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Natural Awakenings San Diego

Surf Diva: Leading Stand Up Paddlers to Ocean Wonders

Jun 30, 2011 08:15AM ● By Lauressa Nelson

In 1996, Izzy Tihanyi opened the Surf Diva Surf School, the world’s first surf school exclusively for women, with her sister Coco. Five years ago, Izzy added stand up paddling (SUP) to the mix, creating the What’SUP Surf School, while Coco established the Surf Diva Boutique to sell female-specific functional surfing and SUP gear and fashion, as well as boards designed by Izzy.

Many people that contact Surf Diva may be familiar with SUP, but only on flat water. “When they come to us, they’re excited to get out on the ocean with our help,” says Izzy. “The ocean has much more going on; dealing with currents and waves presents a whole different set of challenges.”

Surf Diva’s more than 60 instructors offer private, individual and group SUP lessons daily by appointment for both flat water and ocean. They also teach traditional surfing, which students must learn first for reasons of safety, if they want to try SUP-surfing. “We’re very safety-conscious,” Izzy confirms. “Our instructors are certified in CPR, first-aid and lifesaving, and are educators who know how to help students learn and improve.”

First-time jitters vanish quickly when students experience the beauty of the La Jolla Cove Ecological Preserve, an area to which Surf Diva has exclusive touring access by permit. “This is one of just 19 California coastal areas designated as an area of special biological significance,” Izzy enthuses. “The water is very clean, and it’s an aquatic playground. The geology above the water and the biology below it are stunning.” Surf Diva’s SUP tour takes paddlers through kelp beds and past unique caves, where they spot sea lions, dolphins, sea turtles and leopard sharks (which are harmless to humans).What'SUP Surf School

Izzy says women excel at learning SUP, because they tend to have a better sense of balance than men. “We have taught so many couples, and the majority of the time, women do better. Finally, women have the upper hand in a sport,” she quips.

Surf Diva has recently launched SUP and Yoga Weekend Retreats, which are scheduled monthly in La Jolla and seasonally in Costa Rica; the next Costa Rica retreat, in November, is a six-day adventure of stand up paddling down the coast of the Nicoya Peninsula.

Location: 2160 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla 92037. For more information, call 858-454-8273, email [email protected] or visit


Elaine's Publisher Pick

Surf Diva

Surf Diva Surf SchoolIn 1998, Izzy Tihanyi, the owner of Surf Diva, taught my daughter and me how to surf. Three surprising things quickly followed. First, I was standing up on a wave at La Jolla Shores after only a few tries. Next, the photo of me on my first wave was published in the local Coast News. Finally, much to my delight, surfing became a part of my lifestyle. A few years ago, I even took up stand up paddleboarding (SUP), a sport suitable for any age.

I’ve referred other women to Surf Diva, and they have also been thrilled with their experience. No matter your age, let Izzy show you how easy and fun surfing or SUP can be.