Here’s a nice comprehensive list of Surfable River Waves around the world put together by DASHEL PIERSON at Surfline.
In the early 1970s, over a decade before the fall of the Berlin Wall and amidst international Cold War tensions, a group of intrepid Bavarian surfers found solace in an uncanny pastime: surfing a standing wave smack dab in the middle of landlocked and metropolitan Munich.
Fast-forward to today and Munich’s Eisbach river wave is one of the world’s most popular freshwater surfing destinations, attracting an annual influx of curious surf tourists and a legion of diehard locals. On any given day – even when a layer of snow blankets the riverbanks – surfers can be seen waiting their turn to acid drop into the frigid water.
In Germany and beyond, there’s a rising wave of river surfing enthusiasts (it’s not quite reached the fever pitch surrounding the modern explosion of manmade wavepools, but still). From once-in-a-blue-moon river bores, a tidal phenomenon pushing a ridable wave upstream tributaries, to seasonal whitewater river surfing waves, here’s a list of every freshwater novelty surf spot worth a dam (sorry, had to).
EISBACH RIVER (MUNICH, GERMANY)
As the OG river surfing spot, and one of the few with a healthy handful of locals (which demand the same respect seen at traditional seawater surf spots), the Eisbach has solidified its role as the world’s preeminent freshwater novelty wave. And since 2010, surfing the river was legitimized – meaning no more threat of polizei shutting down your session.
BEND WHITEWATER PARK (BEND OREGON)
The Bend Whitewater Park in Oregon utilizes naturally flowing water from the Deschutes River, combined with manmade pneumatic bladders, which create various waves for surfing and whitewater obstacles for kayaking. Like most river surfing waves, the water’s quite cold; but the waves have attracted surfers like the Gudauskas brothers, Dylan Graves, and Oregon transplant, Gerry Lopez.
LUNCH COUNTER (SNAKE RIVER, JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING)
Nestled beneath the Teton mountains, the mighty Snake River comes alive during the summertime snow melt. And when it does, so do the world-renowned whitewater rapids and a standing wave, dubbed the “lunch counter.” Watch Alex Gray chow down above.
QIANTANG RIVER (HANGZHOU, CHINA)
When the Qiantang River bore thunders through Hangzhou, locals call it the “Silver Dragon.” In recent years, Red Bull has hosted an annual surf contest in Hangzhou: the Qiantang Shoot Out. And since it’s a river bore, not a typical standing wave in a river, the “Silver Dragon” can produce overhead waves and the occasional barrel.
GLENWOOD WHITEWATER PARK (GLENWOOD SPRINGS, COLORADO)
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Posted by Shane Dorian
Similar to Bend, Oregon, the folks in Colorado have found a way to harness their heavy flowing rivers to create rideable waves. And the Glenwood Whitewater Park in Glenwood Springs, CO has even attracted Shane Dorian and his son Jackson – although, to be fair, the knee-high river wave was child’s play for Dorian.
NILE SPECIAL (WHITE NILE RIVER, UGANADA)
The Nile Special on Uganda’s White Nile River offers freshwater surfers a few unique elements, which, for the most part, are unseen at other international river waves: 1) It breaks year-round, 365 days a year. 2) The water is warm unlike most waves forming from melted snow runoff. 3) It’s in remote Africa.
POROROCA (AMAZON RIVER, BRAZIL)
Breaking deep in the Amazon, the “pororoca” tidal bore brings equal parts destruction and awe. It’s a wave, sometimes reaching overhead and barreling, as it terrorizes everything in its path. And not to mention, there’s other things that could kill you in the water, too. Like snakes, piranhas, crocodiles, parasites, etc. Watch Kepa Acero take that risk above.
SAINT LAWRENCE RIVER (MONTREAL, CANADA)
Named after a nearby housing complex, “Habitat 67” is the biggest and most surfed wave on the Saint Lawrence river in Montreal, Canada. It’s a popular haunt for landlocked surfers in Montreal, meaning there can be crowds. But remember, this is Canada — don’t expect much heckling.
RIO URUMEA (SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN)
It’s not a tidal bore, nor is it a traditional river wave. The waves at San Sebastian‘s Río Urumea break when heavy swells travel from the Bay of Biscay, into the rivermouth, and through the city. Also unlike other river waves, the Urumea features plenty of space for party waves.
BOISE WHITEWATER PARK (BOISE, IDAHO)
Similar to Oregon’s Bend Whitewater Park, this wave in Idaho is a mixture of manmade engineering and the natural flow of the Boise River. Adjustments to the “wave shaper” can be made, regulating the contours of the water to surfer’s and kayaker’s preferences.
SEVERN BORE (GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND)
First surfed in 1995 by WWII veteran, Jack Churchill, the tidal bore on the River Severn has become a huge attraction for river surfing enthusiasts in England. A couple times a year, hundreds of surfers come out for a massive freshwater party wave, which can travel over seven miles.
GLOMMA RIVER (SARPSBORG, NORWAY)
It’s Norway, it’s cold, it’s shallow, it’s fast-moving water, and it’s perhaps one of the sketchiest traditional river waves in the game. But with more power comes more potential for blowing up.
THE BONO (SUMATRA, INDONESIA)
2016, Australian surfer James Cotton set the Guinness World Record for longest ride on a river bore at “The Bono” in Indonesia. His total distance? 10.6 miles. In addition to being an inconceivable thigh-burner, “The Bono” has seen some progression unmatched at other river waves — like Chippa Wilson‘s pop-shuvits above.
ZAMBEZI RIVER (LIVINGSTONE, ZAMBIA)
Breaking just downstream from natural wonder of the world, Victoria Falls, the Zambezi River wave offers one of the few freshwater barrels on this list. But because of the immense force from the water flow, this wave is especially dangerous. Oh, and there’s also a local population of crocodiles to watch out for, too.
WAIMEA BAY RIVERMOUTH (OAHU, HAWAII)
As an antidote to North Shore boredom when the waves go flat, locals have taken to unleashing the estuary at Waimea Bay and creating a sizable standing wave. It’s not technically a river wave, nor a tidal bore; but it still looks damn fun. And while wildman Jamie O’Brien is most known for tearing the novelty wave to bits, Kelly Slater recently jumped in and put on a clinic of his own (see above)