Lifestyle & Culture

New for 2018: Dispatches’ expat city guide to urban surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing

(Editor’s note: Terry Boyd, Cameron Aubernon, Jackie Harding and Ivana Avramovic contributed to this post.)

This has been a warm – sometimes blazing – summer across most of Europe, so this is a great time to get wet.

But if you’re like so many of us expats with jobs, lives and kids, jumping on a plane to go surfing Fuerteventura is not a weekend proposition … unless you own the plane.

For those of us who don’t own a plane, there are an amazing number of places across Europe where you can go surfing, water skiing, windsurfing and kitesurfing without ever leaving town. In fact, the whole city wave is a thing now, with the latest wave pool opening in a mall in Munich.

If you do want to travel, it’s easier to fly in and out of, say, Lisbon than it is to trek to Bondi Beach.

Honest-to-God surfing in Lisbon

Let’s just get this over with … Lisbon, you are the best. You have startups and tech. You have a great foodie scene. And yeah, you lucky SOBs have your own ocean and world-class surfing. Like right in the city. In fact, the European headquarters of the World Surf League, which puts on competitions all over the world, just announced last month that it’s moving to Lisbon after 30 years in Hossegor, France.

Lisbon has everything surfers need from affordable pensions and great bars to big waves year-round at Carcavelos and Praia Grande, among the best places to go surfing in Europe. There are even companies that make surfboards including Lisbon Crooks and Surfers.

Serious surfers can get more granular info here on the Stormrider Surf Guide website.

There are a million places to rent surfboards, windsurfers and whatever you want.

LX Surfcamp in Carcavelos outside Lisbon also has a dorm. Shared rooms and lessons start at 275 euros. Board and wetsuit rentals start at 20 euros per day. They get great reviews on TripAdvisor, 5 stars out of five (34 reviews).

Surfing, windsurfing AND kitesurfing in Barcelona

Like Lisbon, Barcelona is blessed with sun and sea. While the sheltered waters of the Mediterranean don’t have the wind and big waves of the Atlantic, you can indulge in pretty much any water sport of your choice on its beaches.

There are about a million places you can go to learn to surf, windsurf and kitesurf, or rent standup paddleboards … including:

• Manihi Surf School (Five stars out of five on TripAdvisor, 37 reviews)

Group rates for surf lessons start at 23 euros per person, and individual lessons start at about 52 euros per hour. You can see all the rates here.

Moloka’i SUP Center (Five stars out of Five on TripAdvisor, with 60 reviews including one unbelievable whiner.) The only frustrating thing is, there are no prices for rentals or lessons. We checked TripAdvisor … none there, either.

Mojokite Barcelona, where kiteboarding lessons start at 100 euros and kiteboard rentals start at 50 euros. Because kiteboarding is limited in the summer, Mojokite organizes camps in Sardinia.

A note: Barcelona beaches get crowded and there are rules in some places against kitesurfing during the summer. And anyway, the best surfing and kite surfing are from September through March.

English Gardens, Munich

Munich is famous for the Englischer Garten or English Garden, the Central Park or Hyde Park of Munich, an area of 900 acres that has been the city’s backyard since 1789. The park is designed to represent the English countryside and has winding paths through woodland, an open meadow area, a meandering river and, of course, a beer garden!

The winding paths provide places to ride bikes or walk off the bratwurst, and the meadow, a huge area, used by locals to picnic, worship the sun (both clothed and unclothed!) and play Frisbee and football.

In recent years, it’s also become famed for its surfing at a spot known as Surf City, or the Eisbach Wave.

The Eisbach River mostly flows beneath the city but at the edge of the Englischergarten, it is forced out under pressure causing a constant 0.5-metre-high wave, where local surfers gather to impress each other and the spectators with their board skills.

I am always drawn to this spectacle, as it is so peculiar to stand with your back to a busy street and watch surfer dudes and dudettes riding the wave beneath the boughs of chestnut trees! Bring your own board and wetsuit.

– Jackie Harding

City surfing, Zürich

Zürich has had several temporary Wave Factory pools, but 1-year-old Urban Surf is permanent. Like the Multiplex CityWave in Vienna, this facility tries to capture the California surf vibe, with food, cocktails and bands playing on the weekends … in Zurich. But hey, this summer, this would be the deal.

Surfers can jump into the 45-minute session for 57 Swiss francs, (€49), which includes rent for a surfboard and a surf suit. You can book a session here.

You can surf from now till 30 September.

