Entrepreneurship: Harness surfing to make money the “new economy” way!

I think.

I read a sentence this morning in Forbes magazine, publication for wealthy individuals and/or individuals who aspire to wealth, and I had no idea what it meant. Not even the faintest flicker of recognition. Absolutely nothing. Can you help?

Unleash Surf is the world’s first digital nomad travel company for entrepreneurs who surf.

What is digital nomad travel?

Is that what we do? I mean, not “we” as in me n Derek n Longtom n Jen n Trav n etc. but, like, “we” as in upwardly mobile young-ish surfers?

Digital nomads?

I have to read the interview with Amy Schwartz and her partner John Furness to discover. Want to with me?

“When we hatched the idea, we were digital nomads in Peru, surfing every day and living a more relaxed lifestyle,” explains cofounder Amy Schwartz, who created the company with her partner, John Furness. Schwartz had heard of companies that help remote workers travel the world, but none that cater specifically to surfers with barefoot living in off-the-beaten-path locations, a variety of waves, private apartments and reliable internet 24-7.

So they launched a remote working concept in Peru in early 2018, and the results have been more impressive than the founders ever expected. “We didn’t set out with a cliche goal of changing lives — we just wanted Unleash to open our clients to the practical possibility of taking their work remote while surfing and experiencing a new place,” says Schwartz. “Many of our clients have reshaped their jobs, their priorities and their lives.”

We caught up with Schwartz and Furness to find out how Unleash Surf is catering to a group of digital nomads who take their work seriously but want more time to embrace slow travel. And we found out their tips for starting and running a business.

I still have absolutely no idea. Let’s skim the interview ok?

What inspired you to create Unleash Surf?

John Furness: I created my business so I could work remotely and travel, but like many small business owners with that dream, my mortgage and lifestyle closed in on me and I forgot that I could make that leap if I wanted to. For years Amy and I had planned on taking a few months to live and surf somewhere warm, where the internet was good enough for me to run my business. Three years ago we decided to escape the winter, so we bought plane tickets to Peru — where Amy had done her masters studies — and rented an apartment in a small, wave-rich town. I converted the extra bedroom into an office, upgraded the internet and we spent our days living the lifestyle we’d dreamed of: surfing as often as we wanted, getting our work done, no commuting, exploring Peru and going on adventures to places like Machu Picchu and Lobitos. We ate fresh healthy foods, made friends and we built a community in a new place. We realized how happy, healthy and productive we were on that trip and wondered how we could create a business that offered other people a similar experience, without quitting their job.

Still nothing. Do we keep going?

How does Unleash Surf work? Tell me about the business model.

Schwartz: People who come on Unleash are generally successful entrepreneurs, freelancers or people who work for cool companies that encourage remote work. Or they’re taking time to cultivate new ideas. Our groups are small, with 8-10 people from all over the world. People who come on Unleash aren’t necessarily beginner remote-workers, though: Many are experienced digital nomads or remote workers who are a bit further along in their careers and don’t have the time or energy to do all the legwork. With Unleash, they just have to show up, surf, get their work done and enjoy the amazing place we’re in.

Our clients come for two weeks, one month and up to three months. We ensure that when they get off the plane, they don’t miss a beat in terms of feeling at home. John and I personally take them to their fully-equipped apartment, then on a walking tour of the surf spots, markets, restaurants, juice stands and surf shops. We introduce them to our friends and make sure they have everything they need to get to work or to get in the water as soon as they need.

If I used emojis I’d use the one with the puzzled face right here but make it a lighter shade of brown to reflect Peru.

What’s in store for 2019?

Schwartz: We’ve got a roster of fascinating workshops lined up, including learning to build a caballito de tortora — the world’s first surf craft — with a local fisherman and learning to ride it. We’ll be taking people to Peru’s second largest produce market with a chef and then doing a cooking class with them. Taking people to the hole-in-the-wall restaurant, where they make a mouth-watering pecan-sauce fish unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. And, of course, having sunset beers with the group on our cowork space balcony and doing dance classes in traditional Peruvian marinera, which has some similarities to flamenco.

If they did Cocaine + Surfing tours I’d totally go. Wait, is that digital nomad travel means? Cocaine + Surfing? Buy here!

Oliver Kurtz
The Florida surfer Oliver Kurtz, visiting the pool shortly before shutdown.

Waco pool closed until March 2019; no refunds (only credits) for pre-bookings!

But good news! Filtration system to be installed!

It always astonishes me, and it shouldn’t by now after so many orbits, how quickly life can turn.

On the day before the well-received Stab High event at the BSR tank  in Waco, Texas, a New Jersey surfer, Fabrizio Stabile, was dead in hospital after contracting Naegleria fowleri, known as “brain-eating amoeba”, shortly after visiting the pool.

Whether he got it in the unfiltered water of the pool (it’s classified as a lake not a swimming pool and therefore doesn’t, or at least didn’t, have to comply to the same standards as a public pool) or somewhere else ain’t clear.

But it did mean the pool had to close while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tested for the deadly amoeba. And, now, it’ll be shut for the next five months.

