We recently caught up with Coastal Authority and ISO Board founder Brian Crist on his incredible journey to develop this innovative balance trainer we’re proud to carry at Surf & Adventure Co. Brian is a former Navy SEAL who suffered a traumatic brain injury that eventually inspired him to create ISO Board as part of his recovery, alongside his love for surfing with his son.

Coastal Authority website: http://www.coastalauthority.com/

Coastal Authority Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Coastal-Authority-276779799150289

S&A: The fact that the ISO Board utilizes multiple axis’s immediately separates it from the other balance trainers on the market. Take us back to your original inspiration to produce ISO Board?

BC: A couple of years ago, I was suffering from vertigo and balance problems, later learning that I had a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and this happened just at the time my youngest son wanted to learn how to surf. So I was researching different products and therapies for me to work on my balance and I saw many balance products out there. I bought a couple and was somewhat satisfied, but not completely. I wanted one product that would do what all the others out there do combined into one neat package for everyone; so I began making my own that would combine the best elements of the things I saw and add some things that I thought could be done better or different. I started working in the garage making the first couple of prototypes. My son was about eight years old and his love for the water and desire to surf drove me to help him be able to surf on his own very quickly by getting him on a balance board in the house a little bit every day. Today at 10 years old, I can turn my back on him in the water and he is safe by himself and surfs very well for the time he has been at it.

S&A: I understand you are a former Navy SEAL who became service disabled. First of all, thank you for your selfless service! Tell us about your road to recovery and how Coastal Authority came into being.

BC: Thank you very much! I really wish I had a chance to do it all again, as my time in the Navy was the best experience of my life. I have had multiple surgeries over the years to fix issues resulting from the job, but the one thing that I could not go in to even get diagnosed or treated was TBI. I really did not know what was wrong with me other than I could not sleep, I gained weight, drank too much, became lazy and confused often. I just figured I was getting older and these things were normal just happening a little earlier than normal. When I got so confused I could not remember how to get home one day returning from work, I thought that was really strange and began to pay more attention. It happened again and vertigo began taking over, starting with dizzy spells to falling over and wondering what the hell happened. I tried hard to find a trigger that was causing these things but was unsuccessful. Finally, a friend came to dinner with his wife and we began talking about his treatment and the wives knew right away that I should be tested, so I went to be tested at a fundraising event by the Carrick Brain Center that traveled to Virginia from Dallas.

It took some time to realize that I could not control these things myself and with my wife’s urging I started the process to get treated by the Carrick Brain Center in Dallas. As the treatment is not covered by the VA, we had to find someone that would cover our cost, as there was no way I could afford the treatment. The director of Veterans Services at CBC Dallas was so incredible, she found that the Navy SEAL Foundation would cover the costs for my treatment and I went to Dallas for a two-week treatment. The first few days were diagnostic and beginning treatments that I thought were more smoke and mirrors, and that nothing was actually being accomplished. I was wrong. The fourth night there I slept for seven straight hours. This had not occurred for me in years, as I normally would go on about two to four hours of sleep per night for about four to five days, then get a five hour sleep on the fifth or sixth night. The next night there I slept for eight straight hours. At that point, I knew that whatever they were doing was, in fact, working as I had not felt so rested and alert in years. I had a hard time reading or writing more than a few sentences when I began treatment and could read a book two weeks later! The doctors did a full blood workup and I was put on an elimination diet for 90 days with a couple of vitamins to help restore my organs and hormones levels. I have been doing very well since that treatment and began a follow on an eight-week hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment in Norfolk. Everything improved even more from cognitive skills to memory and I remain to this day completely free of sleep aids and all pain medication that I could not go without prior to treatment.

Coastal Authority was born when friends would come to dinner, see our balance board and asked if I could make them one. After about 10, I decided to start a company making these and start writing a patent for it and other ideas I have for other coastal products. We still have a long way to go!

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S&A: Describe the R&D process. How many prototypes did it take before you reached the final product and what challenges did you have to overcome to achieve it?

BC: There were many shapes and sizes that I tried at first, but had three working prototypes that were refined to the product we have today. They were big, heavy and did not look very good, although they worked fine. I tried a few different ways to get the product to be used on 2 axis’s and settled on a rail and stop system for the safety of beginners and transcend the surf market to all balance training. We tried all the cheap materials to try and make it as inexpensive as possible, but it did not look good nor did it last long enough. It was definitely not of the quality I wanted for an American-made product. So I tried many different woods and materials to get the product to a usable and durable level for the beginner to the advanced riders.

