Watch the swells even when you are working // An interview with the founder of The Surf Office and a guest.

Startups are becoming more and more popular with days. We finally understood that we can do anything by ourselves merely with some motivation and some free times. We can launch an iPhone App, we can write a book, and we can start a blog as we can start our own online shop. Sometimes, in our daily life, focusing can be a challenge. Doing abstraction of all the entertainment that we have isn’t the easiest task to do. We should close our cell phone and our social media websites, but we never do and that’s for that reason that we want to go at The Surf Office.


A co-working space that offers you the beach as your background with some gnarly swells and some motivated people that want the same things as you: work on their project.
You choose. Canary Island or Santa Cruz. Then, you book your nights there. Then, you buy your plane ticket with your credit card, even though it’s expensive. Then, afterwards, close your cell phone data, jump in the plane with your backpack and you are all set up for an adventure combined with hard work and achievement. Co-working spaces aren’t common yet, but I already feel that it’s coming. This is part of our future.
I contacted Peter Fabor, founder of The Surf Office, a while ago. I’ve been quite choked when he told me that a guy from Quebec was at the Santa Cruz office to work on his project. He then offered me to do an interview with him. I wanted both, so here some questions I asked the man behind the creation of the office and Simon Lefebvre, the tinhorn that needed some time to think.
The Surf Office is more than just a place to sleep or work on your computer. When you are there, you are part of a small community of travellers, and this is probably the beauty of it.
Thanks Peter for your time and I will try to catch up with you in Santa Cruz over the summer, who knows, maybe I need some time to focus on my writing, right? Thanks as well Simon for your help, you definitely helps me understand better the vision of the office and it was surprisingly impressive to see that people from our small hometown, Shawinigan, can be travellers too.
SIMON LEFEBVRE, SURF OFFICE GUEST
SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA

Surfing isn’t part of growing up in Quebec. When/how did you get involved with surfing?

In 2008, my friend Pierre-Luc asked me if I wanted to join him for a business trip on Canaries Island. The plan was to use our free time to surf there, so we booked some lessons with one of the local surf schools. The first session was the toughest ever, I thought that I would die! The waves were like head high and choppy so we were struggling a lot, and we also drank a lot of salt water. Other than that, it was pretty fun, even if I haven’t been caught any waves. In the following sessions, the waves were better so we could finally enjoy what surfing really is. Since that first wave (lasting probably only one second), surfing is now part of my life.


Where did you find out about The Surf Office?

During the last three years, every winter I’m escaping from the damn cold winter of Quebec for a month or two. I was looking at possible destinations and California was one of them because of the «California Dream» I had inside (I’m sure you have it too). Sayulita, Costa Rica and Nicaragua were also on the list (for next year, I guess). I posted a message on the Facebook group «Quebec Surf», saying that I was looking for these destinations to work remotely and surf, so that if anybody had contacts, feedback or anything that could help me, to just let me know. Someone posted a link directing me to The Surf Office website. It was the second time I was seeing the link, so I decide to check it out and here I am now, in Santa Cruz.

 

How much time it has been since you are staying at the office? Did you know people before going there?

It has been three weeks now, and I’m hoping that spring will be around when I’ll come back in Quebec. I didn’t know anybody when I arrived, but it took me five minutes to meet five new people. Awesome people from around the world that I can call «friends» by now.

 

The Surf Office is a co-working space. How do you feel about it? Is it easy to focus to get your things done even if there are beautiful waves to catch and people around?

It’s all about self-control. People are really respectful here and everybody has work to do. You only need to develop your working habits here. The home garage has been changed in working office, so if you want to be in a working environment you can go there or you can work on the couch, in the kitchen or even in the hammock (best place ever). I have to follow the Quebec working hours, so even if the waves are good I have to wait until my work is done. For those that don’t have restrictions, yes, it could be really hard since waves are good pretty much all day long at this time of the year and depending on the spot / tide.

 

You probably made the best decision of your life by skipping the cold weather of winter time! Why have you chosen Santa Cruz over the Gran Canarias?

When you’re booking a plane ticket, it’s always the best decision of your life, even if you’re not escaping the snow. I’ve chosen Santa Cruz over Gran Canarias because I have been already in Grand Canarias, but also because California is known for his surf culture and the fact that I wanted to meet people easily, the surf office was the right place.

It may seem curious (it is curiosity), but what are you working on that needed you to fly away and find yourself in a villa?

I’m working as a SAP functional analyst for Hewlett Packard. The only things I need to work is my laptop and an internet connection. It doesn’t really matter if I’m in Shawinigan or in Santa Cruz, if the work is done properly and I’m available for supporting the users during the regular Quebec hours. I’m also using this trip to think about my future and get a small taste of the Entrepreneur, Start-up’s vibe coming from San Francisco and the Silicon Valley. I was also looking for a fresh start and clean up my mind (damn girls).

 

 

Could we benefit of places like that in Canada? What are the positive aspects of it?  

Yes of course! Canada has so much to offer even if for surfing it’s really restricted, but this kind of place (co-living/co-working spaces) make personal contact really easy. It’s a totally different experience than staying at the hotel. It’s more like a job oriented AirBNB or CouchSurfer. It’s an easy way to meet new people, make contacts, exchange on your projects and have a good time.

There is group activities almost every day. Have you tried some? Is it only surf related or it’s about exploring the city/meeting new people?

