Hesse instead of Hawaii: “Lahnwelle” aims to attract the surfing scene
The Lahn is a paradise for canoeists. Surfers do not appear here due to the lack of surf. So far. Because an initiative hopes: where there is a will, there is also a wave.
Water sports enthusiasts from Gießen want to bring a touch of Hawaii to Hesse. You dream of surfing, not in front of Waikiki, but on the Lahn. Thanks to physics and engineering, an artificial perfect wave could be created in the river, she said Ideas .
“We would like, let’s say, to enable everyone between the ages of 8 and 88 to surf,” says initiator Janne Paul Schmidt. The project is not intended to be just a substitute for maritime waves: “River surfing is an experience of its own.”
In his own words, the 43-year-old has been practicing water sports for many years, also in the vicinity. With the corona pandemic, a phase of short-time work had come for him. He therefore had a relatively long time to look at the Lahn and at some point asked himself: “Can Gießen become Hawaii in Hesse? This is how the dream of a surfing mecca here on the Lahn was born for me.”
The conditions for a “Lahnwelle” are favorable
He sees the city’s central location in the middle of Hesse and Germany as an advantage: Thanks to good bus and train connections, a “Lahnwelle” would be easy and climate-friendly to reach – various flights to distant surfing areas were eliminated. And: A standing river wave “even has advantages over an ocean wave, because the actual time in which you can ride it is quite short. But surfing on a river wave can in principle be continued indefinitely.” It is also easier to learn to surf in a river than in the sea.
The Lahn and water sports have belonged together for a long time – it is one of the most popular canoeing waters in the country. The river has hardly any current or waves, so surfers have not yet been spotted here. Unlike in Munich, for example, the Eisbach wave there has been attracting the scene for years.
The implementation of artificial waves often requires patience
The idea for an artificially created standing “Lahn wave” that rolls independently of the tides or currents came to Schmidt at the end of 2020. The 43-year-old found out more about similar initiatives in other cities and brought several friends who are enthusiastic about water sports as well as a colleague from the canoe scene on board to work together to make the Wogen vision a reality.
Surf fans have such plans in several German cities. However, the initiators often not only need donations, but also patience. For example, it took a good eight years from the idea of a Hanoverian “Leinewelle” to the start of construction at the end of June. In Nuremberg, after around ten years of planning, a wave in the Pegnitz is soon to start. In Kassel, too, an association has been committed to a river wave for several years.
It could be in two years at the earliest
The Giessen initiators are counting on the fact that it can be here in 2023. Not an easy undertaking. On the one hand, they hope to be able to realize up to 80 percent of the financing through sports funding and the rest perhaps through the municipality. The exact costs have not yet been determined. On the other hand, hydraulic engineering and wave construction are “extremely demanding,” as Schmidt says. There are many interests and guidelines that need to be taken into account.
The idea of the water sports enthusiast is well received by the city: It is a fantastic project that is also of high quality for the region and would be an attraction for Giessen, explains Giessen Mayor Peter Neidel (CDU). It also fits in with the university city because there is an extremely young audience here, he says, referring to the numerous students.
Environmental aspects should be taken into account
The Giessen marketing company has commissioned a feasibility study for the standing wave. The investigation should also take into account the ecological aspects and possible effects for the Lahn, as managing director Frank Hölscheidt explains. Accordingly, a location near a weir is being tested.
The environmental aspect is extremely important to them in their project, says Janne Paul Schmidt. River wave surfing is a sport “that is in harmony with nature”. It is local, CO2-neutral and integrative. The initiative also wants to get as many as possible on board and listen to potential concerns and incorporate them into the planning. For example, conservationists in the city have concerns: They fear an additional burden on the Lahn ecosystem.
Under certain conditions, benefits for bodies of water are even possible
According to a general assessment by the Hessian State Office for Nature Conservation, Environment and Geology (HLNUG), the exact location of an artificial wave plays a role in the question of the possible ecological impact of an artificial wave. In other words, whether it is in an urban or near-natural area, whether an existing weir site is used or the construction of the wave system is linked to the construction of a new transverse structure.
The effects on the current, the river bed, the longitudinal patency or on possible disturbances of waterfowl that live in the bank area should be considered, as the HLNUG further explains. From the point of view of the state office, the fact that an artificial wave ensures more current, at least locally, can also have a positive effect on the body of water – for example by creating habitats for current-loving fish species and increased oxygen input in the area.
Until these and other points for the “Lahnwelle” idea have been clarified, some water will still flow down the river. The result of the feasibility study is expected in a few weeks.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 210721-99-462766 / 3