I first met Matt Strathern, CEO and founder of Northcore, in 2015 in my then job as Retail Manager at the surf shop of the world’s first publicly accessible wave garden in North Wales. He immediately stood out from the sales reps who would queue up to show their products, see if they could make a sale and leave again. Not Matt. Upon meeting, we ended up talking surfing and travel for probably an hour before I saw any samples. At that point, as a South African relatively fresh in the UK, I never heard about Northcore – but boy, am I glad we met!
Northcore as a brand and business started in 2006. Matt explains: “Northcore was born from a personal desire to escape city life, reconnect with the ocean and a simpler, fuller family life. Creating the brand and new products enabled me to earn a living and surf more often. As Northcore has flourished that drive to reconnect with the wild has filtered through everything we do and produce. Our goal is to inspire and enable likeminded surfers and adventurers of all levels to have maximum amount of exposure to the ocean and nature."
“The brand and the business started off with a single product which was a car key safe, 'The Keypod'. There was nothing else like it out there at the time, so I designed it and made some rough drawings of it and took the drawings to a manufacturer, got some samples made and then just dived in. I bought a few thousand of them and literally got in my car and walked around surf shops with them in Devon and Cornwall. Nearly every shop bought some. I kind of figured from there I was onto a winner and the whole thing very quickly escalated from there with sales. It went worldwide quickly and got a lot of interest because it was a totally new product. It’s a small contribution to a surfer’s way of life, but one we’re proud of.”
Their Keypod has been copied by a few companies since, and Northcore is now on their 5th generation version. I see Matt as a designer and problem solver, someone who is constantly thinking about new ideas and solutions to actual problems. Almost every time he came to visit, he would show me a new product they were working on. He would have a prototype that gets tested extensively and only when it meets his super high standards would he put the Northcore label on it.
"Our connection to the harsh surroundings of the British North Sea shaped the Northcore brand and its philosophy. Product innovation, toughness, quality and necessity are all fundamental. First and foremost, the products need to stand up to Northern winters, big seas and whatever the outdoors can throw at them. The influence of our geographical location has allowed Northcore to forge its own direction, we follow our own lead and not others. This has allowed us stand out in the market and carve out our own identity in a crowded marketplace."
In today’s fast paced word, businesses must stay on top of customer demands and in order to stay relevant, expansion is crucial. This is something Northcore understands well, evident in their expansion towards camping, travel, van life and adventure.
“It identifies our innate need to stay connected to the wild and addresses it by building uncompromising products to help us enjoy the wilderness all the more.”
Top quality products are a priority that Northcore is very serious about. Their products are designed to last for generations and even a lifetime. Something else at the forefront of their vision is sustainable practices, a necessary and growing trend, but also well and truly part of their moral compass. Apart from having already replaced plastics in a huge number of their products, they also make use of sustainable and recycled materials in numerous others.
When I returned to South Africa in 2017, I jumped at the opportunity to introduce and distribute Northcore products in South Africa and so weSURF Distribution was born. Northcore is now a truly global brand with distributors and agents in 12 countries across four continents.
What can we expect from Northcore in the future?
"As Northcore's organic journey continues the direction has been one of expansion from our original and core roots in surfing into a broad range of adventure products, exploration travel and more. Like us, for those who love the outdoors and the ocean then travel, camping, van life and immersion in a range of adventure sports is an integral part of the lifestyle and Northcore embrace our place in that culture. We have a number of exciting new products in development and the future looks very bright (and hopefully a whole load more fun) for Northcore!"