S&A: Why is balance training important to us as board riders?

BC: Balance training is very important to everyone, not just board riders! Applying this type of exercise to your daily physical training regimen increases the Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) which increases strength, injury prevention, fast muscle reflex contraction, balance, and an overall improved performance for any sport or general health. Adding balance training to your daily routine is easy to do and provides benefits that no other type of exercise provides. One of the most overlooked benefits that balance training offers is the enhancement of the central nervous system. When we are young and running, jumping and playing with endless energy, our brain and CNS are firing on all cylinders as they are not burdened with poor diet, lack of exercise and the daily grind of being seated most of our waking hours. As we age, we get in routines with less movement that contributes to dulling the essential network connections between our brain and our muscles which causes muscle atrophy and slowed if not stopped neuron pathways to all of our small “helper” muscles. I have heard that it takes about 300 different muscles to stand erect and balance, so enhancing the connective pathways from the brain to the muscles to get everything firing correctly in the manner in which we were made is essential for optimal neuromuscular function of the human body. I guess the way to say it is that balance training increases muscle activation and recruitment that directly applies to our fast reflex muscles. So if you are serious about your health and fitness, increasing performance balance training will help increase muscle activation, increased muscle fiber recruitment and increased fast reflex muscle contraction. It just makes sense for all people to incorporate this style of training from the young to the elderly in some form. The ISO Board makes this fun to do for the whole family.

S&A: Beyond the board itself, describe the other part of the ISO Board system.

BC: The board itself is bigger than the others on the market commonly found in surf and skate shops, more of a “pro model” size so that it is more of a trainer than a simple “trick” board for kids. Most folks look at balance boards and say “I would break my neck if I tried that” or are intimidated by the product. We made our product a larger, more universal product that has multiple-sized rollers for each axis and an inflatable balance cushion to reach everyone’s level from the beginner to the advanced boardsport enthusiast. What this does is offers balance training to everyone at a reduced risk or perceived idea of one can or cannot accomplish. The one thing that I have heard from numerous moms is that the balance boards that they have at home are a headache for them because the board and roller are just left out to be tripped on or stored in a closet and forgotten about. We go even further incorporating a retention device or stand that holds all of the components in a very neat, small package that can be stored in any room of the house for all to see and use. With our graduated roller system and “easy foot” grip technology, our balance training package is one of the best on the market.

S&A: How has the surf industry responded to this exciting, new product so far?

BC: Very well for quite some time now. Balance boards began in circus shows long ago as the “Rolla Bolla” and have evolved to training for specific board sports. Ours has yet to be introduced to the whole industry as I am awaiting our utility patent to be approved — it is a long process! I have been asked to attend the Surf Expo to showcase it as a new product, but I think I need the patent in hand and financial backing before we make that leap. We are excited about launching it globally for sure, but want the right combination of money and manufacturing to be in place first. So I guess we are looking for the right investor! With a few more ideas in progress we think we have a great small business that someone would be proud to be part of and really take off.

S&A: Anything else you’d like to add?

BC: I would like to say that we are locally owned and operated in Virginia Beach, VA. We are a service disabled veteran owned small business and made in America. I think all of the other balance board products out there are made oversees! We give a portion of our proceeds to the UDT/SEAL Association to benefit the retired UDT/SEALs out there through the Membership Life Assistance Program (MLAP), Scholarship assistance to their dependents and the history and heritage of the Naval Special Warfare community.

We sponsored a paddleboard race team this year to compete in the Molokai to Oahu (M2O) world championship paddleboard race in July. We actually did very well taking 24th overall and 7th in our division. The conditions were poor this year and the only record set was how many competitors were pulled out! Our team is comprised of retired/ex –Navy SEALs and our cause is to raise awareness of veterans suffering from TBI. We have a crowdrise fundraiser (M2O Paddleboard race for veterans with TBI) set up and info can be found on our Facebook page of the same name. We are already making plans for next year to continue the cause as veterans are taking their own lives every day and there is no treatment through the VA other than counseling and medication. It is 100% tax deductible and unlike other organizations, we used the 501c of the Carrick Brain Center so all proceeds go directly to the treatment of the veteran and not high salaries and marketing of the organization. Does it get better? We are working on our own 501c status to help even more people next year.

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