Have no fear if you are landlocked and the sea feels like it’s a million miles away, there might be a river wave nearby that will satisfy your surfing needs! Nowadays, surfing is becoming more accessible. Gone are the days when it is only for those fortunate enough to be living on the coast. With the recent advent of wavepools, and even more accessible surf holidays, the rest of us still have a chance!
However, for those who are in search of a real, genuine, surf adventure, behold the ‘river wave’! This is a relatively new pursuit within the last 20 years, and it is quickly gaining steam.
Below are 5 of the best river waves in the world!
Eisbach River – Munich, Germany
The Eisbach Wave is undoubtedly the world’s most well-known river wave. The standing wave is found in the centre of Munich at the English Garden. This wave has been surfed since 1972 and is regularly ridden by up to 100 people daily. Despite this, it has only been legal to surf here since 1972. It is a dangerous spot, and definitely not one for beginners.
Multiple signs alert inexperienced river surfers not to get in – there are rocks, extremely strong currents and very small space. This combination makes it pretty hazardous! Even for experienced ocean surfers there are new skills required to surf the Eisbach. There is no time to get in the water and wait for the wave to approach, surfers jump directly onto the wave.
The Eisbach wave is open year-round and gets pretty darn cold! Fortunately for surfers they don’t have time waiting in the water or paddling!
Thun River – Thun, Switzerland
Thun, much like the Eisbach, requires a certain level of skill. The wave breaks right in front of a stunning bridge. Sometimes surfers will need to use a rope to get beyond the break of the powerful stream. The fantastic thing about this spot is that minutes after surfing the wave you can find yourself watching others in nearby coffee shop with a delicious Swiss hot chocolate to warm you up!
Zambezi River – Livingstone, Zambia
Unlike other waves, where surfers can head down pretty much all year round, the wave on the Zambezi river only forms twice a year – in January and July! This makes Zambezi a pretty exclusive surf spot! The wave here is probably the only wave in Africa where you have the chance of being barreled! This is a rare natural phenomenon, and definitely one worth seeing!
Severn River – Gloucester, England
The Severn River is home to the second largest tidal bore in the world. Gloucester is miles away from the coast, however it often hosts a number of avid surfers due to its incredible tidal bore. This amazing natural phenomenon sees tidal surges create massive waves along the Severn estuary. The marvel occurs due to the enormous tidal range of the Severn River. Tides coming in from the Atlantic travel into the Bristol Channel and all the way up the Severn creating a tidal bore. At high tide, with even more water coming in, this causes waves that can go on for miles. The longest wave ever surfed on the estuary was by Steve King, in 2006 who rode the bore for 9.25 miles. For further information on when surf is up, check the bore timetable.
Urumea River, San Sebastian, Spain
The Urumea River runs through the heart of San Sebastian in the Basque Country and delivers kilometer long waves in the right conditions! In order for the waves to reach a surfable size, huge waves need to make it up the river. Your best bet for huge waves will usually be in the aftermath of big winter storms in the North Atlantic. Due to the fact that the wave is right in the centre of San Sebastian surfers can enjoy the ride throughout the night, the wave is illuminated by all of the city lights. Surfers must be careful to wait for low tide, as if there is too much water it can be quite a dangerous spot.
River surfing is a great alternative to ocean waves, and a fantastic option for surfers who live inland. But be aware, river surfing can be very dangerous. These waves often break in very shallow waters with rocky bottoms. Always wear a helmet, and never go alone. If you plan on checking out some river waves, be sure to chat with the local riders and community before jumping in!