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. 4 on our list….
No. 4: University of California Santa Barbara
Isla Vista, CA
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. While Campus Point, Devereux, and Sands provide waves just steps off campus, Rincon and Sandspit lie within a 20-minute drive. And, if you’re open to traveling a bit further, Ventura, a half-hour away, offers a host of south-swell spots, while the open coastline north of Point Conception (a half-hour north) is a magnet for wind swells nearly year-round.
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.
Town and campus
The coastal community of Santa Barbara, located an hour and a half north of Los Angeles, is nestled between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific. Home to 13 colleges and universities, it features quaint shops, dozens of restaurants and bars, and an array of newly added national chain retailers. UCSB’s campus, 15 minutes north of the city center, accounts for 1,055 acres of beachfront real estate, with oceanview dorms steps from the sand.
Though most students choose to live in the University-adjacent community of Isla Vista, Santa Barbara offers a host of living options from rural mountain reclusion to urban downtown living. Isla Vista—a square-mile of college kids packed into houses and apartments situated on the bluff above the ocean—is the ideal locale for surfers and the primary reason why UCSB consistently ranks among the top party schools in the nation. And with wetsuits draped over nearly every balcony, a top surf team, and the consistent stream of surf films and events in the area, UCSB comfortably finds itself as one of the best places in America to be a college student/surfer.
Annual cost (Including tuition, fees, books, room and board): $35,000 in-state/ $60,000 out-of-state
Average incoming freshman GPA: 3.96
Male/Female student ratio: 47/53
A Word from an Alumnus: “One of the best waves in the area is called Campus Point. That’s pretty much all you need to know.” —Steve Hawk, former SURFER Editor
Sidenote:(For Non-California Residents)Nearby Santa Barbara City College is one of the leading community colleges in the nation with the highest transfer rates in the country, so students can gain residency and essentially save thousands by transferring to UCSB junior year as a California resident.
[Check back tomorrow for our No. 4 reveal]
Best Surf Colleges 2018