Surf-side remote work is easier now than ever. All over the world internet speeds are increasing, there are stacks of tools to keep you connected from anywhere and more companies are becoming flexible on employee locations. We’ve worked remotely in off-the-beaten-path surf spots and learned that it takes solid preparation to arrange a remote-working situation that increases your wave count and supports your productivity.
Here are my are my best shortcuts making a seamless transition to surf-side remote work.
1. Find surf spots in the same or nearby time zone
Keep things low stress by minimizing time-zone disruptions to your routine as you transition to a new location. Search for a location that is in the same time zone, or within 1-2 hours difference. This way you don’t have the added stress of meetings being scheduled during glassy sunset sessions or the middle of the night. This is especially important for first-time remote-workers - you’ll have enough new things to get used without the unfamiliar hassle of big time-differences.
2. Don’t get skunked
Make sure it isn’t going to be flat or too big during the time you’ll be there by checking out historical swell forecasts on several sites. I recommend Magic Seaweed’s historical data that they keep on all of their surf spots.
3. Figure out your Internet needs
Figure out the minimum internet speeds needed for your work functions keeping track of your daily activities at work. If you use a lot of bandwidth for uploading and downloading large files or streaming video you likely will need a fair bit of bandwidth each day (min 5+ Mbps). If you primarily spend most of you day working on smaller documents, writing code and emails your bandwidth needs will be much less (min 2+ Mbps). It’s important to keep in mind, if you currently work within North America or Europe you’re used to working with a fast internet connection. It may take a bit of creativity to get used to working with slightly slower speeds, the global average is around 5 megabytes per second (Mbps).
4. Do internet speed tests
There’s nothing worse than arriving in your dream surf-work spot to find that the internet is too spotty for a Skype call – meaning you have to pick up and find another town, or even country, where you can feel confident in your connection. Once you know the minimum internet speeds you need for your work, you can research the internet situation in the location you want to go. Start by researching internet speeds in the areas you’re thinking of going. Be aware that it might take more sleuthing to find out internet quality in the specific surf-town you want to live in.
You can also check to see if the town is on NomadList’s remote-working rating, which includes internet speeds. You could also start a forum on Nomad list and ask specifically about the internet in the town you have in mind.
5. Ground truth internet functionality
Once you have your location options narrowed down in terms of waves, swell season, time zones and internet speeds, make sure the places you might work at have the internet speeds you expect. Reach out to the Airbnb host, hotel or cafe where you might work and ask them to do an internet speed test http://speedtest.net and send you the results.
6. Get back-up
Even in a spots that test solid for internet, there is always the possibility that the connection will have an unpredictably bad day. You can avoid that frustration by investing in a back-up system of USB internet sticks or tethering to your cell phone. USB internet sticks are available from local cell-service providers. This also gives you the freedom to make spontaneous surf-trips to more remote locations. This is a reliable and affordable option in Europe, but if you are travelling anywhere else check to see if data plans from local companies are available for non-residents and determine if the costs are reasonable for the amount of data you’ll likely need.
7. Scope out Work Locations
Do you need a private office with all the fixings? An open-concept co-work space? Or perhaps you’re most productive with your laptop in a hammock or hotel lobby. Figuring out what you need to do good work will help determine your location and the type of rental you might need.
Coworking spaces can be helpful when traveling
Renting an office short term is possible in most places, but requires extra work searching on local classified lists. A good option is to rent a 2-bedroom and turn one room into your office, or research local cafes and bars where you’d be comfortable working. There are a few co-work spaces that cater to remote-working surfers in Lisbon, Gran Canarias and Costa Rica.
8. Bring equipment you’ll need for productivity
Think about the equipment you need to work effectively. Perhaps you just need an iPad, but if you need 2 screens and a full station, consider how you will get it there securely. If you do need some extra equipment that you would rather buy in your chosen location, find out if it is available and the pricing. We bring a large Apple screen, full-size laptop and cords in our hand-luggage but and bought a good chair and desk when we arrived.
9. Find a place to live
If a laptop and a place to rest your head is all you need, finding an ideal place to spend a few months will be a matter of picking a good hotel or surf hostel. If you want a private apartment in a safe neighbourhood and in walking distance to surf, you’ll need to do a bit more homework.
Most surf-towns have longer-term vacation rental options that you can find on sites like Airbnb, but often the best and most affordable places are only advertised on cafe noticeboards or local Facebook groups. We’ve found our best remote-working apartments in South America by searching on Facebook for the name of the town + apartment rental or vacation rental and then doing the same search but with the words in Spanish. When you find potential apartments you can use Google Maps to see if it is where you’d like to be.
If you aren’t planning to be there during the high-season, the best way to find a great pad is to show up, stay in a hotel or Airbnb for the first week and talk to locals or scan notice boards for local rentals and look at places in person.
10. Be flexible and resourceful
Although these tips should help you have a seamless transition to your remote work-surf destination, it is important to prepare yourself for unexpected delays or bumps. Be patient with yourself and your new location. Consider letting your clients or co-workers know that you are working remotely and might have some unpredictable internet or scheduling fails as you get set up. Then develop your own list of tips and tricks for remote working to share with your friends and Unleash by emailing email@example.com.