While the U.S. News and World Report recently ranked UC Santa Cruz as the 72nd best university in the country, there is another publication that holds UCSC in much higher esteem — albeit for completely different reasons.
This past month, Surfer Magazine ranked UCSC as one of the top 10 surf colleges in the nation. The ranking was not numerical, with colleges instead getting a more specific assessment from the magazine, which looked at factors like distance to the nearest beach and consistency of waves. UCSC was crowned the best college for those who “Want to Surf at least 300 Days a Year” and called the “capital of consistency” in the article, which also praised the city of Santa Cruz for its high density of surf spots in a small area.
It’s a title that Stevenson College first-year and Monterey Bay native Cory Steinmetz agrees with. An avid surfer for about five years, Steinmetz made his decision to attend UCSC partially because of the surf scene here. As far as the assessment goes, Steinmetz whole-heartedly agrees.
“Santa Cruz is so consistent,” Steinmetz said. “There are always waves here.”
Doug Haut, owner of Haut Surfboards, also found Surfer Magazine’s rankings to be accurate. He said that the surfing conditions and the town itself are what make UCSC a top school to attend for someone interested in surfing.
“[Santa Cruz] has all the diversified surf spots,” Haut said. “We have right handers, left handers, point breaks, beach breaks. Up and down the coast we have more surf spots in 50 miles than any other place. It’s a great surf town because there are so many people involved in surfing here.”
The university itself has found a way to capitalize on its surf school reputation by offering a variety of surfing classes through the recreation department. The program offers a beginner’s one-day clinic on surfing, as well as a weekly class that last the entirety of the quarter.
David Schulkin, a UCSC alumnus and current surf instructor at the university, said that the Santa Cruz surf scene and culture was a major reason why he came to and stayed in Santa Cruz.
“I came to UCSC because the waves are so good,” Schulkin said. “And then I realized that I could get paid to teach this.”
Schulkin, who has been a surf instructor for 14 years with 11 of them being at UCSC, also said that it is the consistency of the surf in Santa Cruz that makes it stand out.
“[Santa Cruz] has a lot of different breaks,” Schulkin said. “It’s a ton of world-class waves in a small radius.”
That consistency and breadth of spots that Schulkin speaks of is what got UCSC on the list, but some say it should have helped them get an even higher ranking. While the list wasn’t ranked numerically, Surfer gave an “Overall Winner” award to UC Santa Barbara.
While he acknowledged that UCSB has some nice spots, Steinmetz still felt that Santa Cruz was more deserving of the top praise.
“Santa Barbara is flat half the year,” Steinmetz said. “And the beaches aren’t as beautiful.”
When asked if he felt similarly, Schulkin said that he “doesn’t really care” about the ranking, but also said that Santa Barbara doesn’t offer the same constant opportunity that a surfer gets in Santa Cruz.
“Santa Barbara has some really wonderful spots,” Schulkin said. “But it also has the Channel Islands that block a lot of activity.”
While much of the praise in the Surfer Magazine article and from people like Steinmetz and Schulkin has been for the city of Santa Cruz more than the university itself, the proximity to the storied surf city is perhaps the biggest reason for UCSC’s high ranking. With the campus a considerable distance from the waves, Steinmetz said that just being located in one of the most famous surf towns in the country is what makes UCSC a great surf college.
“It’s just the fact that [UCSC] is in Santa Cruz,” Steinmetz said. “[Santa Cruz] just has world-class waves and so many great spots.”