10 best surf colleges
The pursuit of a college degree may not seem like the most practical way to chase surf, binding yourself to one location for an extended period of time and saddling yourself with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt just to postpone your eventual entry into the Rat Race in service of paying down your federally subsidized debt. Oh, how Dora would rage!

But there are obviously advantages to furthering your formal education. Regardless of your career path, a college degree is now the lowest barrier to entry to the jobs market. The unemployment rate for college graduates hovers around 2 percent. And those with a degree from a four-year academic institution earn 90 percent more on average than those without a post-high school education. Unless you're one of the lucky few whose resume will include the single-line entry "professional surfer," in order to surf for the rest of your life, you'll need money. And while there may be other ways to get it, a job is the most practical (and legal) recourse.

So college is a good idea, but let's talk trade-offs. You're going to be tied to one specific location for four (or more) years of your life. You might as well find a school within striking distance of a sliver of coastline offering ample opportunities for aquatic-based matriculation between classes. Also, it's (almost) as important to make sure the school provides a quality education.

To make life easier on both you and your guidance counselor, we pored over university pamphlets, surf reports, and statistics-taking into consideration surf proximity and quality, academics, cost and lifestyle-to narrow down America’s most surf-friendly four-year schools. The list we've assembled includes ten prestigious institutions, revered by many surfers for their high academic standards, illustrious alumni, and, not coincidentally, their nearness to quality surf.
10 best surf colleges

1. University of California San Diego

Sitting on the cliffs overlooking Black's Beach, UCSD offers relatively unfettered access to one of Southern California’s crown jewels. Good at nearly any size, Black’s alone would be enough to land USCD on our list of Top 10 Surf Colleges. Throw in its central locality among 70 miles of San Diego coastline, and it’s easy to see why the school put up high numbers for proximity to surf. Don’t want to hassle with the crowds at Black’s? Drive 10 minutes north or south and you’ll find fun numerous reefbreaks and beachbreaks. Read more.

Annual cost: $31,500 in-state / $59,500 out-of-state
Enrolled: 28,100
Average GPA of incoming freshman: 4.0
Male/Female ratio of student body: 48/52

10 best surf colleges

2. University of California Santa Cruz

Surrounded by some of the most famed (and diverse) surf spots in the world, UCSC may be cold, but it’s also the capital of consistency. The campus, situated among the redwoods in the hills overlooking the coast, is just a 5-minute drive to the breaks on the west side and just a few more to dozens more on the east side. Though locals are notoriously anti-Slugs (UCSC mascot), skill and respect go a long way. Read more.

Annual cost: $31,500 in-state / $59,500 out-of-state
Enrolled: 16,200
Average GPA of incoming freshmen: 3.76
Male/Female ratio of student body: 48/52

10 best surf colleges

3. Point Loma Nazarene University

Located on the bluffs above wave-rich Sunset Cliffs, Point Loma offers the closest dorms to the warm Southern California surf of San Diego. As a religiously affiliated university, the school can be pretty strict, requiring that freshmen attend chapel and live on campus without a car for their first year. But, with an array of quality waves just a few steps away, who needs to go anywhere? Read more.

Annual cost: $48,000
Enrolled: 3,200
Average GPA of incoming freshman: 3.78
Male/Female ratio of student body: 36/54

10 best surf colleges

4. University of California Santa Barbara

Offering over 200 majors, degrees, and credentials, UCSB is ranked among the top ten public universities in the nation. Likewise, as the school gains popularity and prestige, it's become progressively more competitive, cultivating a high academic standard and attracting renowned faculty, including six winners of Nobel Prizes. With the Channel Islands blocking a portion of incoming swells, Santa Barbara is often looked at as the fickle sister of the wave-rich regions of Central California to the north and Southern California to the south. But where Santa Barbara lacks in consistency, it certainly makes up in quality–one good session at the Queen of the Coast will certainly remind you why she's worth the trouble. Read more.

Annual cost: $35,000 in-state/ $60,000 out-of-state
Enrollment: 23,000
Average incoming freshman GPA: 3.96
Male/Female student ratio: 47/53

10 best surf colleges

5. University of Hawaii Manoa

Sure, it’s Town. But you’re in Hawaii. On Oahu. Close to the high-quality lefts of Publics, with premiere Town spots like Ala Moana Bowls just a short drive away, University of Hawaii Manoa students are never wanting for access to good surf. The water's warm, the swells are prolific, and the North Shore’s just an hour drive away. ‘Nuff said. Read more.

Annual cost: $28,600/ $50,600 out-of-state
Enrolled: 18,865
Average Incoming Freshman GPA:3.46
Male/Female Ratio: 45/55

10 best surf colleges

6. California Polytechnic State University

An hour and a half north of Santa Barbara, the San Luis Obispo coastline–while often overlooked in the shadow of more well-regarded, more crowded stretches of coast to the south–offers an abundance of less crowded (though colder) surf breaks. The CPSU campus is a 15-minute drive from Morro Bay, and within striking distance of a smattering of quality spots like Pismo Beach, Cuyacos Pier, and Avila Beach, each offering top-notch surf when conditions align. Meanwhile, more adventurous, crowd-averse surfers will find the coast between San Luis Obispo and Big Sur can heap rewards on those who combine ambition with proper planning. Read more.

