River surfing is a great option for surfers who live miles away from the ocean or just want to try something different.
It’s not an activity to be taken lightly, though, as river surfing can be dangerous and there are a few precautions that you need to take to keep yourself and your surfboard safe.
In this guide, we’ll give you some pointers for safe and enjoyable river surfing before highlighting some of the best river waves and standing waves around the world.
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Equipment for River Surfers
To stay safe when hitting those surf spots, you’ll need to make sure that you have the right equipment, including:
Shorter boards may be better suited for river surfing but it’s important to choose a board that provides you with adequate volume and stability.
A Shortboard that comes in at under 6 feet is usually a good choice, providing it has enough volume to keep you afloat.
Although a leash is important, it needs to be fitted with a quick-release that you are familiar with and know how to use.
Leashes are great, but they can also get you into trouble when surfing rivers.
A helmet isn’t usually found in a surfer’s inventory, but it’s an important accessory when surfing rivers as it will keep you safe in the event of a worst-case scenario.
It just takes one unfortunate wipeout and things can end very badly for you.
Not only can it protect you if you get into trouble and need to be rescued, but a lifejacket will also speed things up between surfs.
The Best River Surfing Waves
What follows is a list of the best river surf spots available right now.
So, check the list for your local river or wave pool, grab your wetsuit, and ride those waves!
The Waimea River Mouth
The Eddie big wave surfing tournament is becoming somewhat of a rarity.
It is only staged when the waves are high enough and at the time of writing, it has been 5 years since it was last held.
But there is another big wave nearby, one that also relies on certain weather conditions.
The wave we’re talking about forms when heavy rains burst through the mouth of Waimea River, creating a standing wave not unlike the ones found at the best wave parks all over the world.
It’s rare, but it’s much more common than the Big Eddie and typically occurs several times throughout the year, with surfers riding those muddy waves for many hours at a time.
Sometimes, the surfers will actively dig out sand near the mouth of the river to create the wave, and once they do, they will be able to enjoy themselves for many hours.
Although surfing the Waimea River wave is a lot of fun and makes for a very unique experience, it’s technically not legal.
There is a lot of footage out there though and if you’re looking for some unusual surfing videos, we recommend checking them out.
Eisbach River, Munich, Germany
A massively popular river surf spot, pictured above, that creates a number of challenges for even the most experienced ocean surfers.
The area attracts a large number of tourists every year and you may have to wait your turn before hitting that surf.
Bend Whitewater Park, Oregon
Once the cold season is over and the ice has melted, this Oregon location becomes a hotspot among surfers.
There are multiple different waves of varying difficulty levels, catering for beginners and more experienced surfers, as well as kayakers.
Snake River, Wyoming
The Jackson Hole surf spot comes to life for 40 days a year after the Jackson Lake Dam sends a flood of water into Snake River.
It’s a tricky surf spot that offers some of the best waves away from the ocean.
Zambezi River, Livingstone, Zambia
A few times a year the Zambezi River creates some immense standing waves.
It’s worth trekking down there just for these waves, but once you get there you can also explore some of the beautiful natural scenery that this country has to offer.
Urumea River, San Sebastian, Spain
Ocean waves send a swell up the river, creating a unique experience that you will struggle to find anywhere else.
It’s a beautiful city and it’s usually packed with surfers, so there’s plenty to do and plenty of fellow surfers to meet when you’re in town.
Pororoca, Amazon, Brazil
With waves that can reach heights of up to 15 feet, this is a beast of a surfing location and is reserved for only the most skilled and daring surfers.
Severn Bore, Gloucester, England
The waves in this popular tidal bore can reach up to seven feet and carry surfers for miles.
It attracts surfers from all over Europe and is worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Gloucester, which is famous for its cathedral and is just a couple of hours’ drive from London.