Hey Man, Why Are You Surfing on a River?

When land's got you locked and your surfboard is ready to go, there's no need to get your shorts in a knot because inner city rivers are the new waves in town.

Photo by: romanboed

You may frown upon the idea of throwing your board into a salt-less, shark-less body of water. But we assure you, this isn’t just some lazy sport. River (or Urban) Surfing is another exhilarating way to break an ankle, get water up your nose, and become a card-carrying bro-dude.

Brief History

Photo by: Justin Ornellas

Upstream from the Port of Sharpness, the River Severn (the longest river in UK) breaks into a powerful tidal bore every spring, bringing with it a raging wave that crashes against the current. In 1955, some clever chap decided that this wave was cool to ride and hopped on that river sucker for 1.5 miles. Since then, many off-duty ocean surfers have explored the shallower depths of surf terrain, riding bores that spring up in rivers around the world. Entire surf communities are buzzing around rivers that either have natural bores or man-made standing waves.

Far from Bore-ing

Photo by: NeilGHamilton

If you catch the wave upstream, you're basically standing there until the water subsides; which sounds like a step up from sitting on your couch during a rainstorm. But people say that surfing a bore is pretty fun despite the fact that you're not really going anywhere. Depending on where you plop down your board, the water can be ravenous, rocky, icy, and you will have to use every tight inch of your core to keep your head above water. Here are the best spots to practice the surfing equivalent of a stationary bike:

“The OG” Severn Bore, UK

Photo by: Tess

The bore that started it all, the river swells at the Severn Estuary and surfable seven foot waves formed for long stretches of water. The wave crashes against the slower-moving river water at speeds of eight to 13 miles per hour and can be an unforgiving bitch to tame. Since it's a popular one amongst river surfers, expect to compete for elbow room with a lot of other bore-riders during high tide.

“The German Explosion” Munich, Germany

Photo by: Mika

The Eisbach River is all man-made and will take all your man muscle to surf. Just past the bridge by the art museum, a three foot standing wave rocks the river. The water here is cold, shallow, and unforgiving. Since the wave just stands there continually, you can hop on/off whenever you please (unless the water throws you off when it's ready).

“The Wild Bore” Amazon

Photo by: Around the World in Eighty Waves

Between February and March every year, you can hear the roar of the bore coming into the Amazon basin half an hour before the wave breaks. When it finally peaks, the wild wave brings the diverse contents of the Amazon with it, pounding you with tree roots, flesh-eating fish, and other river monsters. The rocky Pororoca in the Brazilian Amazon is long, strong, and down to get the friction on. Competitions are held at the mouth of the river and crazy dudes have ridden this wild bore for over 40 minutes straight, for a stretch of over 18 miles.

“The Silver Dragon” Qiantang, China

Photo by: China Travel

Strap on the biggest pair of testicles you can find to face this 30 foot wall of water. The stuff that death-by-tidal-wave nightmares are made of, the Silver Dragon is the largest and most dangerous bore in the world. Most people come here to just get a look at the spectacle of the wave; a few are crazy enough to surf it. The Dragon allowed one guy to sit on its back for all of 11 seconds before tossing his ass into the river.

“The Surf Safari” Zambezi, Zimbabwe, Africa

Photo by: Siyabona Africa

This one's a bit of a secret because it's a little hard to access. The action happens at rapid #11 and to get there, you'll have to river board along the scenic route. Elephants and rhinos will give you sideways glances as you board along to the hollow wave that happens twice a year, in January and again in July.

If you get good enough at hanging out on the river, check out the many bore-ing festivals and competitions dedicated to the sport that take place wherever a bore springs up. Some may say that river surfing is a cop-out; we say it allows you to piss in your wetsuit year round, even if there's no ocean in sight.