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Shaping Surfing Since 1965

With every pass of his sanding block over the foam blank, surfboard shaper Markie Lascelles of Cord Surfboards adds to a multi-generation six-decade long story that spans and spearheads British surf culture.

Words & images by Mat Arney

“This was my Dad’s shaping bay,” he says, having removed the dust mask from his face to talk. When this old mine site was regenerated by the council and turned into workshops in the early 90s, he and [leading marine environment charity] Surfers Against Sewage were the first two residents. There’s been a surfboard factory here ever since, and SAS are still next door.” The surfboard factory at Wheal Kitty, on the cliff top above Trevaunance Cove in St Agnes also counts Finisterre as their neighbours – the place has quite the salt-caked buzz about it.

Cord Surfboards and the Lascelles family have deeper roots than that though, which in British surf culture is rare. Whilst there’s a longer tradition of wave riding in Britain that can be traced back over 130 years, stand-up surfing didn’t get a foothold until the early 1960s. Whilst that makes stand-up surfing of almost pensionable age in the British Isles it is still by comparison against other activities, or even against surfing in other parts of the world, fairly fresh faced. 

Whilst surfing was being introduced to Britain in the 1960s, it was already well established in Australia (it was in fact Australian lifeguards who brought the first foam and fibreglass surfboards over when a group of them came to work a summer in Newquay). On Queensland’s Sunshine Coast brothers David and Peter “Chops” Lascelles, Markie’s uncle and Dad, were coming of age and in 1965 elder brother David, known to most as “Humphrey”, persuaded their parents to help fund a surfboard factory in their hometown of Caloundra. “A bunch of Uncle Humphrey’s friends worked at another surfboard factory, and the story goes that in 1965 they either quit or were fired, so they got together and started Cord Surfboards.” That part of Australia at that particular time was a hotbed for surfboard innovation, and Cord Surfboards was at the centre of it. One of their shapers Bob McTavish and Californian friend George Greenough are largely credited with the Australian branch of the 1967 “Shortboard Revolution”’ that saw the long and heavy surfboards of the time cut down in length in the pursuit of manoeuvrability and getting closer to the curl of the wave – the foundations for modern high performance surfing that we see today.

Through the 1970s Cord Surfboards was put on the back burner as the brothers travelled the world in search of surf. “Somehow, they ended up in Cornwall in the early 1970s” Markie says. “Uncle Humphrey had been in Morocco surfing perfect uncrowded waves for over a year before the authorities kicked him out. He’d met a surfer from Cornwall there whose Dad was the landlord of a pub in Perranporth and he’d told him he had to visit, so he headed here in 1972.” Markie’s Dad was still at home in Australia but in 1975 after the death of their father, he flew first to Hawaii, then California, arriving finally in Cornwall in the spring of 1975 with his girlfriend Mary arriving not long after. “Mum and Dad clicked with Cornwall, and they decided to stay, settling here and having the three of us.” 

Markie and his two elder brothers grew up in St Agnes in the heart of the vibrant surf scene that surrounded their Dad, Chops. “Dad had loads going on. He was still really well connected in Australia so was the first to bring all the new developments over here, like the Thruster surfboard design that has been the standard since the early 80s. He shaped surfboards under his own label and for some Australian brands, and he brought first Rip Curl and then Billabong to the European market, as well as competing and coaching.”

“I discovered a place where my soul was happiest and I was fortunate to be here when surfing was in it’s infancy right through to the modern sport it is today. I had some great times, had some great waves and met some great people along the way… it’s been one hell of a ride!” said Chops.

All three Lascelles boys, Sean, Brennan and Markie, inherited their Dad’s gift for surfing, but it was the youngest Markie who got his skill with a planer and a sanding block. Just as his dad had learned by osmosis from the older guys at the original Cord Surfboards factory in Calloundra, so Markie absorbed a lifetime’s knowledge from Chops and all of the visiting international surfers and surfboard shapers who visited or stayed to work in St Agnes. In 2013, when Chops suddenly and tragically passed away, Markie and eldest brother Sean took on the business and Markie became head shaper.

Alongside Cord, Chops also had his own Cornish surfboard label, Beachbeat, and was the UK distributor for surfboard making supplies, such as Arctic Foam from the USA. But those businesses were only the paper part, and Markie also took on the strong interpersonal relationships that his Dad had developed both at home and overseas, including the West Coast of Ireland. 

Over the past decade Markie and his brothers have returned to Ireland many times, forging their own friendships. To this day most surfboards that they sell in Ireland are hand delivered by Markie several times each year, also using it as an excuse for a surf trip and to visit friends.

For many years, Cord Surfboards remained on the Lascelles’ family backburner. If somebody ordered a really special and unique board from Chops he’d put a Cord logo on it, but otherwise Cord was saved for special occasions. Markie and Sean knew though that the heritage of their family business was priceless, and that they were producing premium surfboards that were worthy of the Cord label every day, not just when somebody ordered a surfboard with all the trimmings. They made the decision to breathe new life into the brand and to give it the energy and attention that they felt it deserved.

