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Everything You Need To Know About River Surfing

Wave Tribe

Rivers can also be a source of excitement to many surfers far away from the majestic and powerful ocean swells.

Published by Wave Tribe

Some surfers bring the adventure to places other than the ocean to experience variety.

Unlike the oceans, many are accessible, and their waves surfable. Surfable rivers are almost rare. But once an ocean surfer gets to locate one and ride the waves, he would say that the experience offers consistent conditions and the rides are continuous, which other surfers can only dream of experiencing. Indeed, many surfers are also looking forward to surfing waves in rivers and see it as an extraordinary opportunity in their travel plan.

Here's everything you need to know about river surfing:

Everything You Need To Know About River Surfing: History

There is a backstory of river surfing becoming an official sport. A small group of adventurous surfers in the 1970s took to the Eisbach River near Englischer Garten Park. Gripping tightly to two ropes attached to a bridge, they balanced on wooden planks in the river to mimic the ocean surfing they had experienced out of the country. It was the time various river surfers believe the river surfing sport was born.

Eisbach—that wave is considered the mother of all river waves. Every wave they’re constructing now is emulated after that wave,” says Alex Mauer, a professional stand-up paddleboarder and avid river surfer based in Littleton, Colorado.

Everything You Need To Know About River Surfing: River Waves Classification

River waves come in two classifications.

First is tidal bores that happen in a few places globally and may only hit your location once a year. This particular wave is consistent and robust due to the funnel-type effect on the riverside.

The other type is the standing wave. This phenomenon occurs when a high water volume darts over a rock or shallow area in a speedily moving river, such as in Munich's Eisbach.

Tidal bores (left) and standing waves (right) are the two types of river waves.

Due to the ability to ride for an extended period and the relative predictability of a river wave compared with an ocean wave, the sport of river surfing is earning more and more recognition.

Here are some famous ‘surf river’ destinations that you can go to and some important things you should know if you’re new to the sport.

Everything You Need To Know About River Surfing: Best Rivers For Surfing

The Eisbach - Munich, Germany

Eisbach River is often visited by surfers to experience different types of waves.

The Eisbach is a rather powerful wave with a unique shape. It is the mother of all stationary waves and the spot where river surfing was considered a sport.

It also stretches for just over a mile through Munich, Germany. Some factors require that only experienced surfers can attempt to ride the 3-foot wave in the area. The cement barriers, the shallow depth, and the rapid speed of water set this limitation.

Surfing waves on the Eisbach had been in prohibition, though this did not discourage earlier surfers, who would keep their surfing activities as discreet as possible. They legalized surfing in the area again in 2010 after Munich bought the land near the Eisbach, and numerous YouTube content subsequently drew more attention to the spot.

Boise River Park - Boise, Idaho

Boise River Park runs along southeast of Idaho City in Boise National Forest.

The Boise River Park boasts one of the first adjustable river waves in the world. They designed it initially for kayakers, but the wave is surfable for river surfers.

The park has assembled a human-made adjustable waveshaper to adjust the speed and height of the wave. There is a setup for changing the river wave, so in that way, surfers can visit and ride the river wave for surfing.

They set two waves at Boise River Park for surfing from March-October. Plans are surfacing to expand the park where the private foundations are involved in financing the project. The purpose is to include family-friendly areas, conservation areas, other waves, and whitewater sections for different skill levels.

Waimea River - Honolulu, Hawaii

The mouth of Oahu's Waimea River.

The river flows from the back of the valley toward the bay, and you can find it on Oahu’s north shore. Oahu Waimea River’s wave is akin to the human-made ones at water parks, where surfers enjoy stationary surfing waves for long hours.

They ride a different kind of river wave on the land and shape after heavy rains burst through the mouth of the Waimea River. To create a wave, they often dig out the sand near the river mouth. Technically, it is not allowed by law, although the Waimea river wave has become famous for locals. So, they’ll start digging once the lifeguards leave the area. Night surf sessions would end up happening, which shows that surfers can take risks to live their passion.

Qiantang River - Hangzhou, China

Qiantang River is the largest river in Zhejiang Province, China.

Hubert Chanson, a hydraulic engineering professor at the University of Queensland in Australia, has documented 190 tidal bores globally. He says that the biggest among them is the Qiantang.

During full moons in the autumn, bores form on rivers with huge tidal swings from 13 to 20 feet and travel at more than 25 mph. Due to this incredible speed and heights, the only ones who would attempt to go river surfing in Qiantang are the professionals or experienced surfers with safety and support teams.

