Morro Bay. Photo: Burkard
Morro Bay. Photo: Burkard

Best Surf Colleges, No. 6: California Polytechnic State University

The best universities in the U.S. for scoring waves while getting your degree

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 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 (which we'll be revealing over the next week) includes ten prestigious institutions, revered by many surfers for their high academic standards, illustrious alumni, and, not coincidentally, their nearness to quality surf.

Here's No. 6 on our list....

California Polytechnic State University
San Luis Obispo, CA

Waves

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.

Education

Located between the Pacific Ocean and the world-class vineyards of the Edna Valley, Cal Poly's College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences is one of the nation's most prestigious undergraduate agriculture programs, and--if you prefer a nice pull from a snifter over a keg-stand--offers a B.A. in Wine and Viticulture. Cal Poly also offers degrees in engineering, mathematics, architecture, and business and entrepreneurship, with business administration being the most popularly chosen major. As the second largest land-holding university in California, Cal Poly also owns 3,200 acres of land outside of Davenport, CA, where students can take advantage of educational and research opportunities in Santa Cruz County. Meanwhile, surfing is embraced as more than an extracurricular activity at Cal Poly, as an on-campus shaping bay serves as a classroom for students who wish to learn to mow their own foam in exchange for college credit.

Town and campus
As one of the largest college campuses in the United States, with two agricultural lands in San Luis Obispo, and properties in Santa Cruz, CPSU does not confine students to the main campus. The bucolic valleys and sweeping mountains surrounding Cal Poly offer plenty of opportunities to commune with nature, while downtown San Luis Obispo boasts a respectable nightlife for those looking for undergraduate matriculation of a more lively variety.

Lifestyle
Colder and more rural than most California surf towns, SLO is more of a work boots and Carhartt jackets kind of town. But SLO is a surf-town nonetheless, with an eclectic surf community comprised of pick-up-driving farmers, college coeds, sommeliers and everything in between. With proper planning and sufficient gas money, rideable waves and a variety of outdoor activities will keep you occupied between classes.

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
Perks: Vino. Shaping classes. Hip downtown scene with plenty of bars (for non-accredited partaking) and live music.

[Check back tomorrow for our No. 5 reveal]

Best Surf Colleges 2018

No. 10: Monmouth University

No. 9: University of North Carolina Wilmington

No. 8: San Diego State University

No. 7: San Francisco State University

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