The Top 10 Surf Colleges In America

Jesse Merle Jones

Jesse Merle Jones schooling a lip on the South Shore of Oahu. Photo: Zak Noyle.

With application deadlines looming, it’s time to narrow down where you’ll be continuing your education—and you’re ripping—for the next couple years. If you’re past all that college stuff, just revel in our mapping out of some of the best four-year schools in America to surf, party, sling chicks, and still walk away with that diploma.

Do you agree with this list? Leave your top 10 below!

What Makes A College A “Surf College”?
This is by no means a comprehensive list. These are basically schools that are either geographically situated near great surf, have healthy surf scenes, and/or have surf clubs or teams. There are scores of schools with surf organizations on campus—we could have added two dozen more schools in California alone—so do your research, go online, and visit campuses.


What To Consider When Choosing A School

1. Academics
Every college offers a bachelor’s degree in political science, but when you dig deeper, you’ll realize that schools have specialties, and their marquee programs get the best funding and attract dynamic professors who will open your mind to your potential. You don’t go to a steak house and order a salad, so do your research and you’ll get way more out of your college education.

2. Surf Quality
College is full of two things: poverty and commitment. You’re poor because you have no real job and you’re being charged between five- and 35-thousand dollars in tuition each year, and you’re committed to classes, study groups, seminars, internships, etc. Long story short: you aren’t gonna be taking surf trips, so if surfing is a priority for you, choose a school near some decent waves.

3. Life Experience
Are you going to college to make Mom and Dad happy, or are you looking for new experiences? You can get a good education in California or Maine, so unless you need the diploma to say “Harvard” on it, remember, New Jersey has good surf, too, you just need to get a six-millimeter, hooded fullsuit for winter.

4. Costs
College is something most only do once, so if you get into a great school that charges an arm and a leg for tuition, don’t panic. Almost everyone gets some sort of federal, state, or private assistance in paying for college these days. Case-in-point; TransWorld SURF’s Online Editor Justin Cote’ basically got paid to go to college because he was broke-ass.

5. Partying
First of all, every school is a party school. Yeah, some have wilder reputations than others, but realize that degrees from “party schools” are taken less seriously in the real world. Understand that later in life, if you’re competing for a job against someone you’re evenly matched with and the recruiter sees that he graduated from Princeton and you hold a degree from Beer Bong U, he’s getting the nod.

The Top 10 Surf Colleges In America (in no particular order)

1. University of California Santa Cruz

UCSC
Location: Santa Cruz, California
Enrollment: 14,381 (46% men, 54% women)
Yearly tuition: $8,200 in-state, $28,808 out-of-state
Room/board: $13,038
Acceptance rate: 82%
Application deadline: November 30
Top three majors: Social Sciences (17%), Biology (12%), Psychology (11%)
Surf organization: team/club
Nearby surf breaks: Steamer Lane, Natural Bridges, Pleasure Point
Average Water temp in January: 52°F

Santa Cruz

Get accepted to UCSC and start ripping the Lane with Kieran Horn. Photo: Nelly/SPL


The best of both worlds: a great education and some of the best, most-consistent surf California has to offer—from never-ending right points and peaky, powerful beachbreaks to big-wave spots like Mavericks. The school mascot is a gigantic banana slug. UCSC’s downsides include cold water, sharks, co-eds soaked in patchouli oil, drum circles, and demanding professors.
http://www.ucsc.edu/public/

2. University of California Santa Barbara

UCSB
Location: Santa Barbara, California
Enrollment: 18,415 (43% men, 57% women)
Yearly tuition: $8,386 in-state, $28,994 out-of-state
Room/board: $12,485
Acceptance rate: 54%
Application deadline: November 30
Top three majors: Social Sciences (18%), Business/Marketing (11%), Biology (8%)
Surf organization: team/club
Nearby surf breaks: Campus Point, El Capitan, Rincon
Average Water temp in January: 54°F

Rincon

Rincon, dubbed “The Queen Of The Coast” is a quick drive from UCSB. Photo: Kew


School of choice for SoCal surfers who want to escape the suburban drudgery of S.D., L.A., and the O.C., but who want to be close enough to occasionally drive their laundry home. Like all UC schools, studying is a must, and with Rincon just twenty minutes away and a legendary party scene in Isla Vista, distractions can be plentiful. And oh yeah, the cops here act like it’s a police state, so watch your ass while partying.
http://www.ucsb.edu/

3. University of California San Diego

ucsd
Location: San Diego, California
Enrollment: 22,048 (48% men, 52% women)
Yearly tuition: $8,062 in-state, $28,670 out-of-state
Room/board: $10,787
Acceptance rate: 43%
Application deadline: November 30
Top three majors: Social Sciences (20%), Biology (18%), Engineering (15%)
Surf organization: team/club
Nearby surf breaks: Blacks, Scripps, La Jolla reefs
Average Water temp in January: 59°F

