Just past a bridge near the Haus der Kunst art museum, the river forms a standing wave about 1 metre high, which is a popular river surfing spot. The water is cold and shallow (sometimes only 40 cm deep), making it suitable only for experienced surfers and playboaters (whitewater kayakers). The wave is predominately used by surfers, and animosities of surfers towards kayakers (in general not uncommon) have occasionally been reported.
The wave has been surfed by river surfers since 1972, and surfing competitions have even been held. Due to the more recent development of playboating, kayakers have only more recently and so far not in great numbers started to surf the wave.
Surfing is now (2010) officially allowed. A new sign next to the wave warns that “Due to the forceful current, the wave is suitable for skilled and experienced surfers only”. In previous years there have been issues between the authorities, who threatened to demolish the wave, and a group of wave supporters who organized activities and a website to save the wave, including an online petition to leave the wave intact.
Being a standing wave it can be surfed for as long as one’s balance holds, and in busy times a queue of surfers forms on the bank. In the past surfers tied a leash to the bridge to hold onto, but a sign announces that this is both dangerous and forbidden.
The local surfers have forced the wave to break more cleanly, with increased height, by attaching ropes to the bridge which trail submerged planks, creating two large “U”-shapes. Such a shape makes the wave easier to surf for river surfers (playboating makes fewer demands of the wave shape).
Surfing The Eisbach, photos by Thomas Prior.