What do you think the winning formula is for shaping boards for the likes of Irish hellman Conor Maguire? First up, go surfing with him, that's a given, then decamp to the local pub, and let the Guinness and creativity flow from lips to pen to paper. Only after that, can you fire up some whisky and let those brain stems loose on the idea of a progressive big wave sled. The result of that hazy, late night session was an Irish slab slaying rocket of a board, aka the Hot Whiskey – and the beginning of a relationship that's still on, right now.
For Markie Lascelles, the head shaper of Cornwall-based Beachbeat surfboards and Cord Surfboards, it was the formula that loosened lips with Maguire, the first of now many conversations across the five years they've been partnered together as surfer and shaper. And as you know, when performing at the level Maguire does (and Markie's other roster of rippahs) that surfer/shaper bond has to be iron-clan and how better to temper the metal than forging it over pints of Guinness, an Irish institution.
What you may not know, is that the surf scene around UK and Ireland is far more than just Newquay or Devon or those death slabs under the cliffs and etc etc. In fact, Beachbeat's factory is nestled in the ancient Cornish village of St Agnes, an idyllic former-mining town some 10-miles west of Newquay, that had been turfing up copper and tin until the 1920s. Relics of that era punctuate that unbroken coastline in the form of engine houses, tall chimney stacks that thrust into the sky, once used to help extract ore from the ground.
Perhaps one of the more well-known of these monoliths is Wheal Kitty, standing proud just off the main road to St Agnes. Nowadays, the buildings surrounding it are home to some big names in the industry; the likes of international clean water campaigners, Surfers Against Sewage, Open Surf and sustainable surf brand Finisterre. For a small village, mile-for-mile, Aggie holds more surfing culture than just about anywhere else in the UK.
Markie inherited the Beachbeat brand from his father Peter 'Chopes' Lascelles, a much loved, larger than live legend, who died in October 2013. But the brand's roots trace back to the 60s, and had big name shapers of the time through their factory doors, solidifying the locale as a cult hit for the travelling surfer.
Here, we chat with Markie, talking shaping for the likes of Conor Maguire (“it scares the shit out of me”) Noah Lane (“a calculated and humble human”) as well as the importance of legacy, Conor's insane-o wave, and much more. Dig in.
When did you start shaping?
I grew up around the factory when it was behind the family house. I used to watch in there. I was probably like six or so, it was such a rad place. Pretty much all the best surfers in the village either worked there or were hanging around there.
I used to watch dad in that bay for years, along with all the amazing shapers we had passing through (Nat Young, Gary Mcnabb, Malcom Cambell, Ronnie Woodward and Glynden Ringrose to name a few) but I never actually got in there myself until I was 16 and even then it was dipping in and out.
My passion at that point was travelling and getting barrelled so I kinda just did that. I went away as soon as I finished school at 16 and then didn’t really get back in the bay properly until I was around the age of 20. I felt like I was a bit more mature then and so me and dad spent a lot of time together from then on. Dad always looked to the future in what he did. He loved new tech so we spent lots of time designing files together as well.
The sharp shunt into being head shaper when he passed meant I learned how to dial in my own style pretty quickly
Learning the new side of shaping as well as the old. It was rad and I wish we had more time together doing that stuff, messing about up at the factory. But at the same time the sharp shunt into being head shaper when he passed meant I learned how to dial in my own style pretty quickly. I think if you look at my boards now they are my boards, but I will always look to dad's old stuff for inspiration too. I love the curves of his old boards he used