I went to Aarhus straight from Copenhagen, not quite knowing what to expect. Aarhus and Copenhagen are easy to compare: they’re the two largest cities in Denmark, they’re both situated on major bodies of water, and they both have canals running through their city centers that loosely—and largely unsuccessfully—emulate those famous waterways of Amsterdam to the south.
Because Aarhus is the smaller of the two Danish urban centers, it’s tempting to think of it as the less illustrious little sibling—full of contemporary art museums, cultural centers, and interesting food options just like Copenhagen, but devoid of the urban planning and myriad landmarks that make Copenhagen a traditionally much more desirable destination.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that Aarhus is a pretty cool place to be. I’d even say it falls just a hair short of being the place to be. Sure, it doesn’t have the name recognition of Denmark’s capital. Sure, it has less museums, churches, and smørrebrød dealers (it’s a sandwich, not a drug). So what does it have?
Aarhus has watersports. Watersports? Watersports. Centrally located, right in the heart of the former industrial harbor that helped put Aarhus on the map as powerhouse in the shipping industry, are two establishments that help make Aarhus the place to be.
“Log”, I’m told, is an alternative name for surfboard in the extensive lexicon of surfer slang.
The first is the Surf Agency, a super-hip surf joint that’s dedicated to give you the best time on the water possible. Their specialty is paddle boarding, since the lack of waves in the harbor mandate some human powered form of propulsion. If you know how to paddle board, just show up (or, if you want to be responsible, call ahead) and see if you can snag a “log” for an hour and a half. “Log”, I’m told, is an alternative name for surfboard in the extensive lexicon of surfer slang.
If you’re not super experienced, like me, then you’ll have to do a little bit more maneuvering to get yourself on a board. Lessons are normally reserved for groups and are pretty pricey, but if you talk to a staff member—and you’ll probably want to talk to a staff member, both because they’re so friendly and so very committed to get people out enjoying the water—they can work something out with availability and potentially pricing. You’ll probably be sharing the space with some fun-loving Danes making a party out of the surf spot—thanks to three hot tubs and a sauna and a turf-covered patio, Surf Agency becomes a hotspot for groups big and small to hangout. It doesn’t hurt that there’s a craft brewery less than fifteen feet away.
“Alright,” you say. “That’s good and all, but I want to go fast. How do I do that with no waves?” The answer is by walking just a tad more than ten minutes from Surf Agency, to the Aarhus Watersports Complex. It’s in a pretty unassuming row of shipping containers that have been retrofitted to be juice bars, food stands, and of course the HQ for the complex. The row of containers sit right on an inlet of the harbor, across which hangs a cable-and-winch system with a rope attached to it. Every couple of minutes, the rope flies across the water and pulls a wakeboarder from one end of the inlet to the other—it’s quicker and more environmentally friendly than the classic boat tow method, and it’s also just really, really cool.
The water is pretty calm, thanks to the relative shelter offered by the inlet, and they’ve installed floating jumps and other terrain features in the water to allow more ambitious boarders to grab some freaking sick air, should they be so inclined. For anyone waiting in line or not wanting to latch themselves to a piece of fiberglass and get yanked around the harbor, there’s spectator seating installed in the form of a floating raft covered with astroturf and a couple of lawn chairs. Should you tire of the water, there’s also a beach volleyball court right next door. It’s pretty easy to see making a day—or two—out of this: spend a morning out paddle-boarding and exploring the coast, then jump on over to the Watersports Complex and spend an afternoon shredding that sweet sweet saltwater on the wakeboard course. Ah, relaxation.
Sam is a sophomore who usually needs a haircut. He gives a lot of tours on campus and is excited to actually get the chance to go on some this summer for a change. He also leads trips into the wilderness for the First-Year Outdoor Program and Outing Club and serves as manager for the alpine ski team. This love for the mountains is reflected in his destinations for this summer: Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands… wait. While he might not be straying too far from sea level, Sam’s still looking forward to the many high points of his trip—eating chocolate in Antwerp, eating chocolate in Bruges, eating chocolate in Brussels, and making friends with the deer that live in that one deer sanctuary north of Copenhagen.