Riding waves in Germany isn't easy as the wind rarely creates enough surf. Those who want to be sure to get some surfing done should head to Warnemünde and study the timetable of Baltic Sea Ferry.
The Baltic Sea doesn't have impressive waves. Surf can not be seen anywhere. Wind surfers, kite surfers, stand-up paddle boarders and surfers have made themselves comfortable on numerous sun loungers in front of a beach hut in Rostock-Warnemünde. In places neoprene suits can be seen hanging out to dry. Some surfers are lounging at the Bamboo Beach Bar, passing time while sipping a drink, chatting with fellow surfers or mellowing to the sound of reggae music. Surfboards of all shapes and sizes can be seen here, either sticking in the sand or balanced against the wall of the hut.
A surfing instructor is going over the basics again with a group of beginners, who are carrying out dry exercises on their boards. There is a light offshore breeze, just enough to fill the sails on the windsurf boards. Contented stand-up paddle boarders, who are never dependent on the wind, can be seen paddling away. The surfers, languishing in the sun though seem to be dreaming of the kind of surf you get in California, Cape Town or on Hawaii. Others are staring intensely at the horizon, on which the silhouette of the Scandinavian ferry, which sails from Gedser in Denmark to Rostock every two hours, slowly takes shape.
Prinz and Kronprinz make the best waves
This sighting is what the surfers have been waiting for all along. Suddenly the beach springs to life. Surfers gulp down their drinks, jump into their neoprene suits and carry their boards into the water. They take up position on an offshore sandbank, where slowly a kind of maritime queue takes shape. When the ferry reaches the Warnow estuary to continue its voyage to the port in Rostock the time has come: waves begin to roll towards the beach at Warnemünde, which in good conditions can be as high as 1.50 meters (4.9 feet).
The chunky hull design of the 35 year old ferries "Prins Joachim" and "Kronprins Frederik" ensure that surfers in Warnemünde can enjoy artificial created waves according to schedule every two hours from 8:30am until 20.10pm. And the wash lasts as long as 15 minutes. The quality of the waves is determined by how heavily laden the ferries are and also at which point on their way into the Warnow estuary they reduce their speed. The lower they are in the water and the faster their speed, the better the waves.
The ferry wash in Warnemünde along, with the standing wave on Munich's Eisbach, are Germany's weirdest surfing activities. The ferry wash, since surfers discovered this spot 10 years ago, has become known beyond the town's borders. The Supremesurf Beachhouse, located on the beach in front of the legendary former East German hotel "Neptun", is the surfers' preferred hang-out from May to September. It offers a surfing school, board hire and a myriad of beach fun, including a beach bar. André from Berlin, who is on his sixth holiday in Warnemünde, is sitting at the bar sipping a cup of coffee before getting back on his board. "I learned to surf on the wash from the ferry, it is very powerful", says Andre as he scans the horizon.
The future will be blowing in the wind
The future for the surfers of Warnemünde is not looking bright, however. Scandlines ferry company recently announced that it will be introducing two new ferries later this year on the Gedser-Rostock crossing. But as these new vessels, the "Berlin" and the "Copenhagen", will have a modern hydrodynamic hull design they will not displace as much water, and therefore the surf created by the ferries' wash will become a thing of the past. The exact date when the new vessels will begin sailing is yet to be confirmed, as both are currently undergoing reconstruction work at a Danish shipyard. When the time comes though, surfers in Warnemünde will have to hope for a strong north or north-westerly wind to create some natural surf. Alternatively they might have change boards and join the wind-surfers, kite-surfers or stand-up paddle boarders who are all not dependent on surf - natural, or created by the ferries' wash.
Paula, who works at the beach bar and who has been part of the beach-house team for many years, is still hopeful that the ferries' wash will continue to provide surf for a while yet: "The ferry company wanted to replace their old vessels back in 2012 but yet the launch of the new boats keeps being delayed," she tells us. Being laid-back is a quality that is prevalent at the beach-house and is pretty much a given among Warnemünde surfers. They are happy to kill time waiting for the next batch of ferry wash waves by hanging their neoprene suit to dry, getting a drink at the beach bar or just relaxing on a lounge while watching the horizon.