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La Jolla’s Surf Diva Shop & Surf School celebrates 25 years of sisterhood, surfing and style

La Jolla's Surf Diva Shop & Surf School is owned by sisters Coco and Izzy Tihanyi (front row center, in jackets).
La Jolla’s Surf Diva Shop & Surf School, owned by sisters Coco and Izzy Tihanyi (front row center, in jackets) is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
(Courtesy of Surf Diva)

Business Spotlight:

Surf Diva Shop & Surf School is celebrating 25 years of sisterhood, surfing and style in La Jolla and is hoping to ride that wave into the next quarter-century.

The business offers surf lessons and camps as well as an ocean of beach gear and apparel at 2160 Avenida de la Playa in La Jolla Shores. Twin sisters Coco and Izzy Tihanyi opened it in 1996 as the first all-female surfing school.

“There were no surf schools for women,” Izzy said.

The school, which began in an office above the current store, went coed in 2002. “Guys wanted to learn from ‘the divas,’” Izzy said. “Now we teach women, kids, men, everybody … who wants to learn.”

All ages are welcome, Izzy said. She noted that earlier that day, an 83-year-old woman rode the waves with an instructor.

Surf Diva expanded in 2004, taking over a liquor store underneath to begin selling surf and beach wares such as blankets, organic sunscreen, surf helmets, ponchos and rash guards.

The shop also carries hoodies, T-shirts, sandals and a variety of other goods designed by Coco for children and adults. In addition, it offers items by major surf and skate brands such as Roxy, Vans, Havaianas and Quiksilver.

The side wall displays surfboards ranging from entry-level sizes and prices to those that are “high-end, custom-shaped locally by legendary board shaper Craig Hollingsworth,” Izzy said.

“I’m the surf, she’s the diva,” Izzy said of Coco. “She designs our [instructor] uniforms, she does all our buying and merchandising for the shop.”

Coco also designed the shop’s logo, which has been updated for 2021 to commemorate the business’s first 25 years.

Surf Diva Shop & Surf School offers surfing lessons and a wide variety of beach wares.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Izzy said she directs the surf instruction side of the business. “I hire and train the best surf instructors in the world,” she said. “This school is the hardest one to get into as an instructor because we watch them surf, we do background checks, we do reference checks. We’re super picky.”

Coco said the business evolved naturally from the sisters’ upbringing by a father who was a competitive surfer and “had us surfing and bodyboarding” and a French mother who took them to the ballet and opera and wanted her daughters to “feel comfortable doing everything.”

“As kids growing up here, this was our dream to open up a shop on the street and a surf school,” Coco said.

She, Izzy and their sister Valerie, who lives in France, attended Torrey Pines Elementary, Muirlands Middle and La Jolla High schools, and all graduated from UC San Diego, also in La Jolla.

“We love offering what our community wants,” Coco said. “We want people to leave here super happy with what they have.”

It seems the community is happy indeed: Surf Diva was voted Best Surf Shop in the La Jolla Light’s 2021 Best of La Jolla readers poll, repeating its win from last year. “We’re just very grateful that our locals have been so supportive,” Izzy said.

Surf Diva’s summer surf camps sold out every week this year, she said.

Surf Diva is now enrolling for its La Jolla Surf Club, an after-school and weekend program during which youths ages 6-17 can participate up to four times a week.

The children, most of whom choose one or two days a week, are grouped in pods of about four by age and ability and spend a lot of time in the water. “They improve really quickly,” Izzy said.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic was tough to weather, Izzy said, Surf Diva underwent one more expansion, which Coco said is the silver lining: The shop is now online, offering shipping of its goods throughout the country.

“The website is going phenomenally well,” Izzy said.

Coco said Surf Diva often hosts “retail therapy” events, in which a local organization partners with the shop for a certain time and receives 20 percent of sales during that period as a donation.

Giving to the community “is something we’ve always felt we want to do,” she said.

Izzy said running the business with her sister “feels like it’s five years. … I feel really lucky that I get to work on the beach, and Coco’s really good at what she does with the shop.”

“We are surf divas,” Coco said. “I think when you love what you do, time goes by really quickly.”

Izzy said she hopes the next 25 years “are as amazing as the first.”

Surf Diva Shop & Surf School is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily. For more information, visit surfdiva.com.

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