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Surfing Instead of College

3 min read


Surfing the world instead of college

Why one would-be freshman will be surfing the world instead of the classroom.

While thousands of college freshmen will be unpacking suitcases into their cramped dormitories, ready for the 2014-2015 school year, there will be one high school senior taking to the waves instead.

Deborah Dunham plans to encourage her son, Bradley, who just started his senior year of high school, to hold off on the college applications and instead surf around the world.  “I’m well aware that this is a decision that freaks some people out,” Dunham writes in Forbes Magazine’s LearnVest section.  “You’re going to send him off into the world?  To surf? ...The questions, while well-meaning, are tainted with judgment, doubt and a hint of “you’re the worst parent ever.”  To Deborah, however, postponing college makes perfect sense.

Dunham’s decision to encourage her son to take a global surf trip in lieu of college is mainly rooted in how much the college scene has changed, especially when it comes to tuition costs.  The College Board reports that it costs about $22,261 per year to attend an in-state college.  “And private schools?  They are a whopping $43,289 a year,” Dunham writes.  Even with the help of federal grants, students still graduate with about $27,000 worth of student loan debt.  That’s a lot of money spent on sending your kid off to “find themselves” and their life passion along the way.

Deborah also attributes her decision to the young age at which students are expected to start making career-shaping decisions.  She reasons that, “…maybe (because) we start(ed) college when we weren’t mature enough to decide what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives.”

From her experience of having an avid surfer for a son, she has noticed that not everyone takes the most traveled path to success.  “As a mom of a surfer,” she writes, “I have come to learn – and accept – that there’s a certain surf culture, which says that when there are waves, you gotta surf them … And yes, sometimes that means missing first period.”  How could you pay attention in history class when you knew it was barreling like mad at the shore break?  We couldn’t!

Now, don’t get us wrong – there is incredible economic and emotional value in hard-earned collegedegree, but that doesn’t mean you need to jump on it right away.  Deborah writes, “we discuss the importance of college and picking a career that will make him happy and independent, but that could be several years down before he’s ready to commit – and that’s O.K.”

Slyde’s very own Steve Watts spent eight years surfing at locations including New Zealand, the east and west coast of Australia and the outer islands of Indonesia.  It was after that he received his B.A. in Product Design, founded Slyde Handboards and made it what you see and shred with today. 

How can you expect to know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life when you still have so much to learn about yourself?  Deborah Dunham reasons that there is time to chase your dreams and passions.  And after you’re done with that, there will be plenty of time to go to college.  So, for all of you young Groms out there, shred away!  And rest easy, knowing that the college dorm still awaits you.  But for now, as Deborah puts it, “there are waves to catch.”

You can read Deborah’s article on Forbes Magazine here.  

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