Blacks Beach

Classes take a backseat to barrels when Blacks in firing. Photo: Steindler


Even if UCSD wasn’t a top-ten California school situated in one of the most affluent, beautiful beach communities on the Pacific Rim (La Jolla) with a diverse student body and one of the best marine biology departments on Earth, the fact of the matter is, the surf team gets a key to the Black’s parking lot. Where do I sign? The downside though: extremely tough courses and not the hottest co-eds on this list.
http://www.ucsd.edu/portal/site/ucsd

4. Pepperdine University

pepperdine
Location: Malibu, California
Enrollment: 3,398 (45% men, 55% women)
Yearly tuition: $36,770
Room/board: $10,480
Acceptance rate: 35%
Application deadline: January 15
Top three majors: Business/Marketing (27%), Communications/Journalism (18%), Social Sciences (11%)
Surf organization: team/club
Nearby surf breaks: Malibu, Topanga, Venice Beach, Point Dume
Average Water temp in January: 58°F

At $40,000-plus in annual tuition and living expenses, Pepperdine ain’t cheap, but you get what you pay for—small classes, excellent academics (if there were a West Coast Ivy League, Pepperdine would be in it), quick access to the crazy nightlife of L.A. minus tons of crackheads walking around yelling at stuff, and one of the best pointbreaks in California (that’s Malibu, folks) is a five-minute walk from campus.
http://www.pepperdine.edu/

5. Point Loma Nazarene University

Point Loma
Location: San Diego, California
Enrollment: 2,346 (37% men, 63% women)
Yearly tuition: $25,120
Room/board: $8,170
Acceptance rate: 73%
Application deadline: March 1
Top three majors: Business/Marketing (20%), Psychology (12%), Health Professions (11%)
Surf organization: team/club
Nearby surf breaks: Ocean Beach, Sunset Cliffs
Average Water temp in January: 59°F
A small school tucked away in a residential neighborhood of coastal San Diego, Point Loma Nazarene is perched directly above Sunset Cliffs and offers up nearby beachbreaks and semi-secret reefs and coves. This is the land where the fish originated and you can still see Skip Frye out connecting sections that most could never get close to. The downside? Having to attend religious classes.
www.pointloma.edu/

Why California?
Want the short answer? Consistent surf. From the Oregon border to Tijuana, the Golden State gets decent surf year-round. Spring tends to be the weakest season, but that just frees you up to study for finals. California’s state school system is excellent, and the UC system offers a world-class education on par with the Ivy League. Add in warm weather, tolerable winter water temps, and infinite job prospects, and you begin to get the picture.

6. University of Hawai‘i Manoa

Uh manoa
Location: Honolulu, O‘ahu, Hawai‘i
Enrollment: 13,746 (46% men, 54% women)
Yearly tuition: $6,259 in-state, $16,915 out-of-state
Room/board: $7,564
Acceptance rate: 70%
Application deadline: May 1
Top three majors: Business/Marketing (22%), Social Sciences (11%), Education (8%)
Surf organization: team/club
Nearby surf breaks: Kaisers, Ala Moana, the North Shore (45 minutes away)
Average Water temp in January: 72°F

UH Manoa

Jesse Merle Jones snapping away less than 15 minutes from the UH campus. Photo: Noyle
Though it’s pricey for out-of-staters, once you’ve stepped foot on campus, you realize UH Manoa is worth every cent of the extra tuition. Nestled in the hills above Honolulu, UH is less than 45 minutes from every surf spot on O‘ahu, from Queens and Makaha to Pipeline. Students often complain that the beauty of nature can distract you from graduating if you aren’t careful.
www.uhm.hawaii.edu/

7. Flagler College

Flagler College
Location: St. Augustine, Florida
Enrollment: 2,145 (37% men, 63% women)
Yearly tuition: $13,600
Room/board: $6,900
Acceptance rate: 26%
Application deadline: March 1
Top three majors: Business/Marketing (19%), Communications/Journalism (13%), Visual and Performing Arts (13%)
Surf organization: team/club
Nearby surf breaks: A Street, St. Augustine Pier, Matanzas Inlet
Average Water temp in January: 60°F

Florida

Beachbreaks and babes galore in north Florida. Photo: Wilson


While it may seem like little more than a smallish business school in the oldest city in America, Flagler College is really a surf powerhouse. One of the top East Coast collegiate surf teams, Saints surfers have quick access to everything from Jacksonville in the north to New Smyrna in the south and tolerable water year-round. Having a student body comprised of almost two-thirds chicks doesn’t hurt either.
www.flagler.edu/

