There is salt water and sweet water. There is warm water and cold water. There are people surfing ocean waves and people surfing river waves. In Bavaria we have no ocean, so we surf in cold, fresh water. On river waves.

It’s no secret the Munich river surfers are not always the nice, warm, sharing kind of people. When Kelly Slater came to surf the famous inner city wave (don’t ever try that on a SUP!), we actually made some adjustments so that the wave became unsurfable.  But that’s not because we are mean (only a bit ;), it is because the wave is dangerous, so dangerous, that the city wanted to destroy the wave for fear of liability lawsuits after someone drowned.

Belar Diaz and Fred Bonnef River SUP Surfing

We fought 3 years and collected 17.000 signatures, finally achieving that surfing was legalized (“for experienced surfers”). We have lost 11 surfable waves in the city to hydroelectric powder production and the renaturalization of the river – and we try to protect what we have left. Another serious or deadly injury at Eisbach could mean we are back to square one. And no, we don’t like crowds. Queuing is no fun when the water temp is 1°-13°C most of the year.

But we are not always that bad. We take surfing friends from abroad to our secret spots. And with a SUP, even some of the lost waves on the main river can still be surfed when the water level is right.  So when fellow Fanatic team Riders Fred Bonnef and Belar Diaz came to Germany, it was a matter of honor for myself and the local heros Matthias Ramoser and Carsten Kurmis to show them one of our secret spots. After SUP surfing in the Canaries and paddling from Lanzarote to Fuerteventura on Funboards, they were ready for another adventure: SUP-surfing in 2°C water temp.

Besides, I had to prove to Belar that my slow, old T3 with the high roof has some merits. That is a park heating and the fact you can change inside, standing up. He would soon come to appreciate that there are benefits beyond horsepower and speed in a van….

Due to the crazy snow on Friday night, we were too late to pick up the waveboards from Fanatic, so the 10’6 and 11’ fun shapes would have to do. I took my 7’0x30” board and Carsten his Imagine Surfer. Belar and Fred had only brought 3/2 wetsuits, so we recommended they add another layer, equipped them with hoods and gloves and off we went to the secret spot.

Yes, the wave can get much bigger, but considering it normally does not work at all at this time of the year, it was great and we had a hell lot of fun. Belar and Fred really ripped the wave, I have never seen anybody before managing to catch the wave in their first attempt. Read what they had to say about the Bavarian cold water experience.

Belar Diaz RiverSUPing in cold water

Belar Diaz (pictured above): “It all started when I bought my ‘new-used’ van in North-West Germany. I phoned Petra, and she said: ‘by the way, bring a warm wetsuit’. Of course, living in Spain, my thickest wetsuit is a 3/2, but thanks to ION, that sent me a new one recently that was the least of my worries in the water. When we first went to check out the wave on Saturday afternoon, the place looked so cold and uninviting that Fred and I looked at each other without saying a word but both thinking why would we do this? Is this really necessary?  On Sunday morning, after a good breakfast, I geared up, grabbed my Fanatic Fly 11′ and got in the water. After watching Matthias and Carsten surf the wave, I went for it and surprisingly enough I made it into the wave without falling. The feeling from surfing a wave with so much water resembles an outer reef with serious conditions. Keeping the nose of the board from nose diving is a challenge, but then again they told us, that nobody had ever attempted to surf the wave with such a long board. After a few more runs we started to try some switch tricks and small turns and had an absolute blast. I have to admit, that going back to the take-off zone felt like being in the middle of the battle of the paddle race with your heart about to explode! Big thanks to Petra from for taking us there and arranging all the logistics.”

Fred Bonnef SUP surfing in cold water

Fred Bonnef (pictured above):  “From warm Lanzarote to cold Bavaria… looking at the snow along the road, the simple idea of surfing in that cold blew my mind! But after speaking with Petra, Carsten and Matthias, Belar and I realize that what looks absolutely incredible for us is actually normal for them… I got used to surf big waves in the ocean, but I have to say that I feel a bit tense before going into this river wave: It is really different, river surfing has his own rules, it is a new technique, and I decide to carefully watch Carsten and Matthias before going myself…Those guys are ripping this wave, they know it perfectly. The current looks strong but today there is enough water, so I shouldn’t hit the rocks while falling. Let’s go! I jump into the water and start paddling really hard to stay in the first wave…I almost nose dive, but I finally manage to put all my weight in the back of my fanatic 10’6: I am surfing the river wave! The feeling is incredible, you surf a static wave, and get more used to it with every ride until you know it perfectly…Being in front of a bridge where people  watch you and shout at you, in such a beautiful scenery, is a plus ! Last but not least, I feel actually warmer than I thought…You have to paddle a lot to be in the right place, least and every wipe out makes you spend lots of energy to get away from the white water and go back to the peak…I finished really exhausted, but super happy as well: That was such a great experience !

Belar and Fred would like to thank Fanatic, ION, QB, Kelp Farmer & Zütee France and Outer Reef (Fred) for all their continuous support. I would like to thank Belar and Fred for a fabulous weekend, Fanatic for the new 80% carbon paddle which I tried on the river wave for the first time and Carsten Kurmis (Imagine Surfboards) for teaching me how to SUP in the first place and the help with the logistics and the Gopro pics.

Check out the photos (click on rectangle for full screen!)

Safety notice: SUP-Surfing on rivers with strong currents is dangerous. Last year 2 friends died riverSUPing in Bavaria. Don’t go into unknown waters without a guide. Always wear a PFD and use a quick-release leash, so that you can open it in case it get’s tangled in a tree, rock or driftwood!