot.
Anyway, this was the ONLY thing I cared about doing while in Munich. Yeah, most people go to the Hofbrauhaus brewery or try out a bratwurst. I would have easily traded in any of those things to ride this wave. After doing my research online, I read multiple places that you can’t rent wetsuits or surfboards in the city. This makes sense, I wouldn’t want some unskilled tourists coming into my city and monopolizing the only wave I can ride. I went on Instagram and looked up the location “Eisbach” and started messaging every single person that had posted a picture on the wave, one message in English and the same one translated in German. Not sure if Google was translating my message correctly but I figured if I got some Instagram DM in another language, I’d probably ignore it, so why not send both messages. I only needed one person to answer me with a solution.
An hour before getting on the train, I got that one response. A local surfer directed me to Santo Loco, the only surf shop that rents gear in the entire city, and it wasn’t even close to the wave. He gave me some tips, and I did more research. I eventually realized the one person who responded was the same guy from the Vans video, Tao Schirrmacher (@taotaoxx). That the same guy who presented the wave to me would be the same one who would directly help me surf it just made me so proud of the surf community. Surfers just really love sharing the stoke, and I had plennnnntyyyy of stoke to ride this wave.
One of the girls that came with us said she was from Florida, and she wanted to try as well. I figured why not, the more the merrier. We went to the surf shop and got our gear. They only had a 4/3 wetsuit, and they didn’t rent out booties, gloves, or hoodies. That would be fine for 55-60 °F water. I put on the wetsuit and they gave me a board they recommended, shorter than ocean boards and wider. It was about 5’6″ and foam. Once I made it upstairs and paid, the cashier let me know the water was 4°C. Are you kidding me? That’s 39.2 °F, easily the coldest water I’ve not only ever surfed in but by far the coldest water I’ve ever been in at all. Oh well, I was already in the wetsuit. Since Emily was a little less experienced, they told us of a smaller wave down the river, called the E2. We took the metro with a surfboard and our wetsuits on looking like absolute morons. I didn’t care. Once we arrived at this second wave titled “E2”, we were super disappointed. The wave was guarded by a fence and a bunch of signs. They had skulls, a surfer inside a red cross, and a poster that we translated to say surfing is no longer allowed. We debated on what to do. We were getting ready to leave when an older dude came up in a wetsuit and a longboard. Surprisingly, his English was really good, and he told us they put those things up for liability reasons, and to send it. Then he literally just jumped in the freezing water. For about five minutes this guy literally did yoga on the board while I was trying to squeeze into the rest of my wetsuit. I eventually got into it and hopped in. My feet were freezing before I got in. Here are my attempts:
- Listen to Graham’s commentary in the background
- The man gave me some pointers. I focused on dropping the board after building momentum. I still didn’t have enough momentum to stay on the wave.
3. I finally got enough momentum to make it down the face but the board just couldn’t support me on the wave. The water wasn’t flowing enough and didn’t create as large of a face to create enough pressure on the board.
4-6. More of the same. I just couldn’t sustain myself on the wave for long enough to get a good ride. At this point. I was freezing. I couldn’t feel my feet, and they were numb to the point of pain. So I hopped out and dried them off. I used the towel I brought from the Airbnb and when I pulled it off my feet it was bloody all over. I had cut my toe pretty badly and hadn’t felt it at all. I sat on the side a little disappointed and watched some other surfers come and do their thing, all with longboards. One guy was entering from the other side, so I decided to get back in and try again. I hopped back in.
7. This was my attempt from the other side. I had to stand on my board on the water and use the fence to hold my weight until I got to the wave, then use the wall to push off. Unfortunately, I still couldn’t stay on the wave.
8. They guy who had been pushing off from the other side called me over. With some help from our bilingual friend, he offered me to try his board. This was attempt 8. I did well, but just couldn’t get the hang of it. River surfing is very different from ocean surfing, mostly because water always comes from the same direction in reference to the surfboard. When in the ocean, if you are riding the side of the face of the wave, water goes under your board parallel to the board, but in the river, it always comes from perpendicular the wave. I just couldn’t get it right but it was a blast. The guy only gave me one attempt on his board when he saw my bloody foot.
Once we left, we walked by the original Eisbach. There were about 15 guys and girls standing on either side of the wave with full wetsuits and about 30 tourists taking pictures and videos of them. The youth in me wanted to give it a go, but I just knew it wasn’t a good idea. The first rule of surfing is to not doubt Mother Nature. She can really get you hurt, and I had to look at this situation disregarding the underdeveloped part of my brain responsible for risk management (this is true for everyone under the age of 25). A hurt foot, underprepared with gear, and already fatigued from the previous wave, it didn’t make sense.
To Tao for helping me find gear, to the local German surfers for giving me tips and letting me use their board, to Graham for peer pressuring me into the mindset “send it”, and to E2, thank you. To the Eisbach, don’t worry, I’ll be back and I’ll be ready.