Your university days should be some of the best times of your life, a chance to study and gain a qualification but also to enjoy yourself. But if you’re a surfer, college is also the perfect opportunity to practice. Given that dawn patrols probably won’t happen too often, depending on the amount of partying going on, you can use your flexible hours to sneak in a session or two per day when there’s swell. This is all predicated, of course, on the college you attend and the quality of the nearby surf spots. So if you want to perfect your barrel riding skills and still (hopefully) get an education, take your pick from our choice of the world’s best surf-friendly schools!
1. University of California Santa Cruz [California, USA]
Nearby surf spots: Steamer Lane, The Hook
The University of California Santa Cruz is recognized for its expertise in research and progressive approach to teaching. There is a range of interdisciplinary studies including the unique History of Consciousness graduate program, and UCSC is noted for its research contributions to space science and other important fields.
UCSC’s campus is situated in forest-covered hills 75 miles south of San Francisco, close to California’s West Coast with views of the Monterey Bay and the Pacific. The close proximity to the sea makes the university one of the greatest places to combine studying with surfing. Just a short drive from the campus and you can find a choice of consistent breaks including Capitola Beach, The Hook, Manresa State Beach, and the most famous of all, Steamer Lane.
2. New York University [New York, USA]
Nearby surf spots: Long Beach, Rockaway
New York University is one of the largest private universities in the US, with over 43,000 students. The main NYU campus is located in Greenwich Village and there are several other sights across the city encompassing a total of 18 colleges, schools, and institutes. The university’s largest unit is Arts and Science, and other departments cover practically all areas of modern learning. According to the Global University Ranking, NYU is the 22nd best university in the world, while Forbes Magazine has ranked NYU seventh in the list of universities that have produced the most living billionaires.
Studying at NYU is an opportunity for great learning, the benefits of urban living in one of the world’s centers for culture and entertainment, and the chance to enjoy some fantastic East Coast surfing. You don’t need to travel far from the city center to reach a choice of fine beach breaks at Rockaway and Casino Pier and elsewhere on Long Island and the Jersey shore. The North Atlantic climate and Gulf Stream means that during hurricane season New York’s surf spots experience some impressive swells and big breaks, as demonstrated during 2011’s Quiksilver Pro, which was the first ASP World Tour event to ever be held on the right hand coast.
3. Galway University [West Coast, Ireland]
Nearby surf spots: Crab Island, Laurens
Previously known as Queen’s College and more recently University College, Galway University is an important constituent part of the National University of Ireland. The university is one of Ireland’s leading educational institutes and has an established reputation in international research. The various departments offer courses across a multitude of subjects and are divided into five colleges: College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies; College of Business, Public Policy and Law; College of Engineering and Informatics; College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences; and the College of Science.
Galway offers access to some of the best education programs available in Ireland, and is also located close to the glorious Atlantic West Coast and arguably the best reef breaks to be found anywhere in Europe. The scenery here is simply stunning with its craggy coastline, inlets and islands, and the breathtaking 700-foot tall Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions.
There are a handful of surf spots a sort drive from Galway. Check out Aileen’s, which is Ireland’s premier big wave surf spot nestled at the foot of the Cliffs of Moher, or head to the more tame surf spots at Lahinch, Crab Island, Spanish Point and Ballybunion. Head up north for even more incredible reef setups around Mayo, Sligo and Donegal. Studying in Galway, you are also treated to the city’s rich cultural scene with a strong tradition of theater and literature. Along with the culture, Galway also boasts a remarkable density of pubs and clubs in the city, so once you’ve had your fill of surfing and school you are spoiled for choice of places to unwind over a pint.
4. Cornwall College Newquay [Newquay, UK]
Nearby surf spots: Fistral
Cornwall College has campuses dotted around the county of Cornwall in the southeast of England, providing a wide variety of higher education, degrees and adult learning. The college’s vibrant Newquay campus has a special focus on animal related studies, linked to the nearby Newquay Zoo and Blue Reef Aquarium, which both offer work experience opportunities to the college’s students.
If you study at Cornwall College’s Newquay campus you are also located in the UK’s capital of surfing. The self-styled ‘Surf City’ is a town packed with surf shops, equipment manufactures, clubs and bars. The summer high season sees the town get very busy, but there are many excellent beaches including some more wild and remote spots nearby. The beaches at Fistral, Towan, Great Western, Tolcarne and Lusty Glaze each face the Atlantic Ocean in a slightly different direction, so as long as there’s a swell running you should be able to find some decent surf. The rest of the Cornish peninsula offers some of the UK’s best and most consistent surf and beautifully rugged beaches, cliffs, coves, headlands and inlets. And because of its southerly location, the water here is warmer than just about anywhere else in the UK.
5. University of Bordeaux [Bordeaux, France]
Image: h20 holidays
Nearby surf spots: miles and miles of world class beaches to the south
An important seat of learning since medieval times, the University of Bordeaux is the largest education establishment in south-western France, comprising eight separate institutions. The Bordeaux 1 campus in the suburb of Talence specializes in science and technology, and includes the opportunity to study sea sciences. Whilst studying at Bordeaux you also have the chance to experience the sea and surf of the France’s Atlantic coast, which is easily reachable from the city and includes some of the world’s best beach breaks.
A vast stretch of France’s south-western seafront is directly exposed to the Atlantic, with huge ocean swells and strong winds pouring into the Bay of Biscay. To the north are the flanking reefs of Brittany, South Finistere, Loire Atlantique, Vendee and Charante Maritime. Biscay’s beaches to the south of Bordeaux are unrivaled for beach break barrels, with a deep underwater canyon just off the Aquitaine coast that helps squeeze and amplify incoming swells. The resulting waves are aimed directly at the surf town of Hossegor, where you can enjoy the famously powerful barrels. The geography and climate – the waters here are generally warmer than anywhere else on the European Atlantic – have helped establish Hossegor as one of the planet’s finest surfing destinations with a distinctly classy and stylish approach to surf culture. Further south, France’s Basque Coast is dotted with reefs that churn up some breathtakingly big waves, along with sheltered coves that offer a more relaxed surfing experience.
