Surfing may be all about being one with the great ocean, but you don’t actually need to a massive body of water to find the perfect wave. Thanks to odd natural conditions, rivers and lakes can be great places to hang ten, if you know where to go. These eight locations around the world are great alternatives to open water surfing.
The name for this tidal bore, upstream from where the mighty river meets the Atlantic on the Brazilian coast, comes from the local term for “great destructive noise.” You could also call it the werewolf of waves: It only hits at the full moon, and is most impressive in February and March, the dry season. The waves produced run about 12 feet high and are home to an annual competition for longest ride, in São Domingos do Capim. In 2003, Adilton Mariano set a new record: 34 minutes, 10 seconds.
More than 300 miles from the nearest sea and more than 1,000 miles from the ocean, Munich is not known as a surf spot. Except by those who know about Eisbach, a man made river near the Haus der Kunst art museum. It was first noted for its standing wave in the early 1970s, and surfing has been officially allowed since 2010, though the very shallow water makes it a spot best left to experienced riders. The wave is only a few feet high, but it doesn’t go anywhere, so a ride lasts as long as a surfer can stay on the board.
Named for a nearby housing complex, Habitat 67 is a standing wave on the St Lawrence River. Fast moving water hits underwater boulders, resulting in a wave that can reach 6 feet high. But the wave doesn’t travel downriver. Rather, it works somewhat like a swimming treadmill: the rider can carve back and forth on the wave, but doesn’t move within the river. Habitat 67 was surfed for the first time by Corran Addison, a pro kayaker and surfer, in 2002. Since then, he has opened a school and taught some 3,500 students to ride the river, 500 miles from the ocean. [Photo: Wiki]
Tom Curren is a three time world surfing champion who has spent his time wandering the globe for unknown surf spots since 1990. So when he calls Seven Ghosts his biggest score, you know it’s got to be something great. Named for a nearby village in the Indonesian jungle, Seven Ghosts is a tidal bore that creates wave after wave of chocolate covered water, 8 to 10 feet high.
This spot is only seven miles from the Atlantic, but it’s not the ocean that provides the waves. It’s the tidal bore, a spot where an incoming tide rushes through a narrowing river, creating a funnel effect.
The bore on the Severn River, near Gloucester, England, may be the best example of the phenomenon.
For more than 50 years, surfers have been riding the six foot waves created as the Severn Estuary empties into the Bristol Channel. The record for longest ride? An astounding 6 miles, by Rodney Sumpter, in 1965, according to TheLongWave.com.
This Wyoming spot may sound like a diner, but it’s actually a point on the Snake River where a narrow space between rock walls produces a rush of water perfect for daring riders. It’s far from easy. CNN compares it to “walking down an up escalator, eyes focused down, staying in basically the same place as water churns underneath your board.” But for the chance to surf in a locale surrounded by grizzly bears, buffalo and the Teton Mountains, it’s worth giving it a shot.
If a river seems an odd place to surf, a lake is even weirder: The water doesn’t really move, after all. Except, that is, when a gust of wind arrives, and then Lake Michigan becomes the “Malibu of the West.” Sheboygan, Wisconsin juts out five miles into the lake, and 20-25 mph winds are the norm. If you’d rather watch others brave the 33 degree water, book a trip for Labor Day weekend and check out the annual Dairyland Surf Classic.
It’s not really surprising that the world’s largest tidal bore is in China, one of the world’s largest countries. At speeds of up to 25 mph, waves 30 feet high barrel through Hangzhou’s Qianting River, near the East China Sea. The longest wave in the world runs more than six miles and hosts the Qiantang Tidal Bore surfing competition every year in late September.