What Does it Mean to be a DXer?

While writing the first several posts of The DXCC Sleuth https://dxccsleuth.blog/

the question of “When did I become a DXer?” popped into my mind, followed by “What exactly is a DXer?”

My QSL cards in the DXCC Sleuth pre-dated my previous recollection of when I started DX-ing. I’ve had in my bio that I started DX-ing in 2001, but my QSL cards that are DX stations go back before that. Heck, when I lived in Newton, NJ and was WN2QHN in 1973, I worked EU countries just by calling CQ and then having rag chew QSO’s. That was DX. wasn’t it?

The answer to each of us will most likely be different. Here is my definition of “What is exactly a DXer?”

  • A DXer is a person who consciously chases DX on radio or TV with or without some goal in mind. They might just listen or watch – and they might also transmit

And now for the “When did I become a DXer?”

  • In July, 2001, I went to HRO Oakland to look at ham radio gear. I was living at the Hawk Canyon house in Lafayette. I had tried to get back into ham radio at my Bella Vista Way house in San Francisco and then again at my Betty Lane house in Lafayette – but both attempts were short lived. I even tried my hand at “Being a QRP-er”, and did some Emcomm work for the City and County of San Francisco when one of my internal clients was the SF OES.

My full on definition would be that:

  1. I consciously decided to buy ham radio gear for the purpose of chasing DX
  2. I needed some goals and the structure in the ARRL’s DXCC program gave me exactly what I needed

These two things came together in July 2001, and that was a very clear delineation for me. It was after that that I first started submitting for DXCC points. Any entities where I submitted QSL cards dated before July 2001 were simplex rag chew QSO’s of a garden variety that I would work on many if not all other bands after July 2001.

But here is the real “kicker”: I learned to work split (which I hated until I got good at it) and I also watched the calendar for activations and DXpeditions. I even started working DX Contests to grab many ATNOs. Ah, those naive first few years. I made big mistakes too like not bothering to call VP8THU because I thought it was the same entity as VP8GEO. I had to wait 15 years to get another chance to work South Sandwich.

Now, my definition is certainly different than others. Some chase the same DXpeditions on the air but follow no program and never submit for any awards. Some follow the ARRL programs, some CQ Magazine, some Club Challenges, and some all of these or a menu of some of these.

For me, being a DXer has always been tied directly to DXCC, but lately I find myself tired of that and so now I don’t have the “structure” I did before, but I still have certain routines I follow. There are certain nets and people I follow on the radio – and some whom I call even though I have that entity logged and confirmed on all (or most) bands and modes. Working any ZS station is still a thrill even though I do not need it for any award or program. There are many other examples like this.

I also can say for sure that DXing has been a way of life for me since July 2001 – going through my DX QSL cards in conjunction with The DXCC Sleuth has triggered memories I didn’t realized I still had – and with a degree of a photographic memory. That was a surprise, but its been big fun re-starting that blog – but with a new perspective and a more personal one that I had before.

Ham Radio and DXing for me really is only a hobby – and while yes, it has been an obsession, its been a very important “pastime” that has helped give balance in my life. I could have had a bad day at work, but when I rushed home to work that VU7 – and then did get that ATNO, my days cares melted away. Even the “OCD” aspect was healthy – when I went through a 4 year stretch with both parents passing and a divorce plopped down in between, being completely obsessed with DXCC gave me a ray of sunshine when things seemed dark.

I’m in a new “mode” now where I will chase DXCC Challenge but only if it’s an LOTW QSO and it’s free. I’ve spent way too much on QSLs chasing Honor Roll and 9BDXCC. I’ve paid my dues. I’ve even paid two teams to activate Bouvet, and I do think 3Y0I will do it, as crazy as it may seem. I will only donate to Glorioso, after that I’m done for good with that aspect as well. This is an expensive hobby, and I’m less than 10 years away from retirement.

So, all of these things add up and make me feel very thankful for Ham Radio, DXing, and the ARRL’s DXCC program.

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