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River surfing

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Title: River surfing  
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Subject: Surfing, Surfing in Canada, Skimboarding, Eisbach (Isar), River surfing
Collection: River Surfing, Whitewater Sports
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

River surfing

Surfer on the Eisbach river, Englischer Garten, Munich, Germany.

River surfing is the sport of surfing either standing waves or tidal bores in rivers. Claims for its origins include a 1955 ride of 1.5 miles along the tidal bore of the River Severn.[1]

River surfing on standing waves has been documented as far back as the early-1970s in Munich, Germany, today offering the world's largest urban surfing spot.[2][3]


  • Standing waves 1
  • Europe 2
    • Germany 2.1
    • Austria 2.2
    • Norway 2.3
  • North America 3
  • New Zealand 4
  • Tidal bores 5
    • Severn bore 5.1
    • Pororoca bore 5.2
    • Petitcodiac bore 5.3
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Standing waves

In this type of river surfing, the wave is stationary on the river, caused by a high volume of water constricted by flowing over a rock and creating a wave behind. It is a form of hydraulic jump.[4] A river surfer can face up-stream and catch this wave and have the feeling of traveling fast over water while not actually moving.


Surfing a standing wave on the Eisbach.


Despite being many hundreds of kilometres from the nearest ocean, Munich has a reputation as a surfing hotspot,[5] offering one of Europe's best waves.[2] The Bavarian capital is the birthplace of river surfing.[6] The city has been the center of surfboard riding on a stationary wave since the early-1970s.[2][3] Up to 100 surfers daily hit the waves in the city's Englischer Garten, the largest urban park in the world. There, in the Eisbach river, the world’s best known river surf spot,[7] the Eisbach wave — literally “ice brook” — the flow velocity of the icy water is about 5 meters at a rate of 20 tons per second, and the temperature never gets above 15 degrees Celsius.[3] An annual surfing competition is held on the standing wave.[8] Additionally, there are further stationary waves that form on the river Isar just downstream of the Wittelsbacherbrücke bridge in Isarvorstadt, as well as on the canal that joins the Isar channel with the Floßlände. Munich has produced the best river surfers and was the first location that created a true surfing community around an inland river wave. The scene has around 1,000 active surfers, while 10,000 in Munich will have tried it at some point.[9]


On Austria's river Mur in Graz, river surfing is a regular on two waves built for surfing in 2001 and rebuilt in 2004 by KanuClub Graz.[10][11] Near Salzburg in the Alm Canal there is a custom built surf wave, the Almwelle.[12]


Norway has several river waves, amongst the most famous are Oslo are in the planning phase of building a potential, artificial river wave in their main city river Akerselva.[13]

North America

The Habitat 67 standing wave in the Lachine Rapids in Montreal, named for its location adjacent to the Habitat 67 housing complex, has become a popular destination for river surfing.[14][15] Corran Addison, an Olympic kayaker and three-time world freestyle kayak champion, was the first to surf the Habitat wave in 2002. His river-surfing school, Imagine Surfboards, has taught 3,500 students since 2005. A second Montreal river-surfing school, KSF, has hosted 1,500 students a year since 2003. From fewer than 10 original surfers, it is estimated that the current of participants numbers around 500.[16]

Pueblo, Colorado has also became a river surfing city. A kayak park was in built 2005 near downtown Pueblo and locals have been surfing features 3,4, and 7 ever since.

In the 2000s, transplanted ocean surfers began riding standing waves in a number of rivers in Alberta, Canada. Several shops in Calgary now stock boards specifically designed for river surfing.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming is known as the most famous river surfing community in the US. The wave known as Lunch Counter has been surfed every summer by a small core group for more than 20 years.[17]

Missoula, Montana has surfing on Brennan's Wave, a man made wave on the Clark Fork River.[18]

New Zealand

The world's first commercial river surfing operation was started by Jon Imhoof in 1989 . Trips are run on the Kawarau River near Queenstown. Bodyboards are used to run rapids and ride standing waves on the river.

Tidal bores

Tidal bores occur in relatively few locations worldwide, usually in areas with a large tidal range (typically more than 6 metres (20 ft) between high and low water), and where incoming tides are funnelled into a shallow, narrowing river via a broad bay.[19][20][21] Large bores can be particularly dangerous for shipping, but also present opportunities for river surfing.[19] The funnel-like shape not only increases the tidal range, but it can also decrease the duration of the flood tide, down to a point where the flood appears as a sudden increase in the water level. Note the tidal bore takes place during the flood tide and never during the ebb tide.

A tidal bore can create a powerful roar that combines the sounds caused by the turbulence in the bore front and whelps, entrained air bubbles in the bore roller, sediment erosion beneath the bore front and of the banks, scouring of shoals and bars, and impacts on obstacles.[22]

Tidal bores are being surfed along coastal rivers such as the pororoca on the Amazon River or England's River Severn.[23][24]

Severn bore

Surfers on the Severn bore

Surfing the Severn Bore has become a competitive sport with dozens of surfers vying to record the longest ride. The tidal surge also attracts canoeists and windsurfers. The present champion surfer is Dave Lawson from Hempsted, Gloucestershire, who has covered 5.7 miles on a surfboard. His record-breaking surf took more than 35 minutes and was logged by an official adjudicator from the British Surfing Association.[25]

Pororoca bore

The pororoca is a tidal bore, with waves up to 4 metres high that travel as much as 13 km inland upstream the Amazon River.

Petitcodiac bore

The Petitcodiac River tidal bores—retrograde waves moving upstream over downstream waves—occur twice a day and come from the world's highest tides in the Bay of Fundy.

The North American record for surfing a single river wave was set by JJ Wessels and Colin Whitbread of California, who rode the Petitcodiac River's tidal bore for 29 kilometres on July 24, 2013.

See also


  1. ^ "The place, the River Severn - the birth place of bore surfing."
  2. ^ a b c Noah Lederman. "SURFING IN MUNICH".  
  3. ^ a b c Anja Seiler (5 September 2009). "Surfers hit the waves in Munich's first summer of legal river surfing".  
  4. ^  
  5. ^
  6. ^ David Whitley (23 May 2013). "Riding the wave of change on Munich’s Eisbach".  
  7. ^ RB team (27 March 2013). "Eisbach". riverbreak - The International River Surf Magazine. Retrieved 6 February 2014. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ David Whitley (23 May 2013). "Riding the wave of change on Munich’s Eisbach".  
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Woodley, Matthew (Jun 9–15, 2005). "Surf’s up St. Lawrence". Montreal Mirror. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  15. ^ Lamey, Mary. "Everybody's gone surfin' on the St. Lawrence River". Montreal Gazette (Canwest). Retrieved 2009-07-11. 
  16. ^ Hufman, Jesse (July 10, 2009). "Surfing a River When the Wave Doesn’t Move". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  17. ^ Jackson Hole News - July 12, 2006
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b  
  20. ^ Koch, C. and  
  21. ^ Koch, C. and  
  22. ^  
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Severn Bore surfer breaks record". BBC News. 2006-04-11. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 

External links

  • Riverbreak - The River Surf Magazine
  • - A global organization for River Surfers by River Surfers
  • Standings wave in the Eisbach in Munich, Germany
  • Red Cedar River Surfing on YouTube
  • Eisbach NEWS and interviews with the Munich river surfing community
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