You’re going to want to pack your surfboard for your next trip to southern Germany. The Bavarian capital of Munich — best known for Oktoberfest, schnitzel, and historic museums — has added a new attraction to its roster, one more commonly found in Southern California or Hawaii. Yes, Munich is landlocked, and yes, it’s far closer to the ski resorts of the Austrian Alps than to any famous surf break. The undercover local pastime of surfing is slowly coming to the forefront, though, thanks to a German developer of artificial ocean waves. Citywave, a company founded by former professional skiers and action-sport-simulation facility developers, created the most lifelike man-made wave yet. Since 2011, Citywave has also hosted an increasingly popular surfing competition called Surf & Style.
The story gets even more unusual due to the competition’s unique location. While most artificial waves are found in amusement parks and malls, Citywave established its competition in the unlikeliest of places: the Munich Airport. Each fall, top surfers from across the globe congregate in the airport terminal’s MAC Forum to test their skills on this 33-foot-wide standing wave. Grandstands are set up around the event, which now happens around the same time as Oktoberfest. In addition, pro surfers provide training programs and lessons, and young rippers can take part in the facility’s kids camp.
Despite its odd placement, the rise of Surf & Style in Munich isn’t as random as it might seem. Surfing is actually quite popular in the city — albeit river surfing. The airport’s man-made wave is built to resemble the permanent wave in the city’s Eisbach river, which has cultivated an impassioned following of local diehards. But due to its unique location and the annual competition held there, Munich Airport’s Citywave draws far more international coverage than the natural river wave that inspired it.