The publication judged the nation’s beachside schools on a series of criteria including the campus’ proximity to the beach, wave quality and students’ academic performance and lifestyle. UCSB won the magazine’s top honor for its proximity to renowned surf spots like Rincon and Sandspit, its average incoming freshman GPA of 4.01 and Isla Vista’s infamous year-round party scene.
Surf team captain Peter Kuriyama, a fourth-year biology major, said having a coast within a mile of campus makes UCSB an unrivaled surfing paradise.
“The proximity to the beach is why were voted number one,” Kuriyama said. “There are not many places where we can go to class and walk to the beach. In San Diego and Santa Cruz you have to drive.”
Despite easy access to the water, surf team member and third-year earth science major Camille Collett said the region is known for its notoriously fickle swells.
“Because of the Channel Islands, we only get winter swells that come from the north and west and that block all south swells,” Collett said. “It is inconsistent; we never have good waves in summer but when it gets good it’s really fun here.”
UCSB surf team member Susan Asan, a second-year art history major, said the team’s successful track record reflects the school’s dedication to the sport.
“When we get a good swell coming in it is perfect — the waves are really glassy and nice,” Asan said. “We also have such a well-established surf team who has won almost 15 championships. We are pretty unstoppable compared to other schools.”
According to geography professor Stuart Sweeney, however, Santa Barbara’s tantalizing waves can prove inconsistent at certain times of the year.
“Rincon has one of the best windbreaks in the world, but one of the worst swell shadows so you can go crazy waiting,” Sweeney said. “Being close is only part of the battle; if you only have a bike in I.V. and it’s not a good season, there won’t be much there to surf.”
Regardless of the waves, Sweeney said the success of each surfer’s sesh is determined by his or her mentality.
“Even if it’s a small break it will break really cleanly,” Sweeney said. “You have to bring the right state of mind to appreciate it fully. It’s a prettier area at UCSB, in the water looking back at the mountains — [you] don’t find that anywhere else.”