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 below includes ten prestigious institutions, revered by many surfers for their high academic standards, illustrious alumni, and, not coincidentally, their nearness to quality surf.
Without further ado, let the list begin, starting with…
No. 10: Monmouth University
West Long Branch, New Jersey
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. When the wind shifts north, it’s only an hour drive up the Jersey Turnpike to snag more offshore surf in Long Island. Starting with the late summer east coast hurricane season and continuing with the brutal cold fronts and size-producing Nor'easters of the harsh New Jersey winter, things stay relatively hollow and heavy for long stretches of the calendar year. Though the conditions are fickle and fleeting, spring and summer bring warmer water temps and ridable surf, though you'll have to out-maneuver the throngs of pasty urbanites visiting the shore to wade in the still-chilly Atlantic.
With a student-teacher ratio of 14:1, and a firm policy of capping class sizes at 25 to 35 students, Monmouth is known throughout the northeast for offering its nearly 5,000 undergrads a relatively personalized education. 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. The school has also earned distinction for facilitating students with creative pursuits through its distinguished school of art and design, as well as the campus radio and television stations and Monmouth's one-of-a-kind student-run record label.
Town and campus
Located less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean, Monmouth's campus includes historic landmarks like the Walt Withey Chapel (imported from Europe and was once part of a 16th century Tudor Abbey), as well as Woodrow Wilson Hall and Guggenheim Cottage (both included in the National Historic Registry). If suburban New Jersey isn't your bag, big city excursions are more than manageable undertakings, as Philadelphia and the Big Apple are each less than an hour away.
A true Northeastern surf town, West Long Branch, NJ is laidback and includes some of the best waves on the Atlantic seaboard. And what the surrounding campus environs lack in cultural stimulation, Monmouth's proximity to major world cities makes for one of the most inspiring and well-balanced experiences a surf-stoked undergrad could ever ask. If you can handle the frigid winters, you stand to be invigorated by the cold-water temps and innumerable hollow days.
Annual cost (Including tuition, fees, books, room and board): $55,000
Average incoming freshman GPA: 3.33
Ratio of male/female students: 42/58
[Head back to Surfer.com tomorrow for our No.9 reveal]