How do you define a hardcore surfer today? You can’t.

Turns out there’s as many definitions as there are surfers. When it came time to produce our June “Hardcore Issue,” we began by polling a cross-section of legendary figures — champions, big-wave chargers, coldwater freaks, stoked groms, corporate big-wigs — anyone who’s thrown themselves into the water {{{100}}} percent, asking each the same three questions:

1. How do you define a hardcore surfer today?
2. Who comes to mind when you think, “hardcore”?
3. Who is the most hardcore surfer of all time?

Below, you’ll find each of the responses in their entirety, from short, staccato emails to double-upped diatribes, each offering its own unique way of determining what makes someone diehard. Some even called back more than once, unable to limit the concept to a single conversation. But just because there’s no clear-cut answer, doesn’t mean the question’s not worth asking. We may not have nailed down a definition, but the true meaning of hardcore was never clearer.

“I guess it’s somebody who drops everything else to go surfing. Dale Webster comes to mind — the guy who surfed 10,000 days in a row — that’s pretty hardcore. Pat O’Connell also comes to mind. You don’t think of him as a hardcore, but he surfs more than anyone I know. And then you have guys like Dave Kalama and Laird Hamilton. But Dale’s surfing every day, no matter what, and you have to be passionate to do that because you’re only doing it for yourself.

It’s hard to pick one person [as most hardcore] — you’d have to know everyone on the planet to pick just one.” [laughs]

“Probably a surfer who surfs all day, every day, and it doesn’t matter what kind of boards he uses or if he’s sponsored or whatever, just surfs all time and doesn’t care what people think. He surfs all day every day, whenever possible, wherever possible, whatever possible. The locals at most spots [are hardcore]. They’re just surfing because they want to surf. That kind of deal. The most hardcore surfer of all time . . . hmm . . .probably Laird, but there’s a lot out there.”

“A hardcore surfer to me is somebody who goes surfing for fun and because they love it and not any ulterior motives like getting paid, or getting a photo in the magazine or ’cause they think it’ll make them seem cooler in their circle of friends. It doesn’t mean they have to have a black wetsuit and a white surfboard either — they can have a f–king pink wetsuit and a green surfboard. But they surf because they love to go surfing — big surf, little surf, crowded, not crowded — they surf because they love it no matter what the circumstances are.

My grandpa, Walter [Flippy] Hoffman, he’s hardcore. And my dad, as far as being up early, on top of things, knowing what the swell is doing, getting to the spots — like he doesn’t just surf in front of his house. In Hawaii this winter he was up earlier than us, surfed longer than any of us, and he was always like, ‘Come on, you little pussies!’ He’s about as hardcore as it gets, I’d say.”

“I was thinking about it — and I think it’s different for everybody, obviously — but my idea would be someone who would travel to great lengths to get to the best surf, do whatever they have to do to surf the best waves without any boundaries getting in their way. I couldn’t really come up with somebody in our era now, but the only thing that came to me was the Duke. Every time I see a picture of him or hear about his name, I think of him as the ultimate surfer. I can’t really place anyone today that . . . I mean, there ‘s guys who surf and travel around, but the Duke’s such legendary status. Everything about him gives out this presence of power and domination, the perfect athlete, the perfect surfer.”