6. University of the Basque Country [Spain]
Nearby surf spots: Mundaka
The University of the Basque Country in northern Spain is the Basque Country’s only public university and the region’s main research institute. The university provides qualifications in a diverse range of subjects and operates over three campuses: the Biscay Campus in and around Bilbao, the Alava Campus in Vitoria-Gasteiz and Gipuzkoa Campus in San Sebastian and Eibar. The Basque Country itself is a naturally beautiful and culturally distinctive region, and offers world-class and world-famous waves for any surfer lucky enough to study there.
The coastal cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian are extremely popular for surfers due to the sheer number of fantastic waves nearby, along with the easy access to the rest of Spain’s northern seaboard and the beaches of southern France. Just to the northeast of Bilbao is Meñakoz, a top-class big wave spot. The waves here are among the biggest that are possible to surf in Europe, but also extremely dangerous. For those of a less daredevil disposition, the waves face a natural amphitheater where spectators can admire the action.
To the east of Bilbao towards France, the coast features a series of stunning surfing spots including the world-class waves at Mundaka, an attractive river mouth location with a sandbar that turns incoming swells into exhilarating walls of water and cavernous barrels. Some of the world’s most perfectly formed river mouth waves are to be found here, which is why it has been host to several ASP World Tour events over the years. To the east of the Basque Country the chain of surfing destinations continues all the way to Galicia, which has a huge choice of beaches facing swells in all directions.
7. University of French Polynesia [Tahiti]
Nearby surf spots: Teahupoo
If the location is an important element of choosing where you study, you can’t get much better than the University of French Polynesia on the idyllic South Pacific island of Tahiti. It’s an intimate university with around 2,000 students attending a range of course including science and humanities, economics, law and cultural studies.
The island itself is forged from volcanic activity with two mountains shaping the land, beautiful palm-fringed and black-sanded beaches, and, crucially for surfers, a ring of offshore coral reefs creating some truly world-class waves. The most famous, or rather infamous, breaks are at Teahupoo on Tahiti’s south coast, known as the ‘heaviest wave in the world’. Its huge barrels are an an awe-inspiring sight, but are also very dangerous. There are, fortunately, other less life threatening surf spots dotted around the island that are suitable for mere mortals.
Any surfer studying at University of French Polynesia is also rewarded with the opportunity to explore other islands in the archipelago to discover emerging surfing destinations such as the islands of Huahine and Moorea.
8. The University of Hawaii at Manoa [Honolulu, Hawaii]
Nearby surf spots: Pipeline, Rocky Point, Sunset, Haleiwa
Founded in 1907, The University of Hawaii at Manoa is a high ranking US educational institute with wide-ranging research projects, a culturally diverse student body and staff population and a successful athletics program, all set in the gorgeous surroundings of the Manoa Valley on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
The island, known as ‘the Gathering Place’, is a genuine surfer’s paradise with the southern shore near Honolulu crammed with brilliant breaks. The university is also within easy driving of the North Shore where you can find some of the most legendary surf spots in the world including Waimea Bay, Pipeline and Backdoor, Off the Wall, Log Cabins and Sunset Beach – a veritable treasure trove of peerless world-class breaks. The planet’s best surfers make their pilgrimage to the North Shore in the winter months, but unlike many seasonal surf destinations Oahu is blessed with surf all year round and in every direction – there’s somewhere to surf no matter your ability.
9. Griffith University Gold Coast [Queensland, Australia]
Image: Sunshine Surf Safari
Nearby surf spots: Kirra, Burleigh Heads, Snapper Rocks, Duranbah
Griffith University is one of Australia’s top ranking educational institutions, spread over five satellite campuses in Queensland. The various departments are located on the Gold Coast, in Logan City and in the Mount Gravatt, Nathan and South Bank suburbs of Brisbane. The Gold Coast Campus is recognized as an important center for health related learning. The campus is set in bushland and is just moments away from beaches where surfers can enjoy some of the world’s most famous and best beach and point breaks.
The infamous Snapper Rocks is the starting point of the Superbank, a man-made sand bar that regularly generates perfect waves. The beach hosts the annual Roxy Pro and Quicksilver Pro, and is considered one of the finest surf spots on the planet. It is also very popular so gets busy, but surfers are spoiled for choice all along the Gold Coast with familiar names including Duranbah, Burleigh Heads, Currumbin Alley, The Spit, Kirra and Surfers Paradise amongst many other word-class spots.
10. Udayana University [Denpasar, Bali]
Image: Trevor Murphy
Nearby surf spots: Uluwatu, Padang Padang, Bingin, Impossibles
Udayana University is spread across three campuses on the Indonesian island of Bali. It is Bali’s largest and oldest university; when it opened in 1962 it offered a choice of four courses, but today boasts a massive range of courses with 11 faculties. The Nias and Surdiamn campuses are situated in Bali’s capital Denpasar, while the third, newer campus is designed like a small town and is located close to the resort area of Pecatu on the Bukit Peninsula. The peninsula extends from the south of Bali and is the focus of the island’s surfing culture with a selection of beautiful beaches with great breaks.
Kuta Beach is one of the main tourist hubs and is also a draw for surfers. The long sandy beach is free from coral and rocks, so is attractive for beginners, and there’s a mass of bars, pubs, clubs and lounges where you can indulge in the nightlife. Nearby there are some many excellent, world-famous surf spots to explore including Dreamland, Uluwatu and Padang Padang among many others.