Northcore 15th Anniversary: Born From The Elements

This year marks Northcore’s 15th Birthday Anniversary – what a ride it’s been! We’re looking back on 15 years of big Northcore moments, unforgettable projects, and building a community of people who belong in the great outdoors. Join us in recounting our journey from a singular, revolutionary product to becoming a global brand. 

The History of Northcore Brand Timeline
The history of Northcore

Humble beginnings

Northcore was founded in 2006 by CEO Matt Strathern, based upon the belief we spend a lot of time on this planet but hardly any engaging with it. At this stage, he was armed only with his passion for surf and a unique product that he developed to solve a big problem in the surfing community – the Keypod. A key safe designed to keep your keys and cards safe while you’re out surfing. Keypod was the world’s first surf key safe and remains one of our signature products to this day. 

Keypod had humble beginnings. It took two years from Matt’s first sketch to the production of the Keypod. The product was launched working from a tiny garden shed close to the North Sea Coast of the UK and with nothing else like it on the market, the product truly changed the game.  After the success of Keypod, Matt set to work on designing more unique products and Northcore was born. Keypod remains one of our bestselling products and is manufactured in the same factory it started its life in!

Northcore Keypod Surf Lock Box/Key Safe
One of the first prototypes of the Keypod

Over the next few years, Northcore released more products, the Lock-Jaw Surf Locks, our Soft Roof Rack, our Waterproof Seat Covers, and the iconic Waterproof Changing Mat. We soon outgrew the shed used as a base of operations and Northcore moved to its first industrial premises in 2009 and our first staff member was hired the following year.

Cold water roots

2009 was also the first year that Matt visited the West coast Ireland, inspired by the Irish big wave scene and some lifelong connections were born from a love of cold water surf.

We signed our first ever team rider, the Donegal legend that is Ritchie Fitzgerald in 2010 and went on to make Fathoms Left To Fall with Richie and his tow surf partner (and later Northcore team rider, Gabe Davies).  Fathoms was our first ever short surf film.

Gabe Davies, surfing at Mullaghmore
Gabe Davies, Mullaghmore

Fathoms Left To Fall documented the highs and lows of a surf trip at Mullaghmore Head during a record-breaking swell in 2012. The short is the first of many for us, in our never ending quest to capture the raw power, fear, and intoxicating energy that surrounds a spot like Mully. There’s no surprise that a year later we bought our first Northcore jetski!

In 2014 we made ‘934’ with James Skerritt on the gargantuan storm systems hitting Europe during the winter of 2013/2012. We decided to chase the biggest system, Hercules with Northcore Riders Peter Conroy and Sandy Kerr and surfers Conor Maguire, Ollie O’Flaherty, and Paul O’Kane. The result was a short film that not only captured the tense build-up to surfing one of the world’s heaviest waves but the exhilaration once the charging begins. 

Peter Conroy surfing Mullaghmore Head
Northcore Rider Peter Conroy at Mullaghmore Head

10 Years of Northcore

In 2014 we moved to a new premises after outgrowing our HQ and welcomed more staff members to our now growing team. The following year we created our first Northcore book, titled ‘Talking Story’ to explore Northcore’s roots in cold water surfing in the UK and Ireland and the people who have made the community and our journey what it is. In Talking Story, we spoke to Northcore Riders, shapers, local surfers, and photographers to tell the gritty story of cold-water surfing. 

Northcore Talking Story Book
Talking Story, a Northcore book

During 2016 we celebrated our 10-year anniversary and launched the next generation of the Keypod original key safe, Keypod 5GS. The 5GS features a thicker alloy body and a stronger sprung fastening mechanism and a 10mm thick steel shackle and continues to lead in the key safe market with this super strong model. In our 10th year, we not only redesigned our signature product but organised a beach clean of our local surf break, to give back to our waters. 

Protecting our playground

In 2017 we began to support SAS on a more formal basis and joined Surfers Against Sewage 250 Club. This gave us access to an incredible community of like-minded people and businesses looking to make a difference and protect the UK’s waters along with information on our local water quality and ocean climate reports. We still work with this awesome charity to this day who continue to inspire us! 2017 also saw the design and release of our unique Beach Basha PRO – our first waterproof changing robe designed for all seasons. 

In 2018 we took a forensic look into the use of plastics in our packaging, with the ultimate goal of being free of single use plastic. In our first year we reduced our single-use PET product packaging from 3.5% to 2.5% and worked to reduce our use of plastic poly bags. We also repackaged many of our products to come presented in re-useable drawstring bags that have a life beyond simple packaging . These changes had a big impact and we set our 2019 goal to be 90% plastic packaging free. This was also the year that we moved into our current HQ. 

The Keypod 5GS key safe surf lock
The Keypod 5GS

Our commitment to the planet

2019 was a big year for Northcore. We started to convert our Mercedes Sprinter into our very own camper and documented our journey on the blog. This made one of our most-read blog series of all time! We also launched our #1MORETREEPLANTED initiative and pledged to plant a tree for each Waxed Canvas Adventure Roll, Waxed Canvas Backpack, Sleepwalker and Northcore Duffel Bag sold. The idea of our initiative was to help offset the carbon footprint of some of our bestselling products over time while helping to combat deforestation of crucial species to our environment. 

The Northcore Sprinter Van Conversion
The Northcore Van

Last year we launched our ECO range of vehicle solutions, made from 100% post-consumer recycled PET plastic bottles. The collection consists of the ECO Roof Bar Pads in standard and wide load and our iconic Waterproof Seat Cover in black, all made from approximately 30 recycled one-liter plastic bottles. We didn’t stop there. 2020 was also the year we reduced our single-use PET product packaging down to 0.48% to further our plastic-free objectives. As of 2021 we’re now 100% free of single use PET plastics in our packaging.

Our next chapter

The COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, and we had to think fast. Our team worked remotely for most of this year as many others did and had to spend less time outside. During the lockdowns our Team Riders and customers helped us to curate a working from home music playlist to keep us all going. We were inspired every day by our community of surfers, watersports enthusiasts, and explorers who used their time outside wisely and tried to keep everyone connected.

2020 was also the year we welcomed West African surfer, Ismaila Samb to the Northcore lineup, an awesome young talent who become Senegal’s first sponsored surfer.

Matt Strathern, Founder and CEO of Northcore
Matt Strathern, Founder and CEO

This year we changed our Instagram handle from Northcore_Surf to Northcore as our community continues to grow to include not just surfers but all wide-eyed wanderers who feel a deep connection to our waters and wilds.

This year Northcore also took a huge step in our evolution to become part of Internet Fusion Group who are leaders in the outdoor and action sports space. We look forward to growing our business and community further and continuing to do what we do best – getting you ready for your next adventure.

Special appreciation

We’d like to thank our team of staff, distributors, and agents for allowing us to form lifelong working relationships and friendships that have stood the test of time. We’d also like to thank our Team Riders and Ambassadors past and present, who have shared their stories and passion for the waves with us and who inspire us daily, and the photographers and filmmakers who have allowed us to capture these moments along the way.

Special thanks to our manufacturers for helping us to bring our ideas to life and to the people who love our products and use them to get out there, where they belong.


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