Savannah Rusher of IDEAL Surf Co.
Savannah Rusher, founder of Oakland-based IDEAL Surf Co. tells us about her mission to create an accessible platform for the future of surfing. “IDEAL has no corporate agenda or gatekeeping. IDEAL is focused on experimentation, mindfulness, and authenticity. By expanding and redefining the visual and cultural boundaries of surfing, IDEAL is cultivating an inclusive community that respects the ocean.”
Hey Savannah! How is it going?
Pretty good! Just packing orders in my studio right now! What about you?
I got some time in the water this morning, so no complaints over here! What have you been up to as of recent?
I just went down to San Diego and did a pop up, it was the first time bringing IDEAL to Southern California, which I hope to do more of in the near future. Just getting back to doing in-person events and it feels good. We actually have a beach clean up at Stinson beach this weekend!
That’s rad! We should do a collaborative beach clean up down here! Now that you’ve done a few in-person events, how have you and your brand coped with covid?
I initially intended for IDEAL to be a community platform, with movie nights, beach clean ups, and pop ups, so I wasn't able to do much of that in IDEAL’s first year. Most of the presence has been online, but I am trying to safely incorporate the original concepts into this year. I am definitely looking forward to meeting new people (in real life), paddling out together, and having less screen time. But I will say that people are surfing more than ever, which has been an interesting occurrence to come from covid. The secret is out.. surfing is FUN.
Definitely, I think surfing even became the official sport of California. I’ve felt that increase as well, over here at my local breaks. A lot of people have used the beach as an outlet during the pandemic, which means that there has been an increase in coastal pollution, how does IDEAL illustrate the importance of environmentalism?
I feel like going to the beach has been advertised as this escapist mentality, like a channel to get away from everything, and some of that trickles into surf culture. In a sense, that messaging dilutes people’s mindfulness of the fragile ecosystem they are entering. Escapism is fun but awareness is key, so I just like to remind people of the environmental responsibilities they have as surfers.
Very well said. I kind of skipped ahead there, let's just backtrack a little bit and get to the roots of Savannah Rusher of IDEAL? Tell us about you and your background, and how you ultimately came to start IDEAL.
I was raised in the coastal south, South Carolina. I started surfing twenty years ago, sometime in my teens. I worked at a skate and surf shop and I lived like a ten minute walk from the beach. The beach was always a part of my environment, and I always wanted to surf, but I was a bit intimidated by it. Luckily, some of my friends and coworkers (at the shop) saw the potential and they got me out there. After that, I was paddling out everyday, for like seven hours at a time, and surfing officially became my life. I was hooked.
Once you start you can’t stop.
Other than always being sunburned and skipping school, it was a relatively healthy addiction. I was one of the only surfers at my magnet (art) school. There were all types of people there, but surfers were usually considered “the jocks”. I just did not find a lot of surf culture to be relatable and mostly hung out with the skaters.
Was the surf scene affected by Southern culture, the way so-cal surfers and nor-cal surfers differ.
I think surfing in South Carolina was mostly informed by the media and products put out by big surf companies. Not a lot of original ideas or diversity. The Momentum Generation vibe was strong.
I know what you mean, the surf industry has only adapted and changed it’s values in the last decade. I’m glad to see it, but there are ways to go.
Yes. For a long time it was hard for women to have any visibility in surfing, but then you realize that people of color, and trans people, and non-binary people have been totally excluded from this conversation. It’s time to check privilege and normalize diversity instead of censoring it or tokenizing it.
Did this exclusion and treatment serve as inspiration for IDEAL, or at least your community based component?
Oh yeah! The surf community here in Oakland is so creative and diverse — it’s a massive inspiration and I love celebrating it.
I am happy to see that social factors are the basis of brands like yours, are there any other principles that you stand by? You mentioned environmental advocacy earlier, could you elaborate on that.
Definitely sustainability. It’s challenging to be someone who wears mostly thrift store clothes, but also produces new retail goods. Most of the garments that I sell are made with cotton (or recycled plastic), created in small batches, printed locally, sweat-shop free, and mailed in compostable mailers. I try to keep my graphic messaging as playful as possible, whether it be calling to the ocean itself or practicing joyful movement. It’s good to lose your ego and have fun with perspective!
I was actually really intrigued by some of the statements that you have on your clothing. From “the sun shines on everybody” to “the big rinse,” it seems positive to me. Could you talk about the meaning behind those concepts.
It’s a reminder for everybody that, on the beach and under the sun, we’re equal. We come from nature, which is why we return to it for grounding. I like taking a macro approach to life and pushing social constructs aside.
We all come from nature, that’s our home.
And everybody is welcome there! Localism is a silly concept and is also very insensitive to indigenous people.
Love it. And what about “Big Rinse,” what is the message behind that?
I think about going into the ocean as a “big rinse,” that invokes recalibrating and reconnecting with nature, rinsing away all of the daily stressors of modern life. A fresh start.
So, in a sense, like finding your balance? We live in a stressful world.
No doubt about that, pressure builds.
Just to finish it off, how do you find your balance, how do you ground yourself, how do you stay “true to the roots?”
I definitely rely on nature to keep me grounded (classic Taurus). I’m happiest outside and feel so lucky to live in a place with abundant natural resources.
And that is what makes you and your brand unique, it’s a reflection of you. Is there anything else you want to add as a closing remark?
Just that IDEAL holds a place for new and seasoned surfers alike! Whether you’re at Mavericks or bopping around on a foamie, the kind of representation you uphold in the water is crucial. Mindfulness is critical. Stoke is universal. No jerks.
Would love to see those words on the shirt! I appreciate all of the time Savannah, thank you for sharing your story!