Surfing in Northern Germany
by Jens Steffenhagen
German writer and founder of Nord Nordwest Festival
A little history:
Surfing in Germany began on the island of Sylt, the most northern of our North Sea islands close to the Danish border. The lifeguards and watermen Uwe Draht, Dieter Behrends and Walter Viereck bought their first surfboards in Biarritz, France and started riding the mushy North Sea waves in the sixties. They were joined by some windsurfers soon, but surfing in the northsea remained quite unpopular for another thirty years. In the mid-nineties, people from Sylt and the northern German cities Hamburg, Kiel and Flensburg began to explore the coastline. They realised that the jetties up north (Denmark) gave nice protection from the always blowing winds.
Soon, they began fine tuning their equipment. The very short period waves in the North Sea and the even weaker Baltic Sea need boards with more volume. So longboards and fishes became very popular by the early 2000s and are still the most common boards, although the more skilled ride normal shortboards on the peaky beachbreaks and rare reefs.
Nowadays, you find all ages and surprisingly lots of females in the water, even in the deepest winter, when water temps are close to zero degrees Celsius. You may even see slush ice or ice blocks banging your board between January and March. From May to October is the best season with long days and around 2-4 rideable days per week.
Swells are mostly created by onshores aside from super rare ground swells out of the North Atlantic, but if you know where to head to with a certain wind direction, you can surely find good waves by international standard – as the pictures show.
Nowadays, most Northern German surfers travel to Denmark (5 hr drive) for the weekends, if there is any chance to get wet. The Danish breaks are still very uncrowded, aside from the two or three hot spots. The coast is beautiful, undeveloped and the locals are super cool, even if they are pissed off by some German's behaviour. There are quite a few ex-pats from the US, Israel, South Africa, that altered the performance level a lot.
The level of surfing picks up every year and the awareness for different surf cultural directions grows steadily. The DIY aspect gets more and more important. People start to shape their own boards, take photos and create movie clips. Surfers around here feel a bond with other cold water surfers like the whole Sandinavia, Canada, Eastern UK, etc, since the harsh conditions we have to deal with are a very special thing. And although most German surfers travel to the Atlantic Ocean a lot, they always fantasize about the best days in the North Sea with just a few friends around.
The websites http://www.bluemag.eu/ and http://www.nordicsurfersmag.se/ are the standard for professional surf journalism with a love for the real northern german surf scene, while blogs like http://nordsurf-syndikat.de/ supply a forum to keep in touch.
Although the elders complain about the growing masses when the swell is on, it’s obvious, that you can still find an empty peak just around the corner, since the North Sea coast expands with endless beaches for hundreds of kilometers. Further north, where the reefs and a bending coastline offers the best waves, you may find 30 people in the water on a good day, but the atmosphere is still cool. It will stay like that for another decade, I am sure.
The NORD \ NORDWEST SURF SKATE FILM FEST wants to offer the northern German surf scene a cultural happening that focuses on films, but features photo and art exhibitions from local surf and skate photographers and artists as well. Quality and creativity were the main aspect for the festivals choice of films. We are proud to present a lot of German, European and World premieres and created the HOMEGROWN SHORTIES COMP, that features strictly North Sea surf clips from directors of all North Sea nations: UK, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Holland.
Photo by: Tom Frey, Tom Riedel, Tim Wendrich
NORD \ NORDWEST SURF SKATE FILM FEST HAMBURG
Three summer nights dedicated to contemporary surf & skate culture.
We will screen international surf and skate films premieres, a competition of short films from around the world and a competition of North Sea short films from Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and the UK.
Art exhibitions and live tunes by local DJs await the visitors before and after the films.
Date: 5th – 7th July.
Location: HAMBURGER BOTSCHAFT, Sternstr. 67, Hamburg-St. Pauli.
BIG OPENING PARTY @ Harkortstr. 125/ Altes Bahngelände Altona
Doors 10 pm
Screening of INNERSECTION 2
11 pm DJ DSL/ HEIN BOOGIE
Doors 6 pm
ART: Paintings by Andreas Klammt / Sea Wood Art by Lasse Baghdan
8 pm MAYUMBA/ EL MAR MI ALMA
10 pm SURFING THE WILD EAST/ FINNSURF
Doors 4 pm
ART: Photos by Michael Lang / Paul Schmidt
6 pm 5 INCHER–AN AVERAGE SIZED SKATEBOARD VIDEO/ MEANWHILE
8 pm RIO BREAKS
10 pm INTERNATIONAL SURF SHORTFILM CONTEST
Doors 2 pm
ART: Photos by Tom Riedel/ Ditten Mach/ Tim Wendrich
4 pm HIGHWATER
6 pm ASPHALTSURFER
8 pm HERE AND NOW/ SIGHT SOUND
10 pm HOMEGROWN SURF SHORTFILM CONTEST
Media: HUCK Magazine, BLUE Surf & Travel Magazine, Nordic Surfers Magazine