AE-Foto nr. 117915A2: First Ride on the River Wake AE-Foto Nr. 1861: River Surfing Wake AE-Foto D216: Eisbach-Welle  AE-Foto Nr. AE990808a  
Arthur Pauli's first ride on a Munich wave 1972
Riversurfing "Wake"
Eisbach-Wave, Quirin Rohleder
artificial Wave


deutsche Version

River Surfing

2: Surfing a “Stationary“ Wave

How it all began:

In summer 1971 Michael Nath, a young man from Krailling, near Munich had experienced Arthur Pauli’s river surfing the Alz river and was so enthusiastic, that he immediately asked Arthur to shape him a surfboard. Together they tested the board at a spot in the Isar-rafting canal, which Mike had discovered. They called it "the upper wave". They surfed with their tow rope, but they also tried if the wave had enough power for free rides without it. Unfortunately the flow conditions were not ideal on that day. While Arthur Pauli left for Hawaii, Michael often returned to this spot for exercise, and some day in August oder September he stood his first ride without tow rope. They lost touch, so Arthur never heard of this successful ride until summer 2012, more than forty years later, when they happened to meet again in Munich.
On September 5, 1972, one year after Michaels first rides, the two Pauli-brothers took their surfboards on a trip to Munich. Their idea was to try the spot of 1971 again and search the rafting canal for more ridable waves. On that day the „Upper Wave“ was perfect, and under the bridge near the campground was another standing wave, which allowed the be surfed free standing, too. ("stationary wave" means here, that it remains approximately at the same place relative to the river banks.)
Both surfers had already known the power of waves created by underwater obstacles, since at their home spot the river Alz accelerates over increased slope. However these waves were constantly shifting position und height and often were too flat, so they could bei „caught“ only by means of a tow rope. The wave at the raft landing stage in Munich however was wider and pushed up by the back pressure of the landing, often enough high and steep enough to allow free standup rides. However the two did not know, that Michael Nath had been already here (like Kilroy), standing his first successful rides. So they had a second independent premiere in Riversurfing on a "stationary" Munich wave!
This first ride of Arthur on the stationary wave at the raft landing was captured with a super-8-camera in an truly historic film clip. You can see a screen shot of the scene in the upper left corner of this page.

(link to the video clip)

The picture shows Arthur on his surfboard gliding down the face of the wave, and it works like surfing an ocean wave. He controls the downward speed of his board by shifting his gravity-centre back and forth, to adjust his speed to the water flow. This theoretically allows endless rides. Also cutting across the face of the wave and turning is possible, also rather similar to ocean wave surfing.

The Progress

In the following years more and more watersports enthusiasts tried this new sport: friends of the Pauli-brothers, spectators, who were eager to try it out for themselves, and even surfers from as far as the USA, South Africa and Australia, who while on a stopover at the nearby campsite just accidentally noticed this " wave in the city". It was a surfer from the States who saw considerable resemblance to surfing the wake of motor boats (Wake Surfing) , and therefore named it "River Wake Surfing".
From 1975 even Riversurf-Championships were held at the wave of the Thalkirchen raft landing, and Arthur Pauli became the first "Bavarian Champion" ever. In 1976 John Vardon from Richmond/Australia won the first "International Award".
The 1980ies and 1990ies saw a constant growth in numbers of Munich river surfers, and there were also several Riversurf-Contests held, called "Munich Open".
Owing to the fact, that only surfing a river wave comes close to surfing an ocean wave, the term of "Riversurfing" or „River Surfing“ is now generally used but not restricted to this way of riversurfing. Surfing with a tow remains the alternative in fast currents without ridable waves or a welcome way to "Catching" river waves without paddling (Tow-in-Riversurfing!).
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River Surfing today

In the meantime Munich truly has become the "Mecca" for river surfers. The waves at the raft landing as well as at the English Garden (Eisbach-wave) belong to the city‘s tourist attractions. Even the wide river Isar produces ridable waves sometimes. For example you may see surfers challenge the waves under the Wittelsbacher Brücke or near the zoo..
The real Hot Spot of the Munich river surfing scene remains to be the Eisbach-wave behind the Haus der Kunst. There good water levels and currents produce a "Wake" of more than one meter, just perfect for training the moves for ocean wave surfing.

One of the river surfers, who had been training themselves regularly in this wave was Quirin Rohleder. (Picture above right from his early exercises). He made also his name in ocean wave surfing. It is not surprising that his experience in surfing the staionary river wave provided considerable advantage in surfing man-made stationary waves like for example the "Tube" of the Swatch-Wave-Tour 1999...(see picture on top of page)

River Surfing Worldwide

Not only but also spread by the crowds of spectators, who easily could view the surfers at such a prominent location like the bridge over the Eisbach near the Haus der Kunst, and by numbers of publications over the internet, the "Riversurf-Fever" has been spreading to the neighbouring countries and around the world.
The unbroken trend to persue fun sports in their numerous variations and to always look for new challenges, has encouraged surfers in many other countries, to search for ridable river waves, and even think about building artificial stationary waves.
Since watersport enthusiasts have discovered the wild alpine rivers for "canyoning" another new funsport is developing now, called „river boarding“ or „wave boarding“ performed with boogie-like boards, apparently a variation of river surfing just like boogieboarding (or bellyboarding) is a variation of ocean wave surfing.

Click here to read more about . river surfing with a tow rope

How did Arthur Pauli get his idea to invent Riversurfing? Here is his story...

or view this short film of 2012 about the early days of river surfing and the Munich waves:: 40 Years Riversurfing in Munich


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