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. 7 on our list….
No. 7: San Francisco State Univeristy
San Francisco, CA
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. With its constantly shifting sandbars and northwest exposure, the surf at OB can be heavy at under head high and downright terrifying when long-period swells produce waves up 20 feet tall during the wintertime. The fall brings warm weather, playful surf, and offshore winds for weeks on end, while the spring and summer will be blown-out and onshore for even longer durations. But with Santa Cruz just an hour and a half to the south and a gorgeous stretch of the PCH offering dozens of nooks and crannies capable of blocking wind from nearly any direction, SF is not just a seasonal surf town.
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.
Town and campus
Sitting just south of Ocean Beach, the SF state campus sits on 142 acres in the southwest corner of the city. While OB is somewhat sleepy and often socked in by fog or a thick marine layer, public transportation provides convenient access to a seven square mile metropolis, capable of making anyone’s arts-and-culture cup overfloweth.
You can blame the tech industry—and its willingness to bus its employees to offices beyond the city limits—for the untenable rent prices (everyone does, anyway). The Ocean Beach adjacent neighborhoods of the Sunset and the Richmond—traditionally home to the city’s eclectic, underground surf scene—is now nearly as affordable as more centrally located neighborhoods like the Haight and the Mission (which is to say, unaffordable). But if you can find a spot to lay your head–whether a dorm room or hall closet turned into an illegal unit—living in San Francisco is definitely worth the hassle. Between its rich literary history, renowned arts and culture institutions, and history of social justice advocacy and diversity, there may be no better to place to mold young minds than the city by the bay.
Annual cost: $26,720 in-state / $38,600 out-of-state
Average GPA of incoming freshmen: 3.23
Ratio of male/female students: 44/56
Best Surf Colleges 2018