The Surf-Specific Degree

Giving the B.S. degree a whole new meaning

| posted on August 21, 2013
Study at the Center for Surf Research at SDSU, and some of the best waves in Southern California are a short jaunt away. Photo: Ghiglia

Study at the Center for Surf Research at SDSU, and some of the best waves in Southern California are a short jaunt away. Photo: Ghiglia

If you’re a high school surfer panicking about what to study in college, or if you’re the parent of one and you’re worried that your young shredder doesn’t have the academic commitment for a university degree, there may be hope for the both of you. As the amount of surfers planet-wide grows and grows (sigh), so too do the complexities of the international business of surf. Remarkably, some universities are now offering fully-fledged bachelor’s degrees in surfing, while a few schools even enroll students in post-graduate programs that focus on surfing. So, high school seniors out there, take note: you don’t have to major in some awful subject, like, God forbid, history. You can actually study surfing. For a degree.

The most well-known degree program is Plymouth University’s Surf Science and Technology BSc. The program was founded at Plymouth’s Cornwall campus in 1999 and has since handed out hundreds of degrees. Surf culture, history, marketing, fitness, and environmental studies all contribute to a diploma that the college hopes will prepare graduates for careers in the surf industry, or in environmentally-conscious non-profit companies. Similar degree programs have since been started in Australia, at Southern Cross University and at Edith Cowan University. The Southern Cross program aims to churn out surf apparel marketers and surf media workers, while Edith Cowan steers toward graduating future surf coaches.

Though it doesn’t yet offer a degree, San Diego State University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management launched the Center for Surf Research in 2011, a research department focused on sustainable surf tourism. A handful of classes on the economy of surf travel and some seriously desirable study abroad programs are offered by the program.

Just last month, Australian/U.S. expat shaping legend Tom Wegener upped the ante on these piddly bachelor’s degrees by starting a PhD program in surf studies at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. He’ll be studying the impacts of globalization on the surfboard building industry, with an eye trained on the decline of independent shapers on the Sunshine Coast. He’s getting a grant from the Sunshine Coast Council to do this, and while causes of the decline may seem obvious—factory-made boards drive prices below what hand-shapers can match—a thorough understanding of how globalization affects board making could go a long way toward alleviating the pain felt by shapers on the Sunshine Coast. And Wegener’s certainly the man to do it. On top of selling one of his board models through Global Surf Industries, he’s got the academic chops as well, having earned a law degree at the University of San Diego.

So from now on, try to use your indoor voice out there in the lineup. The surfer next to you might be “studying.”

For more info on the above-mentioned degree programs, click away at the links below:
Plymouth University’s Degree in Surf Science and Technology
Southern Cross University Diploma in Sports Management (Surfing Studies)
Edith Cowan University Major in Surf Science
SDSU Center for Surf Research





  • Pasty

    I did surf science in plymouth years ago, was great fun and met some great people, but a total waste from an educational/employment perspective. Dropped out and got a standard business degree, can apply that to anything…

  • Ben

    I graduated from Edith Cowen in Australia with a Bachelor of
    Science a few years ago. An excellent degree that covers I wide range of areas,
    but primarily business and environmental units. Plenty of graduates have used
    these degrees to launch careers in various fields, (certainly not limited to
    surf industry jobs. I’m an environmental officer working for government). Plus
    there are lots of waves and fun times to be had in the SW of Western Australia.
    Look into it kids… !

  • juan magnifico

    What a waste of money!

  • Gimme My Stickers

    I take it that degrees from BroBrahSuckIndustryTeat have been curtailed in this bleak economy?

  • Jeremy

    Just get a business degree and keep surfing. Boutique degrees are rarely taken seriously.

  • Ronald Langeveld

    What job can you actually get for studying this?? haha. Sounds fun though! 🙂

  • Surf Science and technology

    I manage the FdSc Surf Science programme in Cornwall and we currently have graduates and students working all over the world in an amazing range of careers from green energy to lecturing, elite coaching, Surfers Against Sewage, air pollution, retail, activity centre management and event management and teaching! It opens up a whole world of opportunity for people who have a passion for the ocean and sport related to it who want to work in the industry and not just sit in an office! Check out the link to the course and contact us if you are interested and would like to have a chat about what you can do on the course,

  • Jim

    I too did Surf Science at Plymouth, graduated with a first class honours degree, worked for a major surf company in marketing for a while and now run a successful business of my own. The degree is like many others, what you make of it, I had a great time surfing almost every day but also studying hard and getting a first and then a good job. If you see it purely as a piece of paper to get a job with then yes I agree it will be a waste but as far as a life experience it was one of my favourites. Unfortunately the course has now been cancelled and is not taking new applicants. With a shake up of fees in the UK university sector, and students expected to pay £9000 a year rather than the old £3000ish the university pulled the course. The degree also didn’t do the university’s image as a proper educational establishment any good. 🙂

  • Terry

    Although my alma mater, Point Loma Nazarene University, is not on the list, since the 1970’s many have considered Surfing an “unofficial” major! 🙂

  • Andrew

    But then you have to work in the surf industry…

  • Surf Slut

    it’s interesting when white people interpret indigenous ways

  • Sarah

    I did Surf Science at Plymouth, took the exchange to Edith Cowan on the South West Coast of Australia for a year and finished my third year back in Plymouth with an Upper Class Honours. I now work in a large creative company in Australia, earning real money in the marketing department. I work with awesome creatives some of which surf, I go to Margaret River at the weekend for world class waves, I go to Bell’s to visit friends for Chrissy, I go to Bali surfing for long weekends. I loved my degree and I love my job, they are both fun, fulfilling and useful. I have a great career ahead of me as do all the people who were in my year at Uni. When employers see my degree they want to know more, when they understand what I studied and what I did for my dissertation and the fact I did the exchange, they are impressed. I have never not been taken seriously becasue of my degree. And life rocks, I spent three years traveling the world, learning with other incredible surfers, learning from the best lecturers I could have asked for, and surfing some of the best waves in the world. But sure you go have fun with your business degree….

    • johnny

      Hey is possible for you to contact me? I have some questions!!

    • josh

      would be great if you would answer me

  • Veronica

    There is such a thing as a double major – pick something in the science department to go along w/ it if you’re worried about a job afterwards. Too many people are in jobs they hate going to; luckily I’m not one of them.

    • eileesh

      don’t assume the academic system is the same in every country Veronica. Double Major’s are not the norm in UK or Ireland. However there is the option of a Graduate diploma or Masters course after the bachelors to get a 2nd qualification. I have a B.Eng. my roommate did a B.Sc in sports followed by the Grad Dip version of my bachelor’s degree, and I had other housemates who did a Business degree followed by a science grad dip. In our Alma mater that equates to 5 years in college as we all did 6 to 9month internships/study-abroad about half-way through our initial bachelors programmes.

  • Kyle

    Is anyone out there aware of opportunities in the surfing industry within the environmental realm? I’m an Environmental Scientist who would love to make a career change that incorporates the surf industry. Thanks…

  • Bruno Perazio

    I contacted Plymouth University and Southern Cross University and they said they are not accepting international students anymore.