The last thing I expected to find in Munich was surfing. On my day out after a morning at the luxurious Spa Lagune, I decided to take the camera and see what I could find just outside the historic district. I love days like this, where I become a flaneur, eating fresh cherries or strawberries from fruit stands, drinking an occasional beer or espresso, munching a fine cake and taking photos. Personally, it is the greatest gift that travel affords me: to be a man of the world and in the world. Then I found the surfers…
The moment of happenstance wherein I came upon these guys was random. I had been walking through the park area watching young people jump into the river, adults walk naked along the riverbank and students chase each other through the grassy fields seeking to find themselves in each other. My age surrendered me to be an old guy walking along the path; I was not about to jump in a river with young kids trying to be regain a youth I never experienced. As I reached the head of the river, the wakeboards began catching my eye. How was anyone going to drift down the river on one of those, especially when it seemed unnecessary for the experience?
At the first bridge there was a wave surge created by some man-made control, and there I found about thirty men trying their hand at the day’s continual wave. I had to admit that this was one of the coolest activities I had seen; riders would wait turns on either side of the river and then get 4-8 rides back and forth [if they remained standing] before dropping back into the waves. From the shore a hundred curious watchers observed and took photos with their digitals. Like the river dip, I knew that I just was not hip enough to strip down, rent or beg a board, and then fall into the waves immediately. I had never even been able to skateboard, and my snowboarding skills are limited. But I could do what no one else was doing from the shore: take my boots off and get in the middle of the action with my Hasselblad.
I will be honest that it was not an ideal situation to only have a 50mm lens, which is wide angle in medium format film. I also doubted that the Hasselblad could capture action very well, but I did have a monopod that my good friend, Marc Henoud, gave me for Christmas, and water does not bother me. At first the surfers thought I was a little nuts standing next to them, but then they took me seriously and started trying to get their best trick captured as they rode the crest towards me. The image above is by far my favourite and best capture of the experience – I took about 7 shots. The rider pops out so much that he seems fake, but it just happened to be the way the light reflected through the water. Being medium format, I was easily able to crop the image to produce the first image in this blog entry.
As I put my boots back on, secured the camera and took one last look of the scene, I felt like I had been doing something edgy. I was not on a board, I was not 18 rolling down a river half-naked, but I was standing up to my knees in water taking photos of a unique communal experience and doing it professionally enough to command the attention of some really cool guys. I am actually impressed with the way the camera shot action. Granted that I was shooting f.4 at 1/500th of a second, but somehow I expected a lot of blur especially given the shallow depth of focus – for the first shot to be in focus the surfer had to be in the exact position I had pre-focused or he would be fuzzy. The remainder of the day was spent walk back into various shops along the way to the hotel in a leisurely fashion, but with a big grin on my face; Munich was definitely my kind of place.