8. Monmouth University


Location: West Long Branch, New Jersey
Enrollment: 4,744 (43% men, 57% women)
Yearly tuition: $24,098
Room/board: $9,221
Acceptance rate: 57%
Application deadline: March 1
Top three majors: Business/Marketing (27%), Communications/Journalism (16%), Education (16%)
Surf organization: club
Nearby surf breaks: Manasquan, The Wedge, Presidents Street Park
Average Water temp in January: 36°F

New Jersey

The Jersey shore firing on all cylinders. Photo: Stafford


New Jersey isn’t the first place that comes to mind when surf schools are being discussed, but the Atlantic near Monmouth in West Long Branch will offer up some amazing sessions for anyone tough enough to brave the cold of Jersey’s school year, plus you get to experience a real grassroots surf community. If suburban NJ is too low-key for your taste, NYC is a mere 40 miles north.
www.monmouth.edu/

9. University of North Carolina Wilmington

Location: Wilmington, North Carolina
Enrollment: 10,753 (41% men, 59% women)
Yearly tuition: $4,527 in-state, $14,694 out-of-state
Room/board: $7,280
Acceptance rate: 58%
Application deadline: February 1
Top three majors: Business/Marketing (26%), Education (11%), Psychology (8%)
Surf organization: team/club
Nearby surf breaks: Masonboro Inlet, Columbia Street, Oceanic Pier
Average Water temp in January: 49°F

Cape Hatteras

Worth the drive from Wilmington—Cape Hatteras; . Photo: Stafford


If there’s an East Coast surf college to single out, it’s probably UNC Wilmington, but not because it has the world’s best surf team, and certainly not because the water is even remotely forgiving in the dead of winter, but because it’s located very near Wrightsville Beach. If you bring your car, you’ll have access to the entirety of the Outer Banks, from Corolla Lighthouse to the Point.
www.uncwil.edu/

10. Salve Regina University


Location: Newport, Rhode Island
Enrollment: 2,125 (37% men, 63% women)
Yearly tuition: $31,500
Room/board: $10,700
Acceptance rate: 54%
Application deadline: No closing date
Top three majors: Education (22%), Business/Marketing (19%), Health Professions (11%)
Surf organization: club
Nearby surf breaks: Ruggles, 1st and 2nd Beaches, Bailey’s Beach
Average Water temp in January: 37°F
Despite water temps that average about three degrees above freezing for most the winter, Newport, Rhode Island has a pretty healthy surf scene. Newport’s the home of legendary East Coast break Ruggles, which can be world-class on the right swell. If none of that interests you, the student body at Salve Regina is 63-percent female. Need we say more?
www.salve.edu/

Honorable Mentions:

Cal State University San Marcos
Location: San Marcos, California
Nearby surf breaks: Oceanside Pier, Ponto Jetty, Swamis
Lots of commuters and older students and no NCAA football team means it doesn’t come close to its southern neighbor, San Diego State, as a party school, but don’t let that and its distance from the beach (fifteen miles) fool you. CSUSM has a top-ten-ranked surf team, and the student body is of the heavily tanned flip-flop and boardshorts-wearing variety.
www.csusm.edu/

Cal State University Humboldt
Location: Arcata, California
Nearby Surf Breaks: Humboldt Jetty, Cape Mendocino
The northernmost university in California, Humboldt boasts tons of big, cold surf. A beautiful campus, the trick is to not let your studies get sidetracked by the abundant supply of weed and surf.
www.humboldt.edu/

BYU Hawaii
Location: Laie, Oahu
Nearby Surf Breaks: Pipeline, Crouching Lion, Goat Island
Situated in the mostly Mormon town of Laie on the eastside of Oahu, BYU Hawaii has one of the most internationally diverse campus in the United States and is a quick, fifteen-minute drive to the North Shore of Oahu. A dry campus, don’t expect lots of Animal House style partying.
www.byuh.edu

University of Rhode Island
Location: Kingston, Rhode Island
Nearby Surf Breaks: Point Judith, Naragansett, Ruggles
If old-town Newport, RI isn’t exactly your style but you still want that northeast perfection, then just a few miles away lies URI. From URI, Point Judith is much more accessible then Salve Regina since you won’t have to cross the Jamestown Bridge. But remember, it’s still going to be f-king cold.
www.uri.edu/

Florida Institute of Technology
Location: Melbourne, Florida
Nearby Surf Breaks: The Boardwalk, The Radisson, Sebastian Inlet
This is an Institute of Technology, so you’re not going to find any English Lit. majors here. With that said though, the sleepy beach town of Indialantic is just a quick drive over the Intracoastal, and Sebastian Inlet just a half hour south. Oh yeah, it’s Florida, and the girls don’t get much hotter than this prized little area.
www.fit.edu/

*All stats on schools compiled from The College Board