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Savannah Rusher's IDEAL Wave Energy

Tell me about Ideal Surf.

IDEAL officially started in January of this year (wild timing), but had been marinating in the back of my mind for quite a few years. I was tired of walking into surf shops and seeing the same stuff for the past 20 years. I knew there was untapped potential to make more exciting apparel for a much more diverse and creative group of surfers. Same with gear, surely it can have more colors and be less toxic for the environment! I wanted to create something authentic and mindful with plenty of room for experimentation. I kept calling it “my ideal surf shop”, so IDEAL stuck.

We love the Seawitches Zine. How and when did you get involved with it?

Margaret, a co-founder of Seawitches, reached out to me last year to illustrate and art direct the fourth edition of Seawitches. We have a close mutual friend who put us in touch knowing we would get along famously, and she was so right! We have continued to collaborate since then and elaborate on our shared vision of a more inclusive, mindful surf community both locally and globally.

When did you start surfing? Do you mind sharing your age? Did you grow up in California? Where are you currently living?

I started surfing around the age of 15 in my hometown of Myrtle Beach, SC. I’m 35 years old now, so that’s 20 years of ocean devotion! I currently live in Oakland, CA and have been in the Bay Area for 8 years.

When did you start making art? Did you study it in school or in college?

As a kid I was always interested in painting, so my parents enrolled me in art classes starting at the age of 7. I went to a fine arts high school and minored in art in college, but was distracted by surfing and deterred by teachers who pushed a classical art agenda. I was reading about Basquiat and Andy Warhol when I was 16 behind my teachers’ backs because they hated Pop Art and wanted us to be little Rembrandts. South Carolina wasn’t exactly a hotbed of radical creativity!

What were your first experiences with surfing? Competitiveness? Women in the water? I was working at a surf/skate shop (I was very into skating & skate culture), but started to become more interested in the idea of surfing. I LOVED the ocean and was a complete beach bum, so the shift seemed obvious. I could walk to the beach in 10 minutes. Locally, there were very few women in the lineups and a LOT of jocks. It was intimidating! Luckily, I had a very supportive group of friends who encouraged me and really took me under their wing. They were throwing rocks at my window at 5 am to surf hurricane swells and they made me believe I could do it, too. I appreciate them so much for sharing the gift of surfing with me and bolstering my confidence in the lineup.

Tell me a little bit about the connection between your art and surfing? Also, what surfing has taught you?

I have kept the two pretty separate until recently. Surf culture has largely turned me off, particularly due to the racist, homophobic, and sexist environment it has historically perpetuated. It felt so ignorant and narrow-minded, not to mention the cheesy, masculine corporate identity behind all of it. I hung out with the punks and we talked shit about surfers. However, beach culture has always been a strong part of my visual language. I love bright pastels, neon lights, and the seediness of boardwalk life. Escapism is such a fun concept!

Surfing has ultimately taught me how to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Reading the ocean cultivates a high level of awareness. Since humans are roughly made of 60% water, connecting with it on an immersive level feels like a return to home. When I’m in the ocean, there is nowhere else I need to be. I find it to be a huge release. My mind is constantly spinning and moving exponentially faster than my physical being, so engaging in that rigorous exercise helps sync the two. The body is tired, the mind is quiet.

Where are your favorite places to surf?

Some of my favorite spots in California are Sano, Malibu, and Leo Carillo. However, I really love warm water, so I like to go to Punta de Mita in Mexico and have experienced some incredible surf at Playa Camaronal in Costa Rica. I also have a sweet spot in my heart for Rincon, Puerto Rico after spending a month there. Last but not least, the Washout at Folly Beach since I lived in Charleston, SC for a long time and am still nostalgic about it!

If you could surf and make art anywhere in the world, where would it be?

There are so many places I’ve yet to go! I don’t think I could pick one spot. I would really like to do an artist residency in New Zealand or Eastern Australia. I also have BIG love for Brasil and would gladly go back there any time.

What boards are you riding, and why do they work well for you?

Usually, I am riding my 9’0 with a single Greenough A4 fin. It’s heavy as hell and I love/hate it. I would say that I’m definitely overdue for a new log. I also have a 7’6 single fin Mitzven that is extremely fun. Prior to moving to California I only rode shortboards, so that board’s versatility allows me to have the best of both worlds.

How do you balance a life with Art and Surfing? Being a freelance artist/designer and not having a 9-5 has been a critical part of achieving peak happiness and productivity. I like to be outside or traveling on the weekdays and work on the weekends to avoid crowds. Creativity also comes in waves for me (no pun intended), so I like to have the power to organize my time as needed if I find myself in a good groove. I’m far too feral to be in an office.

Who are your biggest influences or heroes in surfing &/or art?

I love the films and art of Thomas Campbell and I wish that I had been exposed to his work when I was much younger. I think it would have helped me make peace with surf culture much sooner. I’m also a huge fan of Gerry Lopez. His level of zen and gratitude is so beautiful and radiates through everything he does. Currently, I am obsessed with Karina Rozunko, a SoCal surfer who rides for Vans. She has a great style (in and out of the water) that is kind of riot grrrrl and not obviously surfer-y. It’s SO refreshing to see that level of self-expression and individuality in the surf community, especially for women.

What’s your after surf routine? Do you have one?

I’m usually really ready for a hot shower, and yoga. I also like to eat a LOT, lol. Post-surf meals are usually feasts and involve some kind of over-the-top sweet treat at the end.

Just for fun, because I love food… What are your favorite foods to bring to the beach or on a surf adventure?

It’s all about the snacks. I like a veg, a dip, that kind of thing, some chips/salsa, and lots of fruit. I don’t drink a lot of beer, but a post-surf-beer is so nice!

In Sayulita, my friends and I would surf all day and in between have grilled shrimp skewers, fresh mango, young coconut, and Micheladas the size of our heads. I think it was peak happiness.


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