10/04/2013 07:48 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

America's 10 Best Surfing Universities

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By now, most U.S. college students are back to the grind of classes, study hall and dealing with the ever-nagging devil on the shoulder preaching about the innocence of Monday night beers. It's a rough life being in school. All the freedom and decision making can be overwhelming. What do you do between classes? Where will you sit in the library? Yellow or orange highlighter? Should you shower today? These are fundamental decisions. The easy ones.

The real decision making begins before getting to school, when students consider where they'll be for the next four, five... six (?) years. There are plenty of things to consider: solid academic rigor, class size, extracurricular activity options, what majors are offered, Greek life and male/female ratio, among others. However, there is one vital factor to consider when applying to spend the rest of your teens with thousands of strangers somewhere (possibly) far, far away from home: How's the surf?

For some, this is a big one. For others, it's the big one. If you haven't weaved it into the equation yet, fear not. Here's a breakdown that should help whittle down your list. Thank me later, because all those applications would've cost you a pretty penny. Hopefully you get into your dream break... er, school.

1. University of California at Santa Cruz-Santa Cruz, CA

The original Surf City is the ultimate setting for your college experience. And what an experience being a Banana Slug (school mascot) would be. With all the trappings of living in Santa Cruz, the infamous Steamer Lane a short jaunt from campus and more natural beauty surrounding your daily stumble to class than you know what to do with, this is a surf student's heaven. Just don't drop in on the locals.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 15,945
Male/Female Ratio: 48/52
Average Incoming Freshman GPA: 3.6
Average Incoming SAT range: 1530-1900
Average Incoming ACT range: 22-29
Total Costs (In-state): $43,233
Tuition (In-state): $13,417
Total Costs (Out-of-state): $52,694
Tuition (Out-of-state): $22,878
Regular Application Deadline: 11/30
Percent Applications Accepted: 68%
Nearby Breaks: Steamer Lane, Pleasure Point and all sorts of nooks and crannies you can explore.

2. University of Hawaii at Manoa-Honolulu, HI

Thinking of heading to school in Hawaii? Can't fault you for that. With less than Ivy League academic standards (read: more water time) and world-class surf out the campus' back door, going to UH is a dream for the surfy student. Think about it like this: wake up, surf before class, go to class, poké lunch, afternoon surf sesh, a little homework, dinner and top the day off with a Hawaiian golden hour surf. Almost makes you want to go back to school, huh?

Undergraduate Enrollment: 14,054
Male/Female Ratio: 47/53
Average Incoming Freshman GPA: 3.4
Average Incoming SAT range: 1450-1750
Total Costs (In-state): $20,549
Tuition (In-state): $8,400
Total Costs (Out-of-state): $35,381
Tuition (Out-of-state): $23,232
Regular Application Deadline: 5/1
Percent Applications Accepted: 78%
Nearby Breaks: Ala Moana Bowls is 15 minutes away and the North Shore is about an hour by car. You're on Oahu. There's no such thing as surf starved.

3. University of California at San Diego-La Jolla, California

If you're considering UCSD, go ahead and pat yourself on the back. Not only is it one of the best public schools in the nation, but it's steps from the best beach break in the nation as well. What a combo. Just don't get too frothed up to send in your check and sign on the dotted line because the acceptance rate at UCSD isn't huge. At last count, 99 percent of students attending UCSD were in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class and the average incoming freshman has probably never received a B in their life. Remember when you thought it would be more fun to catch the tail end of that swell rather than hit the books for finals? That rejection letter make more sense now?

Undergraduate Enrollment: 23,046
Male/Female Ratio: 49/51
Average Incoming Freshman GPA: 4.0
Average Incoming SAT range: 1660-2030
Average Incoming ACT range: 24-30
Total Costs (In-state): $27,162
Tuition (In-state): $13,234
Total Costs (Out-of-state): $36,806
Tuition (Out-of-state): $22,878
Regular Application Deadline: 11/30
Percent Applications Accepted: 36%
Nearby Breaks: Walk across the street to the north entrance of Blacks, explore La Jolla's reefs or stick to Scripps Pier if you're more on the novice side.

4. Columbia University-New York, NY

Willing to sacrifice world-class waves for a world-class education? New York City's Columbia University does just that. Manhattan may not be Surf City, but hop on the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and take it to Long Beach or Montauk and you won't be disappointed. Catch it in September-October and you might even be pleasantly surprised. This assumes that you even have the time to break away from the rigorous studies involved in attending an Ivy League school. But hey, you want a good job after you graduate, right?

Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,027
Male/Female Ratio: 53/47
Average Incoming Freshman GPA: If you have to ask, yours isn't high enough.
Average Incoming SAT range: 2100-2370
Average Incoming ACT range: 32-35
Total Costs: $57,350
Tuition: $43,088
Regular Application Deadline: 1/1
Percent Applications Accepted: 7%
Nearby Breaks: Long Beach, site of the first and only Quiksilver Pro New York, is roughly a 45 minute train ride and Montauk is a good weekend trip at about two hours outside the city. During September-October, in "Hurricane Season," much of the Eastern Seaboard lights up with swell. Go explore!

