The Inertia Senior Editor
Do I need to wear trunks made of compressed lint and ride a surfboard that I shaped from a tree in my backyard to be core? Do I need to be able to pummel everyone who drops in on me?

Do I need to wear trunks made of compressed lint and ride a surfboard that I shaped from a tree in my backyard to be core? Do I need to be able to pummel everyone who drops in on me?

The Inertia

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “core” as: a central and foundational part, often distinct from the enveloping part by a difference in nature.

But what does “core” mean in relation to surfing? The word is hurled recklessly around on Internet comment boards, usually with accusatory overtones, and I recently realized that I have only the vaguest idea of what “core” actually means.  I think I knew what it meant until I thought about it.  Then it ran away from me, turning corners just far enough ahead of me so that I could see the trailing end of one foot before it vanished.  It may have been wearing Nikes, but I can’t be sure. Whatever the brand, it had shoes on, and I feel like real core would have been barefoot.

Maybe the ancient Hawaiians are core. They fit the bill, and it’s easier on my conscience to say they’re more core than Billabong or Rip Curl. No one’s going to argue against the fact that the ancient Hawaiians were a central and foundational part of surfing.  But are they different from the enveloping part (that’s us, by the way) by a difference in nature? If the Duke were offered the moon in exchange for that coveted space on the nose of his papa he‘e nalu, would he have taken it?

If I’m going strictly by the definition, I guess Billabong, Rip Curl, and their ilk also fit the bill. Aren’t they becoming a central and foundational part of surfing? They’re definitely distinct from the enveloping part by a difference in nature. They don’t even surf, for one. But I can understand that, because their lack of a physical body makes it difficult. But they make it easier for us to surf, so that’s nice of them. If I need a wetsuit or a pair of trunks (which are both necessities, unless you own an island and can surf like it’s your birthday year round), they’re likely going to come from a major manufacturer that the “core” concept in my mind would flip the bird to.

So, what is it? Do I need to wear trunks made of compressed lint and ride a surfboard that I shaped from a tree in my backyard? Maybe Rasta is core. Do I need to be able to pummel everyone who drops in on me? Maybe Kaiborg is core. (No offense intended, Mr. Borg. If I ever accidentally drop in on you, I will shit in my shorts, and shit is hard to get out of compressed lint). Am I allowed to wear a wetsuit that’s manufactured overseas, or trunks that were made in a sweatshop?

Does not caring about being core make me core? I have a pair of trunks that are made by Billabong. I’m not a Hawaiian. I don’t work for a major company. But since I like to surf, I feel I should acquaint myself with a more concise idea of what is “a central and foundational part” of surfing. So please, if anyone has an exact definition – let’s say fifteen words or less, please, do tell.

But hey, maybe I already am core, and just don’t know it. If I find out that I am, does that make me not core anymore? Or what if I decide that core doesn’t even exist, and that it’s just a creation of the self-doubting segment of the surf community?

On second thought….nah, I’m definitely core.

  • Starting articles with “Webster’s Dictionary defines…” is so not core. Just kidding. But seriously.

  • The US.

    one who realizes that they are and will never be anything more than a pawn for corporations (from BP TO BILLABONG).

  • dilt

    haha nice article alexander. sets it apart from the mainstream “sick article bro.” the surf industry is pretty ridiculous.

  • Al Baydough

    Core, like “soul,” cannot be legitimately claimed, it can only be bestowed.
    When I think of people I would consider to be core they tend to satisfy the following qualifications:
    Commitment. First and foremost. This word alone has broad implications: commitment to the act and the form, grace under pressure, a go-for-it approach to seeking and riding, a commitment to the fabric of the COMMUNITY that is surfing (yes, I am aware that corporate is a PART of this community – but it is ultimately a very small part in the big picture as it owes its existence to the act and community of surfing above and beyond all else, particularly the gluttonous feeding machine that is Wall Street)… This commitment has selfless requirements: how many times have you seen a sponsored “shredder” bother to pick up the trash he/she crosses en route back to their ride? They may commit to turns, contracts, and the party scene but little else. Not very core.
    What of the pampered pros of today who whine about camping? Timmy Turner and his cohorts should be allowed to publicly cane these frauds anytime they try to claim “core.”
    A white board and black wetsuit doesn’t make one core. I’ve seen my fair share of the neon brigade give infinitely more back to surfing than many a grumbling and griping minimalist troll. Hiding in the Central and Nor Cal coastal backwoods and hating on anyone south of Conception does not, in itself, make one core. A bitter hermit, perhaps. Core? Don’t delude yourself.
    Balance, composure, aplomb, philanthropy… Core isn’t about what you take so much as what you take away, what you glean, and what you have the good grace and willingness to give back.
    Core. Don’t claim it. In this regard, perhaps more than any other, your actions will inspire the talk that either qualifies you… or doesn’t.

  • !!!

    Surfers that surf all the time in the dead of winter by themselves past 30 while paying full price for wetsuits and boards. More core the north you go.. surf a spot at 17 mile dive like that?

  • Adam

    Core is the guys that only surf the biggest days and kill it without saying a word, jump in their civic hatchback with a baby seat in the back, and bail.
    I think posting on here probably takes me out of the conversation, if I was core I wouldn’t be checking surf sites on my iphone in cubicle.
    …The man’s got me down.

  • barry

    my own personal definition hasn’t changed in a while,
    core is going for a solo session when there’s nobody on the beach to know or care,
    for some people that might be a little like the sound of one hand clapping but if you’re core it’s really only the idea that’s important

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