​A key feature of all 23 campuses in the California State University system is a connection to the water.

Whether it's the mighty Pacific or the state's seemingly infinite number of rivers, lakes, streams, bays, inlets and channels, the CSU is intrinsically linked to the wet stuff.  And not just for scientific study.

CSU campuses are home to some of the most competitive watersports clubs in the country, giving students a fun, welcoming way to form friendships and strengthen their connection to the surrounding environment.


Hanging 10 Across the CSU

In some cases, these CSU clubs even go on to win championships.

The surf club at CSU San Marcos was only nine years old in 2009 when it captured the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) Southwest College Division National Championship. It's still the longest-running club team on campus.

Faculty advisor ​Amber Puha, Ph.D., believes the club has helped the university establish an identity. "It's important for the campus and the students to be able to connect to all kinds of things they're interested in," says Dr. Puha, who also surfed competitively as a college student. "When you can find an extracurricular activity that you can participate in, it's a way of incorporating who you are and what you're interested in and makes you feel that you're a part of the campus community."

At about 10,000 students, San Marcos isn't a large campus. But its proximity to the beach — about 12 miles away — makes it ripe ground for strong surfers. Similarly, the surf teams at Long Beach and Channel Islands need only travel a few miles to their practice sites.


Freshwater Fun

The same goes for Chico State, home to one of the many waterski and wakeboard clubs throughout the CSU. The Wildcats have been recognized as one of the top competitive teams in the country for many years, and after back-to-back second-place finishes, the team achieved a national championship of their own in 2012.

The team is expected to compete at the top yet again in the 2016-17 season.

Watch the Chico State club catching air in this video:

 


San Diego State has another of the best-equipped waterski and wakeboard clubs in the CSU.

This year, the Aztecs will attempt a third consecutive Western Region championship in water skiing. They're now the highest-ranking non-scholarship team in the nation, according to head coach Michael Thiemann.

"[The team] is very student-, rather than coach-, focused so there is a lot of learning and skill-building," says Thiemann. "Many of the best watersports athletes in the world make San Diego their home; it is only appropriate that SDSU has one of the best waterski teams in the country."


Calm on the Water

While competitive events are a big draw, most watersports clubs are more focused on having fun, meeting new friends, and improving awareness of their sport. Some campuses even have established aquatics centers to educate the community.

For instance, Humboldt State runs the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center, which hosts the talented HSU crew team and provides facility space and equipment rentals to the public. Paddling instruction and guided tours are also available.

CSU Channel Islands provides similar services at the Channel Islands Boating Center, which offers on-the-water experiences for both students and the public.

"Our stand up paddle board class … and our sunset kayaking activities allow groups to paddle out to the channel inlet just in time to gaze upon the sunset over the horizon," says Michael Gravagne, Ed.D., director of campus recreation.

"Each class guides the students on an adventure throughout the Channel Islands Harbor while viewing marine life and birds that are common to this area."

Sailing is another of the most popular activities at Channel Islands. Students of all skill levels learn to navigate the wind and waves in a fun, safe environment.

Like all the watersports programs in the CSU, it connects students to the water, to their environment, and to their campus.