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From time to time, Florida does its thing. Photo: Tupat

From time to time, North Florida does its thing. Photo: Tupat

The Inertia

8. Flagler College–St. Augustine, FL

Great weather year-round, warm water, a laid-back, surfy town and no shortage of bikini-and-boardshort-clad students make going to school at Flagler a no-brainer. With a small undergraduate enrollment, students get plenty of one-on-one time with professors and an intimate classroom setting. When the focus shifts from school, the beach is four miles away and students pile in to cars to surf, tan and enjoy the area’s beaches.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,878
Male/Female Ratio: 42/58
Average Incoming Freshman GPA: 3.4
Average Incoming SAT range: 1560-1760
Average Incoming ACT range: 22-26
Total Costs: $24,690
Tuition: $15,340
Regular Application Deadline: 3/1
Percent Applications Accepted: 40%
Nearby Breaks: Matanzas Inlet, St. Augustine Pier and New Smyrna Beach (to the south).

It's a sure thing that when New Jersey is on, you'll find these littering virtually the entire coast. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

It’s a sure thing that when New Jersey is on, you’ll find these littering virtually the entire coast. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

9. Monmouth University–West Long Branch, NJ

It’s no secret that New Jersey has plenty of surf. The coast is littered with beachbreaks, mainly to the south, and New York is immediately north. Not a bad place to be to receive fall swells. With a small undergraduate student body, there are plenty of small classes leading to a good amount of attention for students who want the extra help. In a region of the country (Northeast) whose academics is undeniably first-rate, Monmouth is a hidden gem for those who don’t get into a top-tier private school but still want a challenge…and a beach.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 4,652
Male/Female Ratio: 42/58
Average Incoming Freshman GPA: 3.4
Average Incoming SAT range: 1480-1720
Average Incoming ACT range: 22-25
Total Costs: $39,659
Tuition: $27,372
Regular Application Deadline: 12/1
Percent Applications Accepted: 63%
Nearby Breaks: Starting south and moving north–Manasquan, Belmar, Avon, Asbury Park and Long Island to the northeast with so many in between.

Nothing like a North Cackalacky pier barrel. Photo: DJ Struntz

Nothing like a North Cackalacky pier barrel. Photo: DJ Struntz

10. University of North Carolina at Wilmington–Wilmington, NC

Wilmington couldn’t be more charming if it tried. Its laid-back, southern hospitality charms the saltiest of prospective students while the surf can be tons of fun. Like almost all of the east coast, Wilmington (or Wilmy, as it’s affectionately dubbed by UNCW students) works best in the fall. Students enjoy the local beachbreaks as well as the Outer Banks which can pump big, sandy barrels.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 11,902
Male/Female Ratio: 40/60
Average Incoming SAT range: 1640-1880
Average Incoming ACT range: 22-27
Total Costs (In-state): $20,601
Tuition (In-state): $6,343
Total Costs (Out-of-state): $32,737
Tuition (Out-of-state): $18,479
Regular Application Deadline: 2/1
Percent Applications Accepted: 53%
Nearby Breaks: Wilmington is dotted with plenty of sandbars that work given good conditions, but the area’s real gem is the Outer Banks to the north.

Honorable Mention: University of Southern California and UCLA  are also noteworthy top-tier institutions located in wave-rich Southern California. Plus, our Founder is a Trojan, so there’s that. And if you made it this far and your school didn’t make the cut, feel free to make your case below. We’d love to hear it.

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  • Ben

    Come on… UCSD and arguably UC Santa Cruz are leagues ahead of the others for combination of high quality surf in direct proximity to campus and academics. Columbia? Great school, but nobody who lives in uptown Manhattan makes it to the beach regularly.

    • Trek Medics Intl

      Tsk Tsk. As they may have taught you in college lit class, do all you can to avoid sweeping generalizations. Better read: “few people who live in uptown Manhattan…”

      As Reid wrote, the #4 ranking is largely due to academics – and probably a few extra points for the sake of mixing it up – but just as with the surf out here, we’ll take whatever we can get.

      As for the rest, I’d take Point Loma over UCSD, and Westmont or Santa Barbara CC over UCSB – but it’s all for fun.

  • Mark

    never has UC irvine been on one of these lists…I lived on the beach for 2 years at 52nd for $600 a month and took a free shuttle to class. come on guys.

  • robdougherty1

    As a Pepperdine alum, I agree that it belongs on this list. That said, I wouldn’t consider Surfrider Beach (Malibu Point?) a hop, skip and jump away from campus. It’s a long walk down and then a long walk back up. And the crowds there made it all but mandatory to have a car to explore the breaks north and south. That said, what an amazing place. I miss it almost every day.

  • Jason

    forgetting Florida Tech, as well as University of California Irvine. I guess Sebastian inlet and OC/Trestles don’t produce any good surfers?

    • Stu Azole

      Is Florida Tech an actual place or did you make that up?

  • Matt McGee

    Does anybody ever fact check an article on this site? Is there an Editor?

  • Stu Azole

    I always love these rankings. But seriously, if you rank academics, and then rank surf, and then add the two, the list reads more like this:



    Cal Poly SLO


    There. That’s your list. Under no circumstance should any school in Hawaii or the South be discussed. Carry on.

    • robdougherty1

      If anyone wants to go to the last four schools on your list for a good education AND to surf then they better take a geography class first semester and look into transferring. If those are surfing universities then we should consider Claremont McKenna, Cal Tech, Occidental and Cal Lutheran, too.

      • Stu Azole

        I actually debated Cal Tech. The others aren’t solid enough education wise to make the drive worth it. SC kids live in Hermosa. UCLA students can live anywhere from the South Bay to Santa Monica and still get to class on time. Cal’s not far from a ton of spots (see Evan Slater – he made it work just fine – never failed to see him in the water on a solid OB swell) and Stanford to Santa Cruz is a drive a million techies do daily.

    • Wally

      Stu, how would you compare the surfing between UCI and UCLA? Coming down between the two of them in terms of grad school choices and the ocean life is a factor.

  • seth wills

    The fact that Point Loma Nazarene University isn’t number one on this list is surprising to me. The fact that they aren’t even on the list is ridiculous. No other campus is on the water, with some of the best spots on the west coast.

    • Stu Azole

      yeah, but the school sucks. That said, that any school in Florida, NC or the North East in on the list is a joke.

    • Rob Farrow

      Agreed….and Stu, being an alum from PLNU I would recommend you do a little home work of your own regarding our school and alum before you slam it…Oh yeah and the surf, all 20+ spots, kind of blow away at least 8 of the schools on this list…

      • Stu Azole

        Sorry Rob, but at best, PLNU is an average regional school. You telling me you’d rather go to Point Loma than UCSD? It’s a fine fall-back school for those without the brains to get into a real school, but let’s not pretend it’s much more than that. It’s high on the surf side, but low on the school side. Barely better than Mira Costa.

    • James Smith

      PLNU may have stricter student policies than other schools that made the list, but you won’t find better surf access anywhere. The rest of the campus is amazing as well.

  • TheInertia

    Neal, thanks for reading. The Princeton Review’s 2013 edition lists UCSD’s average incoming freshman GPA as 4.0. I used mainly this and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges for my research. Neither of us is wrong and my guess as to the discrepancy is a difference in samples that each source took to get their range/average. Point is that UCSD has a lot of really smart surfers.

    • Neal Miyake

      Concur. Btw, I one UH grad brah! My incoming GPA was less than 4.0 though. Btw, I neva cut class once to go surfing. Aloha!

  • Shelley Dinkens

    Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi – “The Island University”

  • nick

    Your photo of “North Florida” is actually Palm Beach in South Florida, a good four hours south of St. Augustine

  • Nick

    I defintly think UCI and Cal Poly SLO should be on this list. I went to Poly and you can always find a spot that handles any type of swell. Plust a 90 minute drive to SB and 3 hr drive to SC for weekend trips (plenty of surf inbetween to be explored). Can definitly surf more days a year than the east coast school and the surf gets just as good or better!

  • Rob Farrow

    Kind of got to say you missed a big one. Point Loma Nazarene University has got to be one of the top 3 out there. My freshman dorm was 100 yards off the beach and overlooked New Break, Abs, Subs and Garbage which are 4 of the most amazing California reef breaks. The school has a great curriculum, solid professors and puts out some amazing alum.

  • Hannah Millner

    HUMBOLDT STATE! Come on now.

  • Derek Moore

    University of Rhode Island should have made this list if you can deal with some rubber… breaks on all parts of the coast(beach breaks, points, slabs-rhode island has them all. Not to mention close drive to Ruggles, an amazing wave when its breaking. Also relatively close distant to tons of hidden breaks on Cape Cod, the Wall in New Hampshire if you so desire, and the potential for weekend trips down to NY/NJ… definitely one of the best on the east coast for sure

  • Jeb Brunt

    That’s not St. Augustine… more like Reef Road which is SOUTH Florida. This list comes from an obvious west coast homer. UCF should’ve been on this list given it’s 30 mins from Canaveral Nat’l Seashore and about an hour to Daytona, New Symrna, Melbourne Beach and Sebastian Inlet. It’s not right on the coast like the California schools, but the short drive east is worth it when you factor in the crowded lineups that Florida surfers can often avoid.

  • Ry Cleveland

    Cal State Channel Islands! They even have a credit course class for surfing…

  • David Martin

    Good catch. Reef Road has a huge maximum wave potential, but only a tiny window for swell to get through.

  • fuccboi

    USF baby we out here

  • JB

    CSU Long Beach!!!
    Seal Beach, Surfside, Huntington all within 10-15 minutes, South Bay within 20 minutes and Malibu and Trestles not too far down the road.

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