Yearly wave-watching festivals during the eighth lunar month happen, and more than a hundred thousand onlookers watch the massive river wave reaching its maximum point.

The Lunch Counter on the Snake River - Wyoming, United States

Snaked River

The Snake River is located in the Pacific Northwest Region in the US which stretches out from Wyoming to Idaho.

The Lunch Counter is a famous rapid on the Snake River. It is a significant ski destination; however, it has become a surf town in the early summer.

Lunch Counter Rapids have surfing waves resulting from the high water volume from snowmelt and runoff from a nearby dam. Though there’s an inconsistency with the conditions, the surfing rivers are high enough to enjoy in May and June. The season can extend if there’s a high amount of snowfall along with other precipitation.

Just like most of the standing waves, Lunch Counter has dangers. Anyone who falls is immediately swept downstream and must safely manage the rapids and get away from the river.

Everything You Need To Know About River Surfing: River Safety

It is crucial to acknowledge the potential dangers that anyone can encounter while in the waters. Rivers are mighty and persistent. Numerous obstacles, such as holes and waves, can pose risks to danger if you fail to navigate them.

Hence, we encourage you to educate yourself of the river hazards before going on river surfing and confidently enjoy the waves.

Foot Entrapments

Foot entrapments are a common cause of injury in the rivers. You can’t see what’s underneath the water.

Rocks, debris, and other obstacles can trap a dangling foot. There isn’t time to remove the foot when this occurs in moving water. The current will push a person down, holding their head underwater and resulting in drowning.

Keep in mind not putting your feet down in the water until the current is below your knees.

The Danger of the River Bottom

Rivers are unpredictable, changeable, and can contain hidden dangers. It is hardly easy to estimate and know their depth, and they can be deeper than people expect.

While that is a threat, there’s also one in shallow rivers. Impact on the river bottom often happens in shallow rivers causing damage to one’s body and equipment. That is why an impact vest and wetsuit are essential to give you buoyancy and protection, and remembering to fall flat.

Inability to Swim

Fast-flowing rapids form surfing waves, and you must know how to navigate your way through the water. If you’re not a swimmer and you lack the skills, it can situate you to danger.

Before surfing the rivers, make sure that you are a strong swimmer. Though, there can be strong underwater currents that you should be careful of, for they can trouble even the most confident swimmers.

Due to the ability to ride for an extended period and the relative predictability of a river wave compared with an ocean wave, the sport of river surfing is earning more and more recognition.  

— Derek Dodds, Wave Tribe Founder

Everything You Need To Know About River Surfing: Equipment You Will Need

Surfboard
The shape of the river and ocean waves is different from each other, meaning you need a short and lightweight surfboard for river surfing. While you want a sturdy board, we suggest not looking for epoxy boards because rocks in the river can easily damage them when they come in contact.

Wetsuit
Wetsuits are a great idea depending on the water and weather temperature. Wearing a wetsuit will allow you to surf for an extended period and prevent hypothermia. The suit’s thickness will keep you warm and provide you with buoyancy. You want it to have the right consistency for river surfing destinations.

Impact Vests or PFD
Vests are also helpful, especially in an emergency if you come into contact with the river’s bottom. Vests or PFD would keep you above the water. It’s acceptable at a river wave and will also keep you warmer if you fear that a PFD would restrict your movement while surfing, look for an impact vest.

Impact vests give protection for unexpected falls you may get when surfing.

Final Words

Rivers’ waves can be different from the oceans’, but these waters cause the same excitement and adrenaline rush to surfers. Just imagine the water is spraying your face, and the wind is blowing your hair while you’re riding the most incredible surfing waves.

While rivers provide you the same enjoyment you get when surfing the oceans, you should bear in mind that danger or accidents can occur anytime and harm you in many ways possible no matter how experienced you are. Knowledge, prevention, and the right gear are the best solutions that you can do.

The purpose of the rivers is to give you a memorable surfing experience with their most extraordinary waves. They keep things going and are essential to Earth as a part of nature too. They carry water, organisms, and necessary gases and nutrients to various areas. They serve as habitats for numerous species of plants and animals, and they also help drain rainwater. As the rivers make their way to the sea, they help shape the features of our planet.

As stewards of the Earth, it is a thoughtful way to give back to our waters with our care and protection since they’ve been great sources of happiness. Join us in our Heal the Oceans campaign to preserve these bodies of water that are dear to us.

You can also support our eco-surfing products, all designed with the planet’s condition and your safety in mind. Let’s give to our rivers and oceans as we take from them.

 

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