Why you should care
European cities are riding a new wave of beaches — with wave generators, tiki lounges and the whole tropical two-step.
Wetsuits, check. Instructors, check. Boards at the ready, and a spectacular, cresting wave, 33 feet wide by 5 feet tall. Surf’s up … in Munich, thanks to a pop-up beach with a surf generator that stretches rather incredulously between two terminals at the city’s airport. The nearest spit of shore is 500 miles away.
Hang zehn, bros! This year marks Munich’s fourth summer of surf, courtesy the airport’s owners. (Residents are also known to catch the Eisbach break, a premier river wave.) The airport’s artificial surf reef — a 200-square-meter pool basin outfitted with pumps — runs through next week, and it’s more than a giant wave and a bunch of deck chairs.
The idea was born in 2009 on a real sand beach — in Bournemouth, a south-coast resort in the U.K. — with a $5 million giant wave simulator.
There’s also a three-day surf camp for kids and serious money to be won by adults who compete in the annual European stationary wave-riding championships — about $13,400 this year. The contest was last weekend, but if you still want to hang 10, you should book ahead — only 10 people are allowed on the wave at a time; they get 45 minutes to carve it up.
Landlocked Müncheners weren’t the first ones to make an artificial surf reef, though. The idea was born in 2009 on a real sand beach — in Bournemouth, a south-coast resort in the U.K. — with a $5 million giant wave simulator. It closed after two short years, smitten by a ship’s propeller. But good news, surfer dudes and chicks: The town council, which funded the audacious attraction, finally got the insurance payout, and the reef is scheduled to reopen next year.
European city dwellers not keen on wiping out — but still eager to luxuriate on sandy beaches — can avail themselves of the burgeoning urban beach scene. It started in 2002 with Paris-Plage, which now has multiple locations around the City of Light and a shuttle service ferrying beach bunnies between the banks of the Seine. Brussels, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Vienna, Madrid and Prague have all followed Paris’ lead. In London you’ll find seven urban beaches. It’s gone farther afield, too: Shanghai, Toronto and Montreal have dipped their toes in the sand, and even Detroit’s regenerators are taking a look.
In Berlin, thousands flock to the Badeschiff, a giant ship anchored in the River Spree, to bathe, swim and mingle with barflies hanging out on deck. The area is surrounded by at least 30 bars packed with bier drinkers sporting Hawaiian shirts. And DJs move in after nightfall to spin the soundtrack to Europe’s biggest summer dance party, giving a whole new Euro dimension to the pool party.