The Surf Divas: Turn Mistakes Into Learning Experiences

Izzy Tihanyi and her twin sister, Coco Tihanyi, grew up surfing in the waters of Southern California. As adults working in their respective careers, they both felt that something was missing. Izzy was a pro surfer, but she was bothered by how few women she saw on the waves. With only $342 in the bank, the two tapped into their passion--surfing--and started Surf Diva Surf School.

"Surf Diva came about as something fun on the weekends where I wanted to get more women in the water," said Izzy Tihanyi. "So I put up a flyer in a local surf shop and said I'm going to do a women's clinic. One girl called me. She brought four friends. And then it just exploded."

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Today, Surf Diva is one of the top surf schools in the country and teaches both men and women of all ages. It also leads surf trips to exotic locations and host day and overnight summer camps for kids.

Surfing has always been an important part of the Tihanyi sisters' lives. They learned to surf from their dad, and their parents would bring them to the beach every day after school. After graduating from college, while Izzy surfed for a living, Coco pursued a career in fashion and marketing. The twins noticed that surf schools in their area weren't focused toward women, so they joined forces and started Surf Diva in 1996. "I realized that women want to be taught in a different way," said Izzy. "We have a lesson plan that's geared toward women where they understand everything before we go out in the water. The safety, the rip currents, the tides. We take the pressure off."

At Surf Diva, instructors are trained to let students enjoy the simple pleasure of riding the waves on their own, whether it's on their stomach, standing up, or on their knees. "Our whole thing is, the best surfer in the water is the one having the most fun," said Izzy.

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While Izzy focuses on the surfing side of the house, Coco designs the company's clothing line and handles the business end of Surf Diva, which also sells other product brands in their shop. "For me it was really important to design clothing that would fit different body types," said Coco. "And know that you don't have to be 14 years old and a size 2. You can be 45 and a size 14 and still have a wetsuit you can buy and wear and feel good."

While the sisters readily admit the business mistakes they've made along the way, they said they've always managed to turn those mistakes into learning experiences. Said Coco, "I think what helps is just sitting back and thinking is this really a challenge? Or is it an opportunity?"

"We never had a scary moment because we started with nothing," said Izzy. "We started with $342 in the bank and everything that we made we boot strapped and put it back into the business. But there were times when we really didn't know if we'd be here the next day.

"Surf Diva's a dream come true for both Coco and I," she said. "It's everything we had ever dreamed of and even beyond. My goal was just to have a surf shop and now it's just exploded. So I can't believe how lucky we are."

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