While browsing the New York Times Health section, SNEWS came upon a video of the Times “fitness guinea pig” taking an Indo Board class at a Crunch gym.
While the boards (of which there are several models) are sold at BC Surf and Sport shops across the country, currently they aren't available at any specialty fitness retailers — puzzling given the recent boom in instability training products.
Indo Board inventor, founder and president Hunter Joslin, the Indo Board Man himself, has made it a personal goal to get more stores on board, as it were.
“We get inquiries,” Joslin said, but so far few commitments. Joslin claims his product is one of the most versatile on the market and specialty fitness retailers should cash in on the balance training trend. “We would really like to be more readily accepted in mainstream fitness.”
Heath Tasky, sales manager at Chesterfield, Mo.'s Fitness Showcase, explained why his store would hesitate to sell balance boards and similar accessories.
"Our market is more high-end treadmills and ellipticals," Tasky explained. "We don't delve into the smaller pieces, one because of profitability, and second, customers usually buy that type of stuff online or at Dick's (Sporting Goods). We're more of a specialty fitness-type company."
Joslin's focus is going to be mostly on gyms, but he'll target stores like Colorado-based chain HealthStyles.
HealthStyles owner Jeanne Sheriff said she doesn't sell Indo Board, but does carry products like it, such as balance items from Spri and Bosu balls. She said she'd be open to a products like the Indo Board if her customers were asking forit , which they might do if they've seen the workout on the New York Times website.
"Certainly a lot of what we carry is based on what customers are looking for," Sheriff said. Though the stores focus on larger home cardio equipment, they also carry accessories, and anything related to balance, Crossfit or kettlebell workouts is "hot hot, hot."
Back in the 1960s, Joslin, an avid skateboarder, taught himself how to surf on a homemade balance board. Soon his friends were noticing his design and asking him to build balance and skim boards for them, which he started to do in 1975. Then he embarked on the long journey of turning his athletic take on the classic rehabilitation and strength balance board into a business.
“I spent 23 years in the school of hard knocks learning all the facets it would take to start the business,” Joslin told SNEWS. In 1998, he launched the business, selling products to help board sports (surfers, snowboarders and now stand-up paddlers) athletes train.
“Getting people aware of what the product could do and how easy the learning curve was and how much fun it was,” were the biggest challenges, Joslin said. He battled them “by doing a lot of demonstrations, travel, going to trade shows and events to do demos. Wherever I was given the opportunity to travel up the East and West Coasts, I took it. It took a good three years to get it off the ground.”
His work is paying off. Crunch Fitness has embraced the product, even introducing it in a franchise in Moscow, Russia. Joslin said he hopes more people will follow that lead. “We’re making a product that has a great application in group training and in personal training.”
Joslin said what makes his product versatile is its various bases, like the air cushions or the cylinders on which the board balances. There are several models including the Indo Board Original (MSRP $145 for the natural wood and cylinder, MSRP $120 for the natural wood and cushion, MSRP $155 for board and cylinders featuring patterns and colors and MSRP $130 for boards and cushions with patterns and colors), and the Pro Deck and Roller (MSRP $225 for natural wood and MSRP $135 for colors and patterns), among others. Plus, Indo Board offers products like the Blank Art Board and training package (MSRP $195), which your artsy customers can paint on their own.
Joslin said the company, which employs five people, is doing well, but declined to go into details on its financials. And while Joslin confirmed to SNEWS that he has something in the works that he’s currently applying for a patent for, he remained tight-lipped on exactly what the new invention is.
“Right now we have all the drawings and we’re going on with the descriptions once the patent is filed, I will reveal to the world what our next innovation is,” Joslin said. He won't be attending next month’s IHRSA conference and trade show, but has plans to attend a trade show for physical education programs in Boston.
In addition to what Joslin sees as a chance for retailers to cash in on the popularity of balance training, accessories like the Indo Board may offer opportunity at a time when money is tight for many.
“People are reticent to spend money,” Joslin told SNEWS. “If you have equipment that is relatively inexpensive that can be used at home, there is a good market. Fitness doesn’t decline but I think gym memberships do when money is tight.”