18.5 | Rhine Runoff
Sometimes a carve is all you need
Words: Nico Von Lerchenfeld
Photos: Flo Suess
As riders, we see things differently. We’re looking at bodies of water and instead of only admiring the pure beauty of them, we’re seeing spots to ride. But how often have you wandered past a “dry” place and thought, “If only there was water here … I would love to hit that with my wakeboard”? Well, in January of 2018, I got that opportunity. Deep in the middle of winter in Germany, the river Rhine rose so much that it flooded most of the cities it passes through. I had a couple of friends from school visiting me and showed them the Kölner Dom, the big cathedral in Cologne, and while we walked along the riverside, I realized how much the water had actually come up. My mind started racing because I had my friends with me and wanted to spend time with them, but also knew that I had to seize this opportunity. The water level was still going up, so the next two days I took my bicycle to ride up and down the river and look for spots. I contacted Steffen Vollert to see if he was up for a winch mission, and of course he was! He grabbed the winch along with his camera gear and drove up to make it happen.
Nico keeping an eye on the concrete
With my girlfriend filming alongside Steffen, Flo Suess shooting photos, and a handful of others to help run the winch, we had a solid crew to start with the flooded skatepark as our first spot. Riding there was more fun than Disneyland for a 5-year-old. I could ride a line from one end of the park to the other … can you imagine how much fun that was? I had to be careful though because when I ollied or went on edge, I felt my board scraping the concrete under the ankle deep water. It was a little bit hectic too, as skate parks are not designed to be ridden through at wakeboard speeds. By the time we got done with that spot, the water had gone down so much I couldn’t even ride there anymore. This was alarming because I was afraid the spots I had checked would maybe not be there for too much longer. So we went to the next one right away to get it done while we could. I had seen a perfect, mellow up-rail with a grass bank to land in before dropping into the water. Usually at winch spots, something always sucks. Whether it’s the run up or landing being too short, the water being too shallow, or gnarly restrictions like rocks or closeouts that reduce the margin for error to a minimum, this spot was unique because we didn’t have any of those problems. Still, some rough concrete on the one side was pretty intimidating, but after I landed on that the first try and actually slid on it quite well, I wasn’t too worried as long as I got my feet underneath me. I started off hitting the rail regular but ended up hitting it switch which I don’t do too often at winch spots, but it made it easier to get a good pull on it so I just went with it. Even though the rail was a very smooth incline, it was still a metal rail with the variable pull of a winch making it quite hard to get a long ride. When I finally got my trick, I was still thinking I could have made it further, but after all those tries I called it. Winching takes a lot of energy and if you push too hard, you might get broken off.
Big gaps call for a lot of speed
Nico taking a stroll through the local skatepark
The next day, we had plans to hit a few more spots but the water had dropped so much that we had to cancel. Some of the spots also would have required me to be right in the current of the river, which was pushing the brown water way too fast for me to set up in it. But we were able to find something else really fun: a kids’ playground, as well as a stretch of a nice grass bank to ride by. Those last two spots made me realize once again how a simple spot can still be one of the most fun. Sometimes a couple of carves on a little stretch of water can be the most satisfying thing in the world. At the end of the day, what matters is seeing opportunity when nobody else does, getting your friends and making it happen! So get out there and get it!
Chilly but stoked