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Richmond Needs This: Surfing

Richmond is a wonderful city but it would be better if there were a spot to surf.




I’ve recently travelled to four cities that have rivers running through them, Asheville NC, Greenville NC, Frankfurt Germany, and Munich Germany. None of these rivers are as untamed as the James but all of these cities have done a better job of taking advantage of the river. In all the cities mentioned the river is surrounded by parks, restaurants, breweries, playgrounds, bike trails, easy access, and in one case surfing.

Munich’s Eisbach Wave is located in the English Gardens, within walking distance of two beer gardens.

The Eisbach is a 1.2-mile (two kilometers) river that flows across the Englischer Garten, a public park located in Munich, Germany.

Despite being a small distributary of the Isar River, the Eisbach features a very fast stream, making surfing a reality in an inland city.

The Eisbach wave is a stationary, human-made wave located just 50 yards away from the Haus der Kunst modern and contemporary art museum, in front of a nearby bridge.

The standing wave breaks in cold, 15-inch (40 centimeters) deep and 40-foot (12 meters) wide waters.

The wave was created in 1972 when the city submerged large concrete blocks to slow the strong current. Surfers quickly saw the potential and began riding the wave. At first the wave was only ridable in the spring and even then the wave was inconsistent. After some clandestine additions of wooden planks by local surfers the wave became more consistent and ridable year round.

Riding this wave was illegal and at one point the city was discussing destroying the wave. The surfers and those that watched them organized a website, petition, and held awareness section and proved to the city that it was an asset and wave remained. It stopped being illegal in 2010.

All the information above was found on Surfer Today and the official Eisbachwelle Website.

I’m not a hydrologist but with a giant river running next to us, this seems like something the city could pull off. I’m also willing to bet it would be cheaper than a $2.4 billion baseball district project. Sitting near the James, watching locals and not locals surf would be a fabulous way to spend the day. We’ve seen the success of Dominion RiverRock. the outdoor sports market is wide open for the city to take advantage of. Yes, I know it’s a pipe dream. Yes, I know during flooding we have a wave of our own but it’s dependent on high water and is not easily accessible to viewers unless they’re willing to get their feet wet. (Pictures of Z Dam Surfing) Yes, I realize this is a semi-self-indulgent post to share some photos I took while on vacation. Yes, I know there are more important things to spend money on but it certainly would be cool to make RVA Wave happen. More photos of the surfers are here.

Please excuse my complete lack of cinematography skills.

This was from a less legal spot downstream. The flyer is asking for information from the surfers.

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.