Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kris Primacio, CEO of International Surf Therapy Organization, located in Manhattan Beach, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

The International Surf Therapy Organization is a 501(c)(3) non-profit supporting surf therapy practitioners, clinicians, scientists, and influencers working together to advance understanding in the surf therapy sector through research. We are the leading information hub for the industry and help facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration for the practitioner community and believe universal recognition, training, and prescription surf therapy would provide people with an alternative methodology to mental health support. We host monthly meetups, quarterly webinars, and annual global conferences to share impact and mainstream surf therapy.

Tell us about yourself

I'm a proud Hawaiian/Filipina leading the helm of a global non-profit, International Surf Therapy Organization (ISTO). I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the surf therapy sector since 2011 (the year I began surfing) and a co-founder of ISTO in 2017. Since I was a very young girl, I volunteered throughout my community regularly, working with Special Olympics, Group Health Hospital, Children's Hospital, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs, Ronald McDonald House, etc. I have a lot of energy and channeled that while working with hundreds of young individuals with disabilities or disadvantages. When I began surfing in 2011, I was introduced to a local surf therapy program that worked with foster homes and the foster care system throughout Los Angeles County. As my love for surfing grew, so did my passion for helping others discover the healing powers of the ocean and the therapeutic benefits of surfing. Surfing is an enormous part of my life and has played an important role in my healing process after losing my father to cancer, and more recently my sister, but the significance of surfing became apparent only after I began sharing it with others. ISTO's mission is to promote inclusive, evidence-based, safe surf therapy (by facilitating research and bringing practitioners together). We're helping the sector grow, thereby creating solutions to our global mental health crisis. It's the most meaningful work I've ever done, and I'm incredibly proud to ride these waves alongside so many extraordinary humans.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Today, our non-profit is a staff of one (me) wearing numerous hats, as do all CEOs. I am lucky to be surrounded by dozens of incredible individuals volunteering their time to support ISTO's mission and vision. I'm most proud of our ability to bring surf therapy practitioners together for collaboration and knowledge sharing. We have aided in the growth of surf therapy exponentially and are serving 120 organizations, a 38% increase from last year and a 1400% increase since 2017.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Managing a non-profit has its challenges and growing pains. Working alongside over 100 other non-profits across the globe, I can safely say the most demanding part of it is Fundraising (yes, with a capital F). There are 1.6 million non-profits in the USA alone. With the proven benefits of surf therapy and the ocean's accessibility, we believe global recognition, practice, and prescription surf therapy would provide many people with the alternative methodology they've been seeking. The pandemic and civil unrest have highlighted and exacerbated both the existing and new barriers to accessing mental health services. We've traded in the couch for a surfboard, and our methodologies are promoting psychological, physical, and psychosocial well-being. We're looking for significant healthcare institutions or big corporations to support our global efforts, which will trickle down to local efforts.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and specialize in unique skillsets (that you don't possess)—for example, board members who are lawyers, accountants, web designers, etc.
  2. Surround yourself with people from different races, cultures, socio-economics, and beliefs. You will be enlightened and motivated far beyond your imagination.
  3. Put your oxygen mask on first (this is unoriginal but stands the test of time). Check-in with your mind, body, and soul often. Create space to honor yourself, your family, and your friends.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

The International Surf Therapy Organization will host our 6th annual Global Conference on October 6-10th in the South Bay of Los Angeles, California. October 8th & 9th will consist of guest speakers, panels of discussions, and plenty of time to network and speak to leading surf therapy researchers and practitioners worldwide. October 10th is World Mental Health Day and World Inclusion Day - we will celebrate both with a paddle out at the Manhattan Beach Pier from 9:30a-11:30a. Stay tuned for more details on all ISTO social channels.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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