Although Germany is not as exposed as its northern neighbour, Denmark, the west-facing coast still receives swell from a decent swell window that ranges from the SW round to due N. While N-NW groundswells squeezing through the narrow gap between Scotland and Norway should produce the best surf for all, including the East Frisian (Ostfriesische Inseln) Islands, it is often the SW-W windswells that bring the most waves to Sylt (Nordfriesische). As with all the North Sea Nations, the key to good waves is strong onshore winds to build the swell then a brief period of cross or offshore winds before the short-fetch lines disappear. Timing is everything as good conditions can come and go in a matter of hours. Mid to high tides are favoured as they give more depth over the offshore shoals that filter and reduce the potential power of the swell. Over on the Baltic Sea side of Germany, constant strong winds from a variety of directions are needed to generate any kind of rideable wave and while it is popular with windsurfers, only the desperate and mad should apply to its occasionally ice covered waters. Tidal range is about 2.5m on Sylt and non-existent in the brackish Baltic.
Sylt is the epicentre of German surfing and the gently-curving, sandy, barrier island hosts 35kms of beachbreak from north to south. Much of it consists of open, unstabilised strands, although there are some small jetties and sand-covered boulders to help wave shape around Westerland. It's a big summer scene with beach-goers, many of whom try surfing, but waves are inconsistent and frustrated locals have to wait for better opportunities after the tourists have gone. Further south, there are more shifting sandbars at St Peter Ording, another big resort town on the mainland but better waves can usually be found on the East Frisian Islands of Norderney and Borkum. Norderney sits in the middle of the barrier island chain and picks up any swell with a bit of north in it including NE. Borkum sits at the border with the Netherlands and shares the same surf characteristics – shifting beachbreak peaks and big crowds during the summer vacation period. The Baltic breaks are for dedicated users only, who need thick skins and thicker wetsuits. Constant onshores from the NW for some of the breaks, otherwise strong, freezing E winds supply Damp and Pelzerhaken. There is also a bit of a spring to autumn river surfing scene in a few locations, centred on the standing wave in Munich.
Ideally, the best surfing season is late summer to autumn when the water temperatures get up to 16ºC (locals claim it sometimes gets as high as 20ºC!) and a groundswell from a low pressure on the North Sea hits the islands. It is, however, all about the wind and the rare offshore days are scattered through the seasons. Summers can be very flat and in the wintertime the water temperature gets down to 2ºC and 0ºC in the Baltic, but there will still be surfers in the water.