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. 2 on our list….

No. 2: University of California Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, CA


Surrounded by some of the most famed (and diverse) surf spots in the world, UCSC may be cold, but Santa Cruz is also the capital of consistency. Tucked into a bend in the central California coastline, Santa Cruz's various points and beachbreaks are conveniently protected from onshore winds that ravage the more rugged stretch of coast to the north. The UCSC campus is just a 5-minute drive to the breaks on the west side and just a few more to dozens more on the east side. Though locals are notoriously anti-Slugs (UCSC mascot), skill and respect go a long way.


UCSC isn't just recognized as one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, it's also one of the top research universities in the world, boasting 12 National Academy of Sciences members among its faculty. The school offers 65 majors across 10 distinct undergraduate colleges, each making it a point to offer students one of the most progressive, cross-disciplinary learning experiences with hands-on, real-world experiences.

Town and campus

Set on 2,000 acres situated in the hills of the Ben Lomond Mountain ridge overlooking the coast, the colleges of the UCSC campus are scattered among sweeping meadows, dotted with Redwood trees. Seventy-five miles of bucolic, raw coastline separates Santa Cruz from the West Coast's most metropolitan city (San Francisco). Yet, despite SC being viewed as a low-key, beach town in comparison, UCSC students won't need to drive north to find culture. A thriving local art scene and bohemian-underbelly keeps things eclectic, while a majority of local restaurants favor quality, locally-sourced ingredients. And a smattering of conventional and unconventional music venues play host to middling, Indie artists and fringe musicians stopping by on their way to or from SF, anyway.


Despite astronomical home prices, Santa Cruz remains a diverse town where the blue-collar, largely homegrown surf community mixes with an eclectic population of artists, craftsmen, farmers, writers, and yes, even transplant Slugs, who enjoy the perks of the region's surrounding environs. If abundant surf and access to massive expanses of natural beauty are perks you enjoy, Santa Cruz will inspire you. It's one of the earthiest, most authentic surf towns in America. And there are waves nearly every day. What else could you ask for?

Annual cost: $31,500 in-state / $59,500 out-of-state
Enrolled: 16,200
Average GPA of incoming freshmen: 3.76
Male/Female ratio of student body: 48/52

[Check back tomorrow for our No. 1 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

No. 6: California Polytechnic State University

No. 5: University of Hawaii at Manoa

No. 4: University of California Santa Barbara

No. 3: Point Loma Nazarene University