Best Surf Colleges, No. 3: Point Loma Nazarene University

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. 3 on our list….

Waves

Located on the bluffs above wave-rich Sunset Cliffs, Point Loma offers the closest dorms to the warm Southern California surf of San Diego. Below a residential neighborhood overlooking the ocean, northwest swells light up three miles of reef breaks, which offer up consistent surf during both the fall and spring semesters (and during winter break, for those who stick around). Meanwhile, it would take a surf-curious undergrad at least four years to explore the entire 70 miles of San Diego’s storied coastline, as it twists and bends, exposing the region’s numerous beachies, piers, and reefs to swell from nearly every direction. And with Baja less than an hour away, incoming freshman would be wise to bring a passport and plan on picking up a summer class or two.

Education

As a religiously affiliated university, the school can be pretty strict, requiring freshmen to attend chapel and live on campus without a car for their first year. But, with world-class surf just a few steps away, who needs to go anywhere? On campus, students will find that Point Loma’s relatively small enrollment (3,200 students) keeps class sizes small, with a student-teacher ratio of 15 to one. While not a safety-school by any means, those who meet Point Loma’s academic admissions requirements are likely to be accepted, as the school’s admissions rate hovers around 71 percent. And if employment in the surf industry is what you desire, career-advancing possibilities are not isolated to PLNU campus grounds. Networking opportunities are bound to present themselves, as you’d be hard-pressed to find a lineup–or a line at Von’s–that isn’t occupied by some level of surf celebrity or industry insider.

Town and campus
Point Loma’s strict student covenants severely limit opportunities for the kind of other-than-wholesome fun desired by most undergraduates-especially with no car for their first year. Beyond the University’s confines, however, a city of 1.3 million residents (including 150,000 college students attending several dozen colleges and universities), that boasts a fledgling urban core and a dozen or so beach towns each with their own unique makeup, offers something for hippies, hedonists and everyone in between. Pacific Beach’s Garnet Avenue is ground zero for collegiate and post-collegiate nightlife, notorious for its bottom-dollar happy hours, which can be fun or horrifying depending on one’s tolerance for debauchery. Meanwhile, for sophomores, juniors and seniors, a PLNU campus parking pass ensures a safe space to which to retreat from the stimulation of the surrounding environs, as well as unmatched access to the area’s surf.

Lifestyle
A majority of Point Loma students, not just incoming freshman, live on campus. But for the 44 percent who do not, the Sunset Cliffs area, as well as the surf-centric beach towns of Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, and Pacific Beach offer relatively affordable rents and teem with college students from nearby San Diego State, UCSD and San Diego University. The beach towns are laid back, with bikes and skateboards representing the preferred mode of transportation and most of the establishments abiding by a low-frills dress code–the uniform de-rigueur of flip-flops and baggies remaining unchanged since at least the early 1960s.

Annual cost: $48,000
Enrolled: 3,200
Average GPA of incoming freshman: 3.78
Male/Female ratio of student body: 36/54

[Check back tomorrow for our No. 2 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

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