Up the 101: A Tour of Cool College Surf Towns

The first leg of a college and surfing tour of coastal California.

We were on the beautiful Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus on the second day of our college and surf tour of coastal California. My youngest son Daniel, 14, was along for the waves and to get a peak at cool college surf towns.

“I can’t believe they have a surfboard shaping bay in the Student Union,” said my 16-year old son Israel.

The first stop on out trip was Ventura where the boys were determined to surf in the wake of Dane Reynolds.

Reynolds skipped in and out of the ASP World Tour and made the hollow beachbreaks of his laid back hometown world famous.

But the spot of choice was closed out. So we checked Emma Wood, a reef and beachbreak on the northern edge of town. A couple of years ago the boys surfed there with Dane.

“I even talked to Dane,” Israel said. “He was so cool, and of course he was shredding.”

But Emma Wood was sort of small and the offshore reef was only just starting to show the rising swell.

So we decided to head back further south and check out beaches known for their excellent wave quality and territorial locals.

Upon our arrival at the parking lot at the north end of the beach we could see it was good. A-frames broke up and down the half-mile long beach with small packs on every peak.

California juice.

Our next stop was Santa Barbara. This beach town is the Beverly Hills or Monte Carlo of coastal California. It is so over-the-top gorgeous and so luxurious that it makes Laguna Beach, its sister-city in upscale chic, seems almost run-down.

We were on our way to a campus tour of UC Santa Barbara, one of the four universities we planned to visit on our tour.

If you're the parent of surfers, you know that expensive and overrated East Coast private universities are off the list of acceptable schools. Thankfully our great state has the best public university system on the planet and a few of them are close to great waves.

UCSB is situated on a pointbreak and counts surfer-singer Jack Johnson as an alum.

At the end of our tour, we head down to for a peak of Campus Point. Only a few surfers enjoyed the knee-high point waves.

“This place is awesome,” Daniel said.

The next morning, two hours north, we dawn patrolled Morro Bay. Overhead A-frames broke up  and down a beach that seemed endless.

The boys and I shared peaks for a couple of hours and then headed to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

After our surf session, a wonderful campus tour, and the visit to the on-campus shaping bay Israel said, “That’s it. This is where I’m going.”

I hope he gets accepted.

What are some of your favorite places to surf near colleges on the California coast? Share in comments.

Serge Dedina is executive director of WiLDCOAST, an international conservation team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. He is the author of Wild Sea and Saving the Gray Whale.

John Galt November 21, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Very cool! I love driving the California Coast; it is much prettier than the East Coast.
Leslie Wolf Branscomb November 22, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Thanks for the tips, Serge! Of course, Cal Poly is Michaela's first choice too, for the same reason.
Dante Pamintuan November 22, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Serge. Thanks for another enjoyable article on the joys of surfing, children and our beautiful California coast.
Tim O'Neal November 22, 2012 at 05:45 PM
So U of Texas and U of Arizona were never in the running, huh? :) Probably the best, it's tough to compete with the natural beauty of SLO.
Duane Stroh December 07, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Point Loma Nazarene, Sunset Cliffs, 'nuff said.


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