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. 9 on our list….
No. 9: University of North Carolina Wilmington
It's not often world-class, but with a handful of sand-accumulating, man-made structures and a natural tributary (or two), the clear, warm(ish)-water breaks of Wrightsville Beach (just a ten-minute drive from UNC-Wilmington campus) produce relatively consistent surf by east coast standards. Tide-dependant spots like Masonboro Inlet and Crystal Pier each have their moments. And with Cape Hatteras just a four-hour drive from Wilmington, barrel-hungry chargers can get their fill as well.
While not a safety school by any means (average GPA for incoming Freshman is 4.12), UNC-Wilmington, affectionately known as "The Dub," has a fairly high acceptance rate (72%) for those who achieved a higher-than-A average in high school. Offering 52 undergraduate degree programs, the school is widely recognized for its affordability and is popular among surfers for its environmental science coursework and world-renowned marine biology department.
Town and campus
A historic port city dotted with colonial-era buildings, Wilmington is full of southern charm. The downtown, consistent with the college's reputation as a party school, has lively bars and dance clubs, and plenty of hole-in-the-wall restaurants offering late-night eats. Meanwhile, Wrightsville Beach is a mere ten-minute drive across the brackish Intracoastal Waterway, where a strip of more beach-centric bars and restaurants provide even more opportunities for socialization.
Combining its historic, southern-city charm with a bustling nightlife and a proximity to consistent surf, Wilmington is one of the Mid-Atlantic's most happening surf town. The downtown area hosts a thriving arts scene and a smattering of music venues. Meanwhile the Intracoastal Waterway and nearby beaches provide opportunities for more laid-back escapism.
Annual cost: $24,600 in-state / $38,600 out-of-state
Average incoming GPA: 3.67
Ratio of male/female students: 38/62
[Head back to Surfer.com tomorrow for our No.8 reveal]
Best Surf Colleges 2018