Annual Cost:$27,000 in-state / $39,000 out-of-state
Enrolled: 20,900
Average incoming GPA: 3.92
Male/Female ratio of student body: 53/47

10 best surf colleges

7. San Francisco State University

Located on the outskirts of a city known internationally for the heterogeneous makeup of its population and its inclusive mindset, SF State has, unsurprisingly, one of the most diverse student bodies in the country. SF State offers bachelor’s degrees in 118 different areas of specialization, including a storied teacher education program, which offers 26 credentials among six different colleges. Boasting a world-class beach break and a few novelty points–including one with an iconic backdrop and noted reputation for ferocious localism–San Francisco does, indeed, have surf. Stretching from Kelly’s Cove to the Sloat Blvd. parking lot, Ocean Beach is one of the heaviest, most dynamic beachbreaks in the world. Read more.

Annual cost: $26,720 in-state / $38,600 out-of-state
Enrolled: 25,495
Average GPA of incoming freshmen: 3.23
Ratio of male/female students: 44/56

10 best surf colleges

8. San Diego State University

SDSU is slightly easier to get into than the UC schools, and whole lot less expensive. It’s the oldest and largest institution in the city and it’s a short drive to all the San Diego breaks. Although it lacks the ocean vistas of nearby Point Loma Nazarene University and the proximity to world-class surf of UCSD, State Diego State University remains within striking distance of a good portion of one of California’s most wave-rich regions. It’s a just straight shot west on the 8 freeway to Ocean Beach and less than an hour north of the US-Mexico border. Warm weather and 70 miles of beach breaks, piers, and reefs make San Diego a no-brainer for those interested in aquatic-based extracurricular activities. Read more.

Annual cost: $28,200 in-state / $40,000 out-of-state
Enrolled: 34,000
Average incoming GPA: 3.67
Male/female ratio of students: 46/54

10 best surf colleges

9. University of North Carolina Wilmington

It’s not often world-class, but with a handful of sand-accumulating, man-made structures and a natural tributary (or two), the clear, warm(ish)-water breaks of Wrightsville Beach (just a ten-minute drive from UNC-Wilmington campus) produce relatively consistent surf by east coast standards. Tide-dependant spots like Masonboro Inlet and Crystal Pier each have their moments. And with Cape Hatteras just a four-hour drive from Wilmington, barrel-hungry chargers can get their fill as well.UNC Wilmington boasts one of the best marine sciences program in the nation, and the nearby Outer Banks surf community is certainly a strong one. Read more.

Annual cost: $24,600 in-state / $38,600 out-of-state
Enrolled: 15,000
Average incoming GPA: 3.67
Ratio of male/female students: 38/62

10 best surf colleges
SDSU is slightly easier to get into than the UC schools, and whole lot less expensive. It’s the oldest and largest institution in the city and it’s a short drive to all the San Diego breaks. Although it lacks the ocean vistas of nearby Point Loma Nazarene University and the proximity to world-class surf of UCSD, State Diego State University remains within striking distance of a good portion of one of California’s most wave-rich regions. It’s a just straight shot west on the 8 freeway to Ocean Beach and less than an hour north of the US-Mexico border. Warm weather and 70 miles of beach breaks, piers, and reefs make San Diego a no-brainer for those interested in aquatic-based extracurricular activities. Read more.

Annual cost: $28,200 in-state / $40,000 out-of-state
Enrolled: 34,000
Average incoming GPA: 3.67
Male/female ratio of students: 46/54

10 best surf colleges

9. University of North Carolina Wilmington

It’s not often world-class, but with a handful of sand-accumulating, man-made structures and a natural tributary (or two), the clear, warm(ish)-water breaks of Wrightsville Beach (just a ten-minute drive from UNC-Wilmington campus) produce relatively consistent surf by east coast standards. Tide-dependant spots like Masonboro Inlet and Crystal Pier each have their moments. And with Cape Hatteras just a four-hour drive from Wilmington, barrel-hungry chargers can get their fill as well. UNC Wilmington boasts one of the best marine sciences program in the nation, and the nearby Outer Banks surf community is certainly a strong one. Read more.

Annual cost: $24,600 in-state / $38,600 out-of-state
Enrolled: 15,000
Average incoming GPA: 3.67
Ratio of male/female students: 38/62

10 best surf colleges

10. Monmouth University

If you’re going attend college on the East Coast, don’t mind cold-water, and very much enjoy getting barreled, New Jersey’s Monmouth University is undoubtedly your best bet. Located in suburban, coastal Jersey, the Monmouth University campus is just a mile from some of the best beach breaks on right coast and minutes from Sandy Hook, where strong east swells produce huge barrels that fire down the sand-bottom point. Widely considered one of the top private schools in the region, Monmouth offers degrees in 26 undergraduate programs, plus a bounty of learning opportunities for ocean-inclined students through the school’s Urban Coast Institute and internships with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. Read more.

Annual cost: $55,000
Enrollment: 6,400
Average incoming freshman GPA: 3.33
Ratio of male/female students: 42/58

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