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  • Christine Clark

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  • Christine Clark

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UC San Diego Rides Wave of Recognition as Top Surfing School

Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

UC San Diego has again been named one of the nation’s best schools for surfing, taking the No. 2 spot in The Surf Channel’s list of top 10 universities for surfers. The channel attributes the ranking to the university’s proximity to the “shreddible” breaks at Black’s Beach and its “epic” surf team, which has won six National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) titles.

UC San Diego has long been recognized as a top school for surfing by some of the sport’s most respected news sources, including Surfer Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Transworld Surf and

“This ranking is a testament to the dynamic student experience at UC San Diego,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “In addition to being an academic powerhouse, our vibrant campus community and incredible location on the Pacific Ocean offer students a variety of unique opportunities outside the classroom.”

The Surf Channel, a national television network dedicated to surfers, surfing and surf culture, also praised UC San Diego for its proximity to the “liquid gold” waves at Black’s Beach, which are only a short hike away for many students on campus.

 “The trick seems to be sesh time between classes,” Surf Channel editors noted.

For senior and co-captain of the UC San Diego surf team Shaun Burrell, accessibility to great waves was a factor in his choosing to attend the campus.

Burrell is a former professional surfer who competed for many years on the world tour; he joined the surf team after transferring to UC San Diego from El Camino community college.

“Having the ability to park in the Muir College parking lot, suit up, run across the street to go surfing and come back to go to class is a pretty unique experience,” Burrell said.

Burrell won’t be the only notable surfer to graduate from UC San Diego. UC San Diego’s famous surfing alumni include Rusty Preisendorfer, the founder and CEO of Rusty Surfboards; Ricky Grigg, a big-wave pioneer and professor of oceanography at the University of Hawaii; Tom O'Keefe, founder of Red X Fin Systems; and Isabelle and Caroline Tihanyi, founders of Surf Divas surf school in La Jolla.

The Surf Channel rankings were designed to help prospective students with a passion for surfing choose the best colleges where they can “catch a wave to escape the finals stress,” or “[find] a casual setting to meet new friends.”

Burrell’s co-captain, senior Kokoro Tomatsuri, has been surfing since he was in middle school and was attracted to UC San Diego for its reputation as a top school for surfing.

Tomatsuri, who works at UC San Diego’s Outback Adventures Surf Shop, a full service retailer on campus offering a variety of surf merchandise, said he’s noticed UC San Diego’s growing popularity among student surfers.

“UC San Diego’s recreation department offers surf classes to students throughout the year,” Tomatsuri said. “One of the most popular classes is ‘the fundamentals of surfing.’ Once students sign up for the class, they come into the store to purchase their first-ever wetsuits, and as a fellow surfer and employee of the Surf Shop, it is encouraging to see so many new students interested in the sport.”

Burrell, Tomatsuri and other members of the UC San Diego surf team meet at first light at Black’s Beach throughout the academic year. The team has qualified for the NSSA’s national championships every year for more than 30 years.

Burrell added that although the waves at Black’s Beach are tempting, their consistency actually makes it easier for surfers to skip the beach when it’s time to study.

“You know they will be good tomorrow, the next day and the day after that,” he said.

For more information about The Surf Channel’s list of the top 10 universities for surfers, go to:

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