I have ideas all the time. Some of them are crap. Some of them I think are pretty good. How do you know which ones are the keepers? Well I have a wife that tells me, quite honestly, if she thinks my ideas are crap. It helps, it does, it stops me (the dreamer) going off on a half cocked tangent and wasting time and energy. She also tells me which ones are not crap. But how does my wife know? Maybe one of my 'crap' ideas was THE idea. The one that would have made me $$$$. The only way to know is to put your money where your mouth is and do it. Believe in yourself and your idea.
What am I talking about? I will very hastily get to the point. Northcore is a global surf brand that started as one tiny little idea that was nurtured, fed and watered until eventually it came to fruition. Where did the idea come from and what was it? The idea came from the mind of a man called Matt Strathern and the idea was simple. A lockable combination safe that would attach to your car in which your car keys could be deposited – the Keypod. There are now many copies of this product worldwide, but the Keypod developed by Matt was the first of its kind.
The Keypod saw the birth of Northcore as a brand, and it has not looked back since, giving back to the surf community in many different ways. Matt is a surfer first and foremost, and from his love of the sport comes the passion to believe in other people's ideas and products. To find out more about the specifics of the company and the man I called Matt who very kindly agreed to have a chat with Surf Bunker.
SB: Hey Matt, thanks for sparing us the time, how are the waves up in the north of England at the moment?
Matt: Hey James, I am not sure, trying to get some work finished as I am off on a quick surf trip to Portugal tomorrow, can't wait.
SB: How did Northcore begin, what was the seed?
Matt: 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. From there I had other new designs for a surfboard lock and I had all these product ideas that where coming through and I needed a brand to sort of link them all together and that's where Northcore came from.
SB: Where you nervous the first time you went into a shop to try and sell the Keypod:
Matt: Well not so much no, I had actually taken the first box round the car park in Saunton Sands and sold a few to local surfers, then the first few shops bought some. I had quite a lot of belief in the Keypod which helps.
SB: Why the name Northcore?
Matt: Its because the company was founded and based on the North Sea coast of the UK so it was a geographical thing and that we are making 'grass roots' core products for surfers. North Core, Northcore.
SB: Have you got any advice to people that have got a good idea and want to go into production.
Matt: That is a tricky one, there is a lot to consider. Firstly get some good designs made, take them to friends and family, and also perhaps take them to people you don't know. Try and get impartial opinions. Brutally honest opinions are best, as sometimes friends will say its great even when it's not. From there really, if you do think you have a good idea you should source the correct manufacturer, where are you going to get it made? Then look at distribution, are you going to take it to someone else or do it yourself? Then pricing and costings, tax etc. To take something all the way through from design to market is actually really fun.
What its like to surf in the North East of the UK.
SB: I know you don’t like to talk about it but how does Northcore give back?
Matt: We have done some work with Surfers Against Sewage before as they are an amazing charity and we try and help out where we can. We get letters every day about people who are after support, and its really cool to be able to help where we can. It's not something we like to shout about or mention because as a business we really have a responsibility to give a little bit back and it feels good to be able to do that. It's not something we do for a marketing stunt, its nice to be able to share a little bit. You know sometimes kids come into the warehouse and if you can give them the odd leash here and there, they are just stoked for anything. Of course doing that gets the brand out there, but it's just nice see kids that are super enthusiastic about surfing and if they are getting a little something back they love that.
SB: Why do you think of British surfing? Why do we not have anyone knocking on the door of the WSL big league?
Matt: That is something that I was talking about with a friend of mine whilst surfing the other day. It really comes down to conditions, the UK does get some amazing waves, but unfortunately is not very often perfect. Take Devon and Cornwall, they do get consistent swell but are plagued with on-shore winds, there are not really any world class waves down there. Scotland and the Northeast do have some word class waves, like Thurso, but its cold and often difficult to get to the spots. If you compare that to Australia, warm water and consistent conditions, the kids there are in the water every day from the age dot. There is also the level of support in these countries from the government that we just do not have in the UK. Northcore does sponsor two lads who are showing amazing skills at the moment, Stan Norman and Joseph Morris, 12 and 13 years old. They are travelling the world now surfing different waves and winning everything in their age group. They have real achievable goals to be in the top 34 in the world, and I just hope we can continue to support them when that happens.
SB: Can you remember your first surfboard?
Matt: Haha, yes I can, it was a 7'6 pop out minimal, purple with a yellow stripe down the middle (laughs) it was a horrible board but I loved it. The first time I surfed it, I strapped it to the top of my VW Beetle with bits of string and borrowed this diving suit from a friend's dad. The suit was made from a cardboard-like neoprene. Then I had to give the suit back but wanted to surf again and ended up going in the water in my boardies and a t-shirt and jumper. This was on the north east coast of England in autumn, early winter, so by the time I got out I had the early stages of hypothermia, and as you know the old beetles did not have much in the way of heating (laughs). I ended up giving the board to my cousin who also learnt to surf on it and still has it.
SB: Warm or cold water?
Matt: Here in the north east I don't really see it as cold water surfing because its just normal to me. There is not much difference really, it just means you have to put a 6mm, 4mm wetsuit or boardies in the Caribbean. I think it just takes a bit more dedication to surf colder water, especially here as you have to get in straight away, tomorrow the swell might have gone or the wind changed. I am amped all the time for a surf, if there is a wave I am in. Saying that if you have the opportunity to surf warm water then that would be nice too.
SB: Well thanks to Matt again for sparing us the time for an illuminating chat.
Dear reader, if you have been paying attention it seems you could glean a few things from this quick chat. The first being, that if you have idea that you think is solid, unique and useful then why not go for it, put your money where your mouth is. Second is remain true to your roots and don't forget where you came from, it really costs nothing to be a nice guy and give a little back without asking for reward. Third and most importantly, don't go surfing in the UK in boardies and a jumper come winter time.