It may not end there for BSR.

The family of Lauren Seitz, who died of the same infection as Stabile, is suing the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, for a million bucks.

And if you had sessions booked at Waco?

A Californian reader emailed this morning to say he’d booked a thousand bucks worth of pool time for he and his six buddies next Sunday (October 7) and after the sudden closure had been offered a “gift card” but no refund.

Upon reopening in March, we will continue to add chemicals to treat our lake but with a newly added filtration system, much like a swimming pool. We will be canceling all sessions currently booked and will be applying the total amount spent under each reservation to a gift card for future use.

“Coming back at a later date is not an option,” he writes. “Emailed for a refund but no response.”

Does the spectre of brain-eating amoeba put the wind up him a little?

“Ha! Fuck ya it does,” he wrote, adding that he might return if Waco got “a new filter and a bigger barrel.”

Mea Culpa: Wave Pools are the future and you should enjoy!

Fun on demand!

I’ve feeling bad all day after teeing off on dirty fresh wave pool water yesterday. I mean, not “bad” but bad if you can parse the difference because all those poor wave pool inventors and trying their best to bring surf to inland folk fun and good time and surfing and what am I doing? Drinking vodka and teeing off from a coastal enclave like a true unsolicited dick.

Like basically the bad guy of the whole #metoo movement.

And so I spent the day wondering if I was too harsh… or a prophet that should be heeded. “Hark I say unto thee, freshwater is shit and maketh eye infections and/or worse so run to the coast and be therefore cleansed in the salts.”

But of course I don’t “really” really think I’m a prophet which means I was too harsh.


And so I totally think you should go to surf a tank and enjoy every last second of gorgeous waves on demand but I don’t want to and am not because I realized I love saltwater.

Like really really love saltwater. “Really” really love saltwater and feel that it is more essential to our experience than we previously understood or at least I previously understood.

So yeah, go rip one just don’t take your kids if you have any and don’t take me because I hate them and think they are poison garbage that fucking suck so so so so so bad and worse than ever.

You won’t catch me dead near one and if you do catch me dead near one then I am dead from a brain eating bacteria.

Competition: Professional surfing should employ Ryder Cup format!

Teams and jingoism!

I neither watch nor play golf well. A problematic attention span plagues both pursuits. I love to drive off the tee but can’t be bothered with the self-discipline necessary for a successful short game. I love to tune in but only if Tiger Woods is screwing up so I can say, “Hey guys… remember this?”

Very uncool, I know, but the other day I caught a tiny bit of the Ryder Cup and lights flashed behind my dull eyes.

The Ryder Cup, for those who have better things to do, is a golf tournament that takes place between The United States and Europe every two years. There are captains who run their teams, made up of American golfers and European golfers, of course. Now, this is where my understanding gets fuzzy but I think the golfers pair up with one of their countrymen and take on a pair from the opposing bloc. The pair alternate shots and try to win and then the most pair victories helps the team win but there is also individual play. Or something.

The knowledgable can fill us in better but I was thinking the format, or an approximation of, could make for brilliant professional surfing. What if, every two years the surf world was broken into The United States, Europe, Australia and Brazil. Teams are formed, with captains, and then the professional surfers are put into pairs and then they surf against another pair for a heat.

Let’s say, for example, it’s Kolohe Andino and Brett Simpson for the USA and… Julian Wilson and Mikey “he-puts-the-wild-in-wildcard” Wright.

So they all paddle out together and each surfer has to bag a score and the highest combo wins but the teammate surfers can also play defense, block, annoy, tug leashes etc. How much fun would that be with nifty strategy and lots of laughs?

The jingoism would be fun, the internecine struggles, the botched captaining and the stunning upsets would be fun too.

It would all be fun, in fact. A new bankable format.

You’re welcome WSL.

board punching
When you rich and good on a board you don't have to pay a single rupee! And you can beat 'em to death if they don't dance.

Quiz: How much did you pay for your last surfboard?

Eight, nine, ten hundreds?

I was nineteen when I hacked up the most I would ever pay for a surfboard. It was $560 and I’d worked for three months in an island bistro slinging drinks and being sexually assaulted most nights by the bar’s riotous manager (I have protruding nipples and rare is the woman in power who can resist the impulse to feel their hardness or to brush a palm against their stubborn points).

I kept my twenty-dollars bill in a velcro wallet and took a boat to the mainland where the board was displayed in a window. The shop owner took the board off a stand and handed it to me. No tailpad, leash, wax, not a damn thing but a surfboard I hoped would mirror the dancing I’d imagined in my head.

Of course it didn’t.

And I’ve never paid $560, in adjusted dollars it’s important to add, since. Which is no surprise, I suppose, because I work in the surf game although the favours I have to give to get a board at cost would price ’em at around ten gees apiece.

It’s you I wonder about. The man and then woman out there, without connections, who must go into a store and negotiate and offer trades and all those things. I see surfboards that cost one thousand dollars and I wonder, who pays that much?

Does anybody?

Do you?

Tell me, discreetly if you must: how much did you pay for your last surfboard?