Twin sisters Isabelle “Izzy” and Caroline “Coco” Tihanyi operate their surf company the same way you’d manage an investment portfolio: they diversify. Since 1996, Surf Diva has grown from a girls’ surf school to a well-rounded business that encompasses an array of elements, including said surf school; Surf Diva-branded surfboards, skateboards, rashguards, towels, and other accessories; a surf shop that sells everything from coconut-scented lotion to haute high heels; and now Surf Diva apparel.
Coco says the demand from surf-clinic participants for Surf Diva products — souvenirs, if you will — was the impetus for Surf Diva’s clothing line. “They wanted something to remember us by, and we thought it might as well be something hot,” she says.
Since Surf Diva introduced its line eighteen months ago, the line has evolved significantly. What started as a piecemeal offering of primarily rashguards and T-shirts has grown to include custom-made cut-and-sew tops, sweatshirts, and trunks — all the way up to a 68-dollar “Perfect Little Black Dress.”
“We appreciate quality, and I wanted to make sure our clothing exemplified the same excellence as the surf school,” says Coco, who oversees the clothing division. “Izzy goes to great lengths to ensure her program and instructors are top-notch. The clothing line reflects all of that, too.”
Coco says Surf Diva apparel speaks to athletic and fashionable girls. In an increasingly competitive girls’ apparel market, Surf Diva plans to distinguish its clothing line from other brands by being realistic with the silhouettes it designs. “We are not trying to tell girls how they should be. We are embracing who they are,” says Coco. “So often you see girls in the store trying to fit into clothes that are designed for an adolescent ‘curve-less’ body. That’s not realistic. We want to say, ‘Hey, you’re beautiful the way you are.'” Surf Diva gear runs from size extra-small to XXL.
Through its surf-school operation, La Jolla, California-based Surf Diva has built solid relationships with other brands such as Roxy and Billabong, but Izzy says the new venture in clothing shouldn’t jeopardize those partnerships. “We’re not going after the Billabong/Roxy market,” she says. “A lot of those brands are going toward the fashion side of things, and as much as we’re fashion-oriented, we’re still very much ingrained in surf and in the beach.
“We’re bringing women to the sport,” she continues, “and I think the companies appreciate that we’re creating a bigger market for them.”
Coco says retailers have been receptive to the new line. Surf Diva showed its line at Surf Expo and ASR, and Coco says shops no longer view Surf Diva solely as a surf school. “The line is standing on its own more and more,” she says, adding that Surf Diva will continue to do cross promotions with the shops, offering accounts that carry Surf Diva gear free weekend surf clinics to raffle off.
Adds Izzy, “I feel the retailer sees it as different because Surf Diva’s its own entity in terms of what we represent. It’s about opening doors to women in the surf industry and encouraging them to learn to surf and live their dream.”
Right now, the sisters are living a dream of their own and are growing Surf Diva organically. “We’re savoring every moment of this: making the school a success, hiring the right people, offering really cool benefits, and making an awesome clothing line,” Coco says. “We want to do everything right. We don’t want to just dive into the pool. We want to put our big toe in and then inch in slowly.”