On a wave in Munich

Jamie – 29 October 2011

Munich’s not exactly known as a surfing Mecca.  By my reckoning it’s about 450 km to the nearest coast and even then we are not talking surf beach. Nevertheless people do surf here, and it is very exciting to watch.  It happens at the southern end of the English Garden, a 900 acre park in the centre of Munich. It is here that the Eisbach (a shallow and very fast man-made river) enters the park under a bridge, falls into a submersed trench, and rebounds up to create a wall of water that is perfect to surf. The perfect “standing wave” – good for as long as you can balance.

Surfing in the middle of Munich !

Surfers – clad in full body wetsuits – take it in turns to jump in from one of the two walls lining the river and “carve it up” from one side to the other while trying to incorporate as many tricks as they can.  In that sense it is more like water skiing than surfing. Occasionally a rider manages a 360 degree turn or a clear air leap and the 10 or so riders waiting their turn clap their boards in mutual appreciation.

Lining up to "drop in".

Foster and Mylo decided to score each rider with a mark out of 100.  Their scoring seemed to reflect “ride duration” and “size of stack” rather than degree of trick difficulty but it kept them completely engaged in the spectacle and added to the fun. The authorities seem to neither encourage nor prohibit the surfing.  There is a simple sign stating that persons who surf do so at their own risk and should be experienced surfers given the strength of the current.  The current is very strong and very fast.  A rider completes their ride by exiting the back of the wave – usually involuntarily – and then has to swim as hard as they can to one of the sides. Inevitably they finish up 30 to 50 metres downstream.  It doesn’t help that they have a six foot board strapped to their ankle.

Today we watched the surfers as part of a broader exploration of the English Gardens.  We hired bikes for four hours – Mylo and Sari rode tag-a-longs behind Bec and I while Foster rode his own bike. We seemed to be the only people in Munich wearing helmets but I insisted and no one argued. Foster was on a much bigger bike than he is used to but he was absolutely fine – one fall on some gravel but he picked himself up stoically, brushed himself down, and resumed his ride.  It was the perfect day for a bike ride – cool but very sunny.  The trees which filled the park had all turned their autumn colours and we seemed to be riding through a constant stream of nature’s confetti.

First stop was the nudist meadow, a part of the park in which nude relaxation is permitted. Note: we were observers not participants. Sadly (for the boys and I) it seems that men not woman are out at this time of year – so we moved on, quietly vowing to return in mid July one year when the best flowers are in bloom.

We rode on to one of the three beer gardens housed within the park – my kind of park (not that I was drinking – I was riding with one of my offspring in tow after all).  This was the “Chinese Tower Beer Garden” which includes a rather magnificent multi-level Chinese tower in which you can drink beer and eat pork and sauerkraut.  Today there was also an Oom-Pah-Pah band playing which we enjoyed for a while before riding onto a nearby lake.  Here we enjoyed a simple lunch and fed the swans, geese, ducks and surprisingly the odd sea-gull (who may have been there mistakenly on account of the surfers).

Lunchtime in the English Garden. The birds eat more than the children.

The children then voted that we return to watch some more surfing, which we did.  This time Foster and Mylo found a vantage point that was next to where the surfers were “dropping in” and offered a fantastic close up riverside view of the action. Better still there were no crowds of people to contend with.  The reason for this become apparent with the third rider who was particularly good at 180 degree turns two feet from the river’s edge. Foster, Mylo and poor Bec (who had gone to caution them against getting too close) were on the receiving end of a torrent of water which drenched them from head to toe. Foster and Mylo of course thought this was fantastic (until they realized there were no replacement clothes anywhere nearby). Bec was less than impressed but took at all very well in the circumstances.

That ended our bike ride but we still considered it a wonderful day.  The English Gardens are made to be ridden around – there are bike paths all through it, without fear of cars – and getting out for some outdoor exercise in such a picturesque setting was just what we all felt like. Foster, who has always been an avid cyclist, rated it one of his favourite days thus far.

We would definitely recommend a day spent riding around the English Gardens to other families visiting Munich. What could be better than an outing involving bikes, surfing, beer gardens, lush meadows, and the possibility of a nudey?

A cycling paradise. It will be a while before Sari can ride her own bike by the look of things.

The Chinese Tower Beer Garden.

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