About us

Kris Primacio - Executive Director

Kris currently serves as the CEO of the International Surf Therapy Organization (ISTO), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit she helped founded in 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa. Kris utilizes her Psychology Degree as a highly-skilled, compassionate, empathetic, and solutions-oriented professional dedicated to providing exceptional care for children, adolescents, and adults. She has provided care and support to patients and family members in healthcare environments, Seattle Children's Hospital, Group Health Hospital, Special Olympics, and Northwestern Hospital, to name a few. Kris implements her branding and fundraising background to help bring exposure and identity to the International Surf Therapy Organization. She applies her genuine love for the sport of surfing and proven knowledge of the therapeutic powers of the ocean to help advance the exposure and research on surfing as a health intervention through ISTO. kris.primacio@intlsurftherapy.org

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Matt Mattila - Chairman of the Board

Matt helped create ISTO as part of the Waves for Change team in South Africa. He's experienced in collective impact across government, private sector, researcher institutions, and think tanks.

He brings a strategy background with roles at The Boston Consulting Group, Rocky Mountain Institute, Adidas, and Oakley. What he lacks in backside barrel technique he more than makes up for in spreadsheet skills. Currently residing in NYC, he's keen to connect over coffee for those who'd like to contribute to the surf therapy sector. matt.mattila@intlsurftherapy.org

Matt Mattila

Tim Conibear - Secretary, Board of Directors

Tim is an Ashoka Fellow and founder of Waves for Change, a Surf Therapy organization created in 2011 to address gaps in the provision of psychosocial support and therapy services to survivors of trauma in South Africa.

From Cape-Town start-up, Waves for Change now provides evidence-based Surf Therapy programs to over 1,500 children per week along the South African coast, and now offers programs in various other African countries.

Tim is proud to contribute to the ISTO network and is keen to see organizations collaborating on research and sharing practice with one and other, so the Surf Therapy sector continues to learn and improve.

TED Talk Tim

Tim Conibear

Kristina L. Burbich - Board of Directors

Kristina has over 15+ years of experience with digital marketing, user experience, creative direction/design, branding, and strategy for both D2C and B2B retail.

Her primary career focus has been working with well known apparel & lifestyle brands focusing on delivering unique online eCommerce user experiences that drive sales, conversion & business growth.

Originally from the east coast, Kristina now resides in Manhattan Beach where she enjoys beach life and all of the serenity and therapeutic vibes the ocean has to offer. Kristina supports various Philanthropic organizations, specifically “Alliance of Therapy Dogs” where she volunteers with her Therapy dog and Golden Retriever, "Karma".

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Kristina L Burbich ISTO Board Member

Jamie Marshall - Board of Directors

Jamie is a researcher working on the world’s first dedicated surf therapy PhD. His research primarily focuses on the exploration of change theories amongst established Surf Therapy programs worldwide.

His background is that of a practitioner having founded and managed the Wave Project in Scotland, an awarding winning surf therapy intervention that supports young people facing a wide range of mental health challenges. A natural interest into how this intervention achieved its outcomes led to a part time MSc in Physical Activity for Health at the University of Edinburgh and subsequent pursuit of PhD research at Edinburgh Napier University.

Jamie is also a keen surfer having surfed around the world and represented Scotland on a longboard. jamie.marshall@intlsurftherapy.org

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Jamie Marshall

Gregor Sarkisian - Advisor to the Board of Directors

Gregor, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Antioch University Los Angeles, has worked with the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation's (JMMF) Ocean Therapy program since 2015 as a volunteer surf instructor and more recently as the Director of Research and Evaluation. Dr. Sarkisian attended his first International Surf Therapy Organization (ISTO) conference in July 2018 and has served as a leader in ISTO's research efforts through his service as the Guest Editor of a Special Issue on Surf Therapy Around the Globe in the Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice and contributions to the special issue based on work with JMMF. Dr. Sarkisian is the principal investigator of two IRB approved studies (one with underserved youth and one with U.S. Veterans) in collaboration with JMMF.

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Gregor Sarkisian Surfing

Phil Roy - Advisor to the Board of Directors

Phil Roy is our Governance advisor and is a retired Deloitte Partner based in Sydney, Australia.

Phil has played a significant role in the development of ISTO having been involved with the Board and strategy settings from the get go.

Phil is also an advisor to the two founders of Onewave and was the founding chairman of another of our contributor surf therapy program, Waves of Wellness.

Phil ROy

Dr. Giovanni Martinez - Advisor to the Board of Directors

Giovanni is a licensed Clinical Psychologist in Puerto Rico and the Executive Director of the non-profit organization Surf4DEM, Inc.

Dr. Martinez has vast experience working on the Diagnosis of the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), provides training in this area and developed alternative methods of intervention.  His groundbreaking research measured social and communication skills in a pre and post-test evaluation and results concluded there is scientific evidence to establish the sport of surfing as an alternative method to traditional therapy for children with autism.

Giovanni Martinez