Poll: What Is Hardcore?

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adventure journal poll hardcore 660Admit it. You’ve told yourself you’re hardcore. Maybe you didn’t speak it aloud — that would be immodest, after all — but in your head you gave yourself a nice pat on the back. Damn, I’m core.

You were probably skiing in the rain. Fighting for peaks during a victory at sea session. Logging miles on a hyperthermic late afternoon. Shivering on some inadequate belay stance. Getting after it when most people would be warm and cozy, eating dinner, vegetating on the couch. Yeah, baby. You core.

Hey, acknowledging it is a good thing. Positive reinforcement reinforces things positively. It gives you the strength to keep going when others bail and trains the mind to push through the tough times. Go ahead, give yourself an attaboy or girl.

But let’s stop, too, and consider just what it means to be hardcore (and why we respect it). At its simplest, it means going farther or further than other people, pushing the boundaries of technique, experience, and ability. It means living at the outer margins, leaving easy behind. It means testing yourself over and over again and liking what you find even in the midst of harrowing conditions or a sufferfest. And almost always, I think, it means finding comfort in discomfort. But what is its most important element?


smith optics iosThis week, one poll participant will receive a Smith Optics I/OS goggles. We’ll pick the winner via random number generator (and announce it here) — all you have to do to enter is vote and leave a comment so we have your email to contact you. Must have a U.S. or Canadian address. Contest ends Sunday, January 27, at midnight PST.

Congrats to @David, the winner of this week’s giveaway.

Photo by Steve Casimiro

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{ 97 comments…read them below or write one }

  • Don

    Don’t feel like “hardcore” necessitates sacrificing job or geography, seems more like an attitude or a mental state..

  • Mike

    One man’s hardcore is another man’s cakewalk. It’s so subjective. I’d say it’s about pushing your physical, mental, and comfort limits beyond what’s considered “normal” in society and then doing it all again tomorrow. Skinning-up the side country 5 times while everyone else is on the lifts might be considered “hardcore”, but it’s nothing compared to the dude who did a 40 day unsupported ski traverse. Anyone who lives and breathes their sport and pushes the limits is hardcore – they stand out – b/c most people are pretty softcore when it comes to self-induced suffering.

  • GOOG

    A 12 hour round trip drive for an 8 hour ski day is hard core enough for me. I’m sure if I lived closer to the core I’d be hard(er) core.

  • J

    Hardcore is indicative of the intent to push physical boundaries – Risks, endurance and pushing your biody to new levels – beyond what is the average.

    Hardcore is not activity that everyone can achieve by simply going outside their comfort zone. A 400 pound man going for a 30 minute walk is not hardcore, nor is an 8 hour day on blue groomers.

    Hardcore is doing the quality of turning heads and inspiring others, because you will not give in and accept the norm.

  • Chase

    Hardcore = gettin’ after your sport no matter what; skiing October suncups in the rain, chance of hungry bear encounters, likely mosquito swarms, slick boulder holds, etc. No excuses, play like a champion.

  • Liz Millikin

    Always hardcore!
    Well. Always pushing for the love of the sport – through rain, sleet, snow, and January thaw. Pushing yourself, but not taking unnecessary risks. The only things hardcore about being rescued in the backcountry are the people doing the rescuing!

  • Erik

    Being hardcore isn’t about doing something reckless for recognition, but completing a goal you thought you could not reach.

  • David D

    Steve, that is a very interesting question! I have have though long and hard about the meaning of sacrifice and the pursuit of passion. I can’t help but noticed that your survey may reflect the reader’s background. It’s obvious that pushing your limit is a component of hardcoreness, but what if the question was in light of others we respect? What makes the most hardcore, hardcore. I mean the Ueli Stecks, Reinhold Messners, Shaun Whites of the world. Or Perhaps the first surfer, Jeff Clark, who paddled out solo to outer Maverick’s before people new it existed. That’s freakin’ hardcore if you ask me. Then there is the couple who walked from Seattle to the Bering Sea, but they don’t describe themselves as reckless at all.
    And the rest us of find inspiration in ephemeral images, blogs, athletes that we judge ourselves by while juggling the necessities of life in our own dance. Maybe just being a mom is hardcore. In this survey I notice that people who have good access to computers don’t value a smaller job to be closer to a better lifestyle. But I think the truth about hardcoreness has more to do with spirit and, in my opinion, all to do with sacrifice not fitness. What are you willing to sacrifice for your passion?

  • Sean

    Truth is I didn’t get into outdoor pursuits for some sort of hardcore activity. Maybe when I was a teen, but now I’m less trying to be ‘core’ than I’m trying to just get outside, have some fun and have a mellow interaction with nature. Somehow though, after my first long ride on a wave ten years ago, I realized that I stumbled onto the fountain of youth. Now my job, the place I choose to live, the girl I choose to date, the friends I choose to keep, all keep me focused around waves and all have a clear understanding that when the surf is good, all other commitments that were scheduled fall to to the wayside. It might mean I’ll never live in some beautiful spot, never date some great girl, miss the birth of my first child…etc., but to me core has got to be just simply making your passion the primary focus of your life, at all costs.