“We grew up with Cord Surfboards – my brothers and I used to pull old Cord boards out of mum and dad’s shed and surf them when we were small. It would have been easy not to have seen the wood for the trees, but that heritage is hard to miss. There aren’t many surfboard brands with that much history, and fewer still that are in the same family. We want to honour that legacy,” explains Sean.

It would have been very easy for Cord Surfboards to have been reshaped as a heritage brand, offering classic longboards and “retro” style surfboards. Resting on the past is not in the DNA of the Lascelles family, nor of Cord Surfboards, however. The business may be six decades old, but it was progressive from its inception and every custodian has been at the cutting edge of surfing and surfboard design. Cord had to come back in the same spirit; classic and with a focus on craft, but stepping firmly into the future. With the creation of The Ark model, they did just that.

The Ark was designed with and for Australian surfer and ex-pat Noah Lane, specifically for the steep, fast and hollow waves close to his adopted home in Ireland. Noah is a stand-out surfer from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, close to where Humphrey and Chops grew up. He settled in Bundoran on the West Coast of Ireland, attracted by the area’s world-class waves. Markie has been shaping his surfboards for many years, and in the autumn of 2017 created The Ark model for him, Cord’s current bestseller.

“Noah and I were chatting boards and starting to get amped for the winter swells. We had a very trusty 6’4’’ template that he had been riding for a few winters. It was a fairly standard step-up for bigger and more powerful waves, which was Noah’s go-to. However, as is normal with surfboards, we always ask each other the question; “What else can we do?”

Inspired by a recent clip they’d both seen of Australian Torren Martyn surfing a twin-finned pintail surfboard with channels running along the bottom of the tail at a hollow reef break in remote Indonesia, they took that concept and created a design specifically for the waves on Noah’s doorstep. And it flew. Noah’s Ark is no one-trick pony though, and many surfers have adopted the model as their go-to in a huge range of conditions, not just the sorts of waves of consequence in which Noah tests them.

Now, twin fins such as the Ark or Markie’s modern interpretations of the classic fish, the Flying Vee or the Humbucker, are a significant part of Cord’s offering. The channel bottoms on many of their surfboards are a feature that take time and skill to execute, and few surfboard factories in the UK have such a team of craftsmen across every stage of the surfboard manufacturing process to deliver them. There is time served on that team, and whilst shaping, glassing and sanding channels adds hours on to each surfboard, it is a feature that many surfers are demanding and they are turning to Cord as a centre of excellence. 

To add to the skill of the team at the Cord Surfboards factory, this spring Markie took delivery of a brand new state-of-the-art surfboard shaping machine. His Dad Chops had been one of the first shapers in Europe to embrace this technology in 2006, and many Cornish shapers have had their surfboards cut on that machine over its 17-year tenure. “The machine uses computer files to cut the outline and foil of each surfboard, ready for the shaper to fine tune, template and shape the all-important tail end, and fine sand.” Markie explains. “It basically takes away a load of the time and less-skilled labour roughing out the surfboard from the foam blank, and it’s so, so, accurate.” Having spent the last few years nursing the old machine along whilst trying to keep up with demand, Markie decided it was time to invest and update. The new machine is one of the most advanced in Europe, keeping Cord Surfboards at the absolute top of the game and matching the machine to the calibre of the craftsmen who built upon those foam foundations.

Alongside consistently pushing the boundaries of surfboard design and performance, with his surfboards being tested in the most demanding of conditions by a team of professional surfers including Irish big wave surfer Conor Maguire and multiple British women’s champion Lucy Campbell, Markie is also pushing surfboard materials in a more positive direction.

“In spring of 2023 we achieved Gold Level Ecoboard accreditation from Sustainable Surf.” Markie recalls. “Over the last few years Arctic Foam had been developing a surfboard foam made from a majority of organic sources – firstly using algae oil and then eventually a nutshell oil. I’d been testing these new bio-blanks to make sure that they were as durable and had the same performance characteristics as regular surfboard foam. From the first batch that I shaped, several went to Noah in Ireland, six were made for our neighbours Surfers Against Sewage to surf and use as placards at demos and paddle-outs, and one was made for Surfers Against Sewage co-founder Chris Hines who as actually one of the first people to coin the phrase “EcoBoard” and push for planet positive developments in surfboard materials whilst he was sustainability director at The Eden Project. It was quite the order book!” With professional surfers on the Cord team such as Noah and Lucy who both champion sustainability in surfing, these gold level EcoBoards made using foam and resin with majority bio-content are proving that performance no longer needs to have a price for the planet.

Cord Surfboards could easily rest on their heritage. They choose instead to build on it. From their factory on the cliff top above Trevaunance Cove Markie Lascelles continues to keep Cord and Cornwall at the cutting edge of surfing, informed by and respectful of the family firm’s roots whilst stepping and surfing boldly into the future.

Cord Surfboards stock models are available to purchase or order from their showroom at Wheal Kitty, St Agnes, or online from Cord Surfboards or, or contact Markie to discuss a made-to-measure custom Cord surfboard.



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