Munich, Germany — the heart of Bavaria — is hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean surf break. Yet, even here, surfers find a way to quench their need for waves.

They ride a standing wave on the Eisbach, a man-made river that runs through Munich’s Englischer Garten, one of the world’s largest urban parks. The Eisbach, or “ice brook,” is just over a mile long, fast-moving, and cold. Surfers first discovered the Eisbach wave in 1972. Surfing it is dangerous and, for nearly 40 years, it was also illegal.

Neoprene-clad surfers running through the Englischer Garten with policemen in hot pursuit were a common sight. Surfers often had to pick up their boards from the police station. In 2010, the city bought the land around the wave and, after petitions from surfers, legalized the sport.

The Eisbach has two rideable waves, the Eisbach E1 and Eisbach E2. The more famous one, the E1, is accessible only to expert surfers. The wave is only about 3-foot tall, but the river is narrow, rapid, and very shallow – sometimes only 16-inch deep. The second wave, E2, is downstream, where the river is wider. The water moves more slowly there, creating a wave more suited to beginners.

In sunshine or snowfall, surfers line up on the banks of the river, awaiting their turn on the Eisbachwelle, or Eisbach wave. Competitions are even held on the Eisbachwelle, considered one of the best river waves on earth. Many of the most famous surfers in the world, from Kelly Slater to Mick Fanning, have come inland to carve up its yard-high face.

How to get there

The Eisbach E1 wave is located at the south end of the Englischer Garten, in the center of Munich, Germany. It’s next to the modern art museum, by the Prinzregentenstraße and Bruderstraße crossing. Eisbach E2 is just a couple hundred meters further north into the park, at the Dianabadschwelle.

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