Multiplex CityWave, Vienna

The Multiplex CityWave, which has an English website, is a 10,000-square-foot facility at Shopping Center Süd, the retail development on the southern edge of Vienna, and the biggest mall in the city.

Multiplex CityWave replaces the 3CityWave operation. 3CityWave, which was at Hochstrahlbrunnen fountain on Schwarzenbergplatz in the very heart of the Old City, closed after complaints, according to media reports.

And let’s be clear … this is essentially a manmade wave in a swimming pool.

Here are the nitty, gritty details:

• It looks like it’s best to book in advance. But CityWave leaves open slots each session so you can try to book day-of. Admission is free because they know you’ll grab a beer, snack and chill.

• Each session is 39 euros including board and helmet rental. The pro bring-your-own session is 29 euros. And you can rent a wet suit because after all, this is Vienna, not Malibu. Each surf session lasts 50 minutes, with a maximum of 12 people per session.

• There are beginner, advanced and pro sessions. And the CityWave website notes that just because you know how to surf in the sea doesn’t mean you can deal with the artificial wave, which takes getting used to.

• You pay when you book, either by PayPal or by credit card (Visa, MasterCard).

• Requirements include being able to swim (duh) and underage surfers need their parents/guardians to sign for them.

The FAQ section of the website is really pretty good and answers just about every question you can think of down to “can I bring my dog?” (Leave Lassie at home.)

And as a place true to the surf ethos, CityWave is a party place, and there’s beach volleyball at the complex. (The World Cup for this year’s Beach Volleyball World Championship on the Danube Island will be here.)

If surfing’s not your shizzle-dizzle and you want to work out in something bigger than a swimming pool, you can also “water ski” on the Danube River.

Wakeboard Lift, Vienna

Wakeboard uses a 4-mast cable system to pull surfers and wakeboarders around a course on the Danube River about 832 meters (1,000 yards) long.

At the beach bar on the Donau river bank, spectators watch the boarders brave the course’s floating obstacles, doing stunts and jumps, or sometimes sinking into the Danube. Some boarders repeatedly don’t even make it past the starting jump, plunging headlong into the glistening blue water. They float toward the riverside, their helmet-protected heads and orange life vests bobbing through the water as they swim toward the bank, ready for another try.

One-hour lift tickets for kids start at 15 euros. Season passes start at 550 euros. You can see all the ticket prices here.

Wakeboard has hosted extreme sports competitions such as Wake Control Vienna, sponsored by Red Bull and other companies. And this is a really popular spot for locals during the summer.

– Ivana Avramovic

Kitesurfing in Workum near Amsterdam

Our Dutch friends kept telling us we’d skipped over one of the coolest things about the Netherlands – water sports. There are in fact dozens of sailing schools and kitesurfing schools from Zeeland on the south to Terschelling on the north.

But the center of the water sports scene is Mirns south of Workum. Technically, this isn’t Amsterdam, but it’s just across the IJsselmeer, a large inlet of the North Sea north of Amsterdam. And that part of the Netherlands, called the Randstad, is pretty much one big city anyway and where many expats live.

Workum has schools where experienced kitesurfers can rent equipment and beginners can get started with lessons. There’s also windsurfing and sailing. It’s also yet another quaint, ancient Dutch town with lots of things to do and places to stay.

There’s even a kiteboarding club.

Copenhagen Surf School

Let’s try some free associating: We say, ‘Eifel Tower,” you say, “Paris”; we say, “snowboarding,” you say, “St. Moritz”; we say, “surfing,” and you say, “Copenhagen.” That’s the first place that popped into your head, right?

Well, it should be. Copenhagen is into surfing and even has the Cold Hawaii Film Festival that brings together the surf crowd and movie makers. Denmark even has destination surfing in Klitmøller in Cold Hawaii in the far north of the country.

But you don’t have to travel that far. All the way down here in the semi-tropical Netherlands, even we know about Copenhagen Surf School, basically because it gets great reviews. (All five-star reviews from 33 respondents on TripAdvisor.) At CSS, you learn to surf, windsurfing, standup paddling and kitesurfing.

We give them 5-stars just for the website.

This is kind of a cool concept … Copenhagen Surf School is based at Amager Strandpark, but they have a mobile unit that can chase the wind. This being a school, you don’t just show up for one outing. The surf course involves five lessons for the equivalent of about 270 euros. You can take them over time if you wish.

You can buy them here.

There are minimum age requirements for some lessons and you should be able to swim (duh).

If we left off your favorite place in your city, let us know at: [email protected]

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