Even if the name had the word ‘’Surf’’ in it, everything isn’t only about surf. There are weekly yoga classes and beach volleyball games, but people are welcome as well to propose new activities. On Friday, we go out most of the time. During the weekend, it all depends on what you want to do: you can go surf (there are some really good waves at Steamer Lane, which is five minutes biking), you can go for a walk or for a run, hang at the beach, go biking or mountain biking, play soccer or basketball, shopping, renting a car and driving by the coast to see Mavericks, the mythic surf spot all the way up to San Francisco and so much more.

What’s the wildest thing that happened to you while staying at the office?

Hmm, not much except I thought that I would die when I’ve been washed by a 10 foot wave.

If you could describe The Surf Office in one word…

Enjoy!

In my case I’m kind of a shy guy and this place has pushed me to talk with new people, even if there is a language barrier. I totally enjoyed the experience and definitely recommend it.

 

PETER FABOR
SURF OFFICE FOUNDER

Where did you grow up and when/how did you get involved with surfing?

I grew up in Slovakia, a little European country lacking ocean - the nearest surf spot is about 1400 miles away in France. That's also where I learned to surf, in Biarritz. It was about eight years ago and I totally fell in love with the sport and lifestyle.

How surfing is important in your life?

It's essential for my life and it's the only way how I can disconnect. No calls, no email, no notifications. Just me, the ocean and pure happiness.

What is the main idea behind The Surf Office? How did you come up with the idea of a co-working space near the best beaches in the world?

I'm a web designer and the only thing I need to get my stuff done is my MacBook and a good Internet connection. I can work from anywhere, but I realized there is a shortage of reliable places that offer everything in one place - accommodation, office facilities and where you can also meet like-minded people. So, I decided to create one.

 

Why have you selected Santa Cruz and Gran Canaria to open the offices?

Surf Office started in Gran Canaria because it was my favorite surf destination in Europe (it's a part of Spain, although Canary Islands geographically belong to Africa). We're located in Las Palmas, a city with a very good vibe, great weather all year round, nice people and amazing long beach, which is especially perfect for beginners. There are also a plenty of surf spots for intermediate and advanced surfers nearby so everyone can choose what suits them.

After the first year, Emmanuel got in touch with me, saying that he would like to open another Surf Office in Santa Cruz. I came there for a visit and loved that place, the vibe, waves… and most importantly, we really clicked as people. So, we opened the Surf Office Santa Cruz and Emmanuel joined Surf Office as the co-founder.


If you like the concept, then it doesn't matter if you are an entrepreneur, employee or a student. Most guests are employees and freelancers/contractors. We like to see diversity in our office and it's amazing to see how people from different countries, professions and ages hang out together.
Is it only available for the entrepreneur or any person that needs to focus could go?

Do you see yourself as an innovator? There is not much co-working office around the world, at least, not yet.

This is probably a question that someone else should answer. I believe that Surf Office is only the beginning of the revolution, we’ll witness in hospitality over the following years. The rise of Airbnb disrupted the industry a lot, but traditional hotels still haven’t realized its 2015 already and that people dramatically changed their travel habits compared with the past. This is a great time for people who can come with innovative concepts and disrupt the industry even further. On the other hand, I don't believe that we’ll see much innovation from hotels.

One of the important part of the Office is to focus, but it must be hard to do when there are so many people around doing group activities and catching some waves, no?

Working remotely is not as easy as it's often presented. You have to be responsible and manage your time carefully. If you follow these two rules, it's not so hard to combine work and free time. People usually don't talk at all in the office and the ambiance there is very productive. If you see other people working hard, it motivates you to do the same.

What is the target audience?

  • Freelancers and contractors
  • Startup teams who need to concentrate on their projects
  • Employees who can work remotely for a period of time
  • Entrepreneurs with no time to go on vacation

Does having a previous experience with surfing is necessary before staying at the villa?

Definitely not. Surfing is not the main reason why people come to the Surf Office. It’s more about wanting to work from a beach and having fun at the same time. And, meeting similar people. The number of people who surf are about 70% in Gran Canaria and 25% in Santa Cruz. We had a few advanced surfers, but most visitors who surf tried it in the Surf Office for the first time.

What’s the most surprising thing that happened to you in the office?

When people from NY Times contacted me, wanting to write a story about Surf Office. It came absolutely unexpected.

Do you remember the first time you started your company and thought ‘’this is what I want to do’’?

No, because I didn't know what I'm going to do. I had a vision, but it was a very ‘freestyle’ way of doing things and not everything always worked well. One day I was fully motivated and sure that THIS is what I want to do and the very next day I wanted to close it. But eventually I’m happy I didn’t let the negative thoughts prevail :)

I explored your blog section a bit and I have been surprised to read interviews about people staying at The Surf Office. Do you give that kind of interest to everyone that comes and go? What’s the idea behind the interviews?

We usually interview guests who travel as digital nomads and Surf Office was one of the stops on their way. The idea behind the interviews is to provide a source of inspiration to people who are still undecided and afraid of commencing this lifestyle. On the other hand, readers who have been already living as digital nomads can find there new tips for online tools, gadgets, destinations and general inspiration for their life.

What are your goals for The Surf Office for the next 5 years? 10 years?

The main goal is to grow the company, open offices in new interesting locations, travel between them, live a good lifestyle and surf every day.