5. University of California at Santa Barbara-Santa Barbara, CA

Looking for challenging classes, top-notch scenery and excellent waves? Look no further than UCSB. Situated just above the water with some dorms steps from the sand, going to school here isn't really like going to school anywhere else. Santa Barbara boasts a beautiful downtown area, a quick drive to Rincon and is one of the best research universities in the nation. What you choose to research at UCSB is up to you, but between great waves, a tanned, beautiful student body and a great social scene, it's going to be a great four years.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 18,617
Male/Female Ratio: 48/52
Average Incoming Freshman GPA: 3.9
Average Incoming SAT range: 1670-2030
Average Incoming ACT range: 24-30
Total Costs (In-state): $28,100
Tuition (In-state): $11,220
Total Costs (Out-of-state): $49,910
Tuition (Out-of-state): $33,030
Regular Application Deadline: 11/30
Percent Applications Accepted: 46%
Nearby Breaks: Sandspit, Campus Point, Ventura and that pointbreak... what's it called?

6. Pepperdine University-Malibu, CA

360-degree views of the ocean, a hop, skip and a jump from one of California's best pointbreaks, and a Christian influence are all hallmarks of a Pepperdine education. Some say that if the west coast had an Ivy League of their own, Pepperdine would be in the elite group. Though Malibu Point sits at the bottom of campus, it's not the only place to surf in Malibu. There are other waves in the area and it's all ripe for exploration.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 3,461
Male/Female Ratio: 44/56
Average Incoming Freshman GPA: 3.7
Average Incoming SAT range: 1680-1990
Average Incoming ACT range: 25-31
Total Costs: $56,572
Tuition: $42,520
Regular Application Deadline: 1/15
Percent Applications Accepted: 32%
Nearby Breaks: All of Malibu, Ventura, Oxnard, Santa Barbara to the north.

7. University of San Francisco-San Francisco, CA

If you look past the sharkiness, freezing winter water temps and oft-gnarly locals, San Francisco is a great place to be a surfer and student. There is no shortage of surfing in the area between Marin, Fort Point, legendary Ocean Beach and spots to the south, so if you don't let the aforementioned stop you, you'll love being at USF. Students admit the academics aren't the toughest which makes for maximum water time-something you never hear complaints about-especially in winter when Northwest swells storm down the coast. It also leaves time to explore the monstrous city of San Francisco. There's always lots to do so if you're a social butterfly, this may be your top choice.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,250
Male/Female Ratio: 37/63
Average Incoming SAT range: 1550-1880
Average Incoming ACT range: 23-27
Total Costs: $56,690
Tuition: $39,840
Regular Application Deadline: Rolling, 12/17
Percent Applications Accepted: 60%
Nearby Breaks: Ocean Beach, Fort Point and Pacifica are good bets. Santa Cruz and Marin have tons of surf.

8. Flagler College-St. Augustine, FL

Great weather year-round, warm water, a laid-back, surfy town and no shortage of bikini-and-boardshort-clad students make going to school at Flagler a no-brainer. With a small undergraduate enrollment, students get plenty of one-on-one time with professors and an intimate classroom setting. When the focus shifts from school, the beach is four miles away and students pile in to cars to surf, tan and enjoy the area's beaches.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,878
Male/Female Ratio: 42/58
Average Incoming Freshman GPA: 3.4
Average Incoming SAT range: 1560-1760
Average Incoming ACT range: 22-26
Total Costs: $24,690
Tuition: $15,340
Regular Application Deadline: 3/1
Percent Applications Accepted: 40%
Nearby Breaks: Matanzas Inlet, St. Augustine Pier and New Smyrna Beach (to the south).

9. Monmouth University-West Long Branch, NJ

It's no secret that New Jersey has plenty of surf. The coast is littered with beachbreaks, mainly to the south, and New York is immediately north. Not a bad place to be to receive fall swells. With a small undergraduate student body, there are plenty of small classes leading to a good amount of attention for students who want the extra help. In a region of the country (Northeast) whose academics is undeniably first-rate, Monmouth is a hidden gem for those who don't get into a top-tier private school but still want a challenge... and a beach.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 4,652
Male/Female Ratio: 42/58
Average Incoming Freshman GPA: 3.4
Average Incoming SAT range: 1480-1720
Average Incoming ACT range: 22-25
Total Costs: $39,659
Tuition: $27,372
Regular Application Deadline: 12/1
Percent Applications Accepted: 63%
Nearby Breaks: Starting south and moving north-Manasquan, Belmar, Avon, Asbury Park and Long Island to the northeast with so many in between.

10. University of North Carolina at Wilmington-Wilmington, NC

Wilmington couldn't be more charming if it tried. Its laid-back, southern hospitality charms the saltiest of prospective students while the surf can be tons of fun. Like almost all of the east coast, Wilmington (or Wilmy, as it's affectionately dubbed by UNCW students) works best in the fall. Students enjoy the local beachbreaks as well as the Outer Banks which can pump big, sandy barrels.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 11,902
Male/Female Ratio: 40/60
Average Incoming SAT range: 1640-1880
Average Incoming ACT range: 22-27
Total Costs (In-state): $20,601
Tuition (In-state): $6,343
Total Costs (Out-of-state): $32,737
Tuition (Out-of-state): $18,479
Regular Application Deadline: 2/1
Percent Applications Accepted: 53%
Nearby Breaks: Wilmington is dotted with plenty of sandbars that work given good conditions, but the area's real gem is the Outer Banks to the north.

Honorable Mention: University of Southern California and UCLA are also noteworthy top-tier institutions located in wave-rich Southern California. Plus, our Founder is a Trojan, so there's that. And if you made it this far and your school didn't make the cut, feel free to make your case below. We'd love to hear it.

This post originally appeared on The Inertia.