  • Matt

    Check out the dirtbag diaries podcast on what is hardcore. My favorite line….I’m not hardcore but I know someone who is…

  • Brandon

    tough question. everyone’s answer will be different. hardcore is synonymous with inspiring if you ask me… and everyone has different inspirations.

  • Dean

    I think hardcore is something you can’t self apply, like “coolness.” If others declare you cool, you’re cool. If others declare you hardcore, you are. Maybe. I just was out for a short walk. Maybe 120 minutes, in -20C and snow. I took my backpack with about 7.5kg in weight, but this is really only just about starting to get more fit for a 900km hike this summer. However, while I have friends – urbanites to the core – who would say that was hardcore, I don’t feel it was. But then, I guess hardcore isn’t an absolute, but a sliding scale.

  • Lee

    I went with staying out in all conditions, and pushing your body to the limit. I think “hardcore” is a synonym for “passion”. If you’re passionate about something you will be heaven and earth to do it. And it doesn’t even have to be related to fitness or athletics. I know a dude who is passionate about movies, and it is very clear that he his hardcore about it in how he spends his time and money.

    The other thing about being “hardcore” is that others should be able to recognize and admire your hardcoreness, regardless if they’re into what you’re hardcore about.

  • Jody Kaufman

    Hardcore is how you approach adventure. I don’t think it is about unmitigated risks. I don’t think it is about sacrifice in your professional life. I do think it is about your enduring commitment to adventure and learning how to manage difficult situations.

  • Matt Freeman

    Seems like there are two kinds of core here: The financial (various lifestyle sacrifices made for a lifestyle), and the physical (risk, conditions, etc).

    I voted for the former, though I think the latter is equally applicable. It’s about choices, really.

  • Andre Monrufet

    “Hardcore” is about pushing your own boundaries in all conditions, it is the comfort in discomfort…. its different for all of us!

  • Chris

    choosing a job that allows you more time or having room mates etc … they still don’t mean you’re hardcore … but staying out in all conditions and pushing yourself to the limit … Hardcore.

  • Kent Proctor

    …if you go harder and further than you did yesterday, everyday, eventually you will be way out there pushing the limits for all of us.

  • Patrick

    Being hardcore simply means pushing yourself to the point where you don’t think you can go any further, get faster, get over that next hill, climb that, or find your way home – and then going further, faster, over it, on it, or stumbling home.

  • Garrett

    I agree with Brendan Leonard’s rules:
    1. Do not talk about being hardcore.
    2. Suffer in some unimaginable way.
    3. It is a matter of perspective. I am not hardcore, but I know someone who is.
    4. You do not complain.

  • JC

    I teach. And I live on a mountain. So it is a combo of choosing a career that pays less so you have more time and living humbly to be closer to your passion.

  • Brad

    not convinced that ‘hardcore’ has anything to do with how much time or money you have, more so what you are doing with it.

  • Anthony

    Living humbly but there is something to be said about sacrificing – working a sh*t job to get to the better job,etc – early to set yourself up to have a great gig later so you can enjoy your bouldering hobby, five kids, whatever drives you.

  • Rodney

    It seems to me that every time I’ve thought, “This is hardcore” it’s has been due, at least partially, to circumstances not entirely in my control. The torrential downpour on the final few miles of the bike ride, the winds and snow picking up on the way back to camp, the thunder and lightning rattling my cage when camped a little too exposed for comfort. Yes, I had a choice in the matter, to be outside, chasing dreams and living life, but the truly hardcore didn’t happen because I chose to be hardcore, but because I chose to embrace the chaos and grin and laugh at the crazy adversity of the situation.

  • Rob

    Hard core is being at your limits on a regular basis. You’ll recognize it when you see it because there will be very few people still hanging when you get there.

  • Dana

    There’s a tough question. Describing hardcore must be one of those things that is even harder than just being hardcore. But pushing beyond what everybody but the pusher thinks possible should at least get one nominated. Then pushing beyond what even the pusher thinks possible might get you there. Risk taking, suffering, sacrifice and a driven single-minded focus all contribute but are these not all elements of everyday life?

  • T. Jason Moore

    I personally do not believe everyone has the abilitiey to truely be hardcore, otherwise everyone could possibly be categorized by the term at some point/time/season of their life. If you have faced situations, by choice, where the
    % of Death/Severe Injury > % that you will Live/Escape Unscathed,
    that is Hardcore…

  • Jason Willard

    Hardcore means that your core is hard, tough. You don’t let falls or injuries or weather stop you from taking risks and pushing your limits. That’s the fun zone. On the edge. You gotta be hardcore.

  • Nick

    Hard core is an individual thing, once you reach hard core, the bar is raised and you work for that new level of hard core.

  • J

    Constantly pushing the envelope your whole life, seeking new adventures and reliving past ones. It’s not about a career or how tired you get, for those are sidelines to passion. You’ve got to be an exponent, you have to represent, a leader not a lemming…dedicated.

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