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The 10 Best Surf Colleges in America in 2024

It doesn’t get much better than getting a high quality education, only a few steps away from the beach.

As college admissions are coming out and it is rounding the time to choose where you will be spending your next 4 years, it’s important to know which school will be the best fit for you.

If surfing is a big part of your life, this is the right place for you!

In this article we will take a look at some of the top surf colleges today and what makes them so special.

What Makes a College a Good “Surf College”?


You can’t have a surf school and not be surrounded by a body of water.

For many surfers, it is an essential part of their daily routine to paddle out at least once.

So, going to a school that is relatively close to a local break is something that many people look out for.

Surrounding Waves

Another thing to notice is the popular spots that surround the school.

While technically you could only surf one break and one wave all year, it helps to have multiple spots to choose from.

This ensures that you won’t get bored of the wave, and will have different waves that operate during different seasons.

A Surf Team

Many of the schools we will take a closer look at have a surf team that competes with other colleges through NSSA (National Scholastic Surfing Association) comepitions.

If surfing is something that you are passionate about and want to be on a team with others who share that same passion, committing to a college might be a great option for you.

The 10 Best Surf Colleges

University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC)

UCSC is one of the top schools when it comes to surfing. Currently ranked 4th in NSSA, there’s no doubt that there are some skilled surfers at this school.

Located relatively close are popular breaks like Steamer Lane, Pleasure Point, and Cowell Beach where you can get your fix of surfing in for the day.

So, if you are not one to shy away from the cold water up north, UCSC is great for furthering your education and surfing experience.

California State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly Slo)

Tucked between the green hills of San Luis Obispo is Cal Poly Slo, the perfect place to get out in nature, plus you aren’t too far from the beach.

With just as 20 minute drive, you can find yourself at Cayucos State Beach and Morro Bay.

Both these breaks are relatively consistent throughout the year and can be surfed by both longboarders and shortboarders depending on the swell size.

This college also has a NSSA team ranked in the top 5, so you will have no problem finding people to surf with.

Point Loma Nazerene University (PLNU)

Located in San Diego, PLNU is a school on the smaller side, but with a very large surf community.

This school has dorms placed directly on Sunset Cliffs, so the distance to the beach is as short as can be.

All you have to do is grab your board and walk directly down the cliff to find yourself with multiple waves to choose from.

PLNU is also currently ranked number 1 in the NSSA college league, so the appeal of talented surfers to this school is undeniable.

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Just 20 minutes away from Point Loma is UCSD, another school with a talented NSSA surf team.

One thing that makes this school special is their access to one of the popular nearby breaks Blacks.

Not only is Blacks one of the best waves in San Diego, but the surf team here gets special access to the break which lets them skip the hefty walk from the neighborhood that everyone else has to park at.

If this doesn’t convince you to try-out for the surf team here, I don’t know what will.

San Diego State University (SDSU) and University of San Diego (USD)

Two other schools in San Diego are SDSU and USD. Both these colleges are about a 15 minute drive to local breaks such as Mission Beach, La Jolla, and Sunset Cliffs.

While this may be a little further from the beach than the comparable schools of Point Loma or UCSD, SDSU and USD have pros of their own.

With a larger student body and busier environment, SDSU is a school for those who are more interested in a college experience filled with night life.

On the other hand, USD has smaller class sizes and few more learning opportunities for a more hands on experience.

University of Hawaii, Manoa

It is no surprise that a college education in Hawaii would also be mixed with a great deal of beach days and surfing.

Surrounding the school in Manoa, are breaks such as Kaiser’s, Queen’s, and the North Shore is only about a 45 minute drive away.

So, if you want to spend your days in warm weather debating on whether to do your homework or go to the beach, the University of Hawaii, Manoa is the school for you.

University of California, Santa Barbara

Like SDSU, UCSB is a surf school with an intense night life.

With the beach just a few steps from your dorm and events happening all around campus, getting your studies done may be a bit more difficult.

However, when you do have some spare time, spots like Campus Point, El Capitan, and Rincon are within walking distance or a short 20 minute drive away!

Pepperdine University

If you are looking for a school with consistent waves all year round, look no further than Pepperdine.

Malibu has a large selection of waves ranging from The Point, Topanga Beach, and Zuma Beach.

Pepperdine is filled with iconic views and the ability to chack the waves from a few of your classes or lookout points on campus.

You can also join the school surf team which is currently ranked 10th in NSSA.

California State University, Channel Islands

Channel Islands is a great school for those who don’t want to spend the large tuition that many of the coastal colleges call for.

This school has a smaller student body, smaller class sizes, and therefore a more engaging professor and student relationship.

With all these things, you’ll still be close to waves like Rincon and Skunk Point, which makes this school so appealing for many surfers.

Best Surf Colleges

Picking a college to spend your next 4 years is a big decision, but knowing which one fits your lifestyle best can make your decision a lot easier. If surfing is a big part of your life, use this list to find the place for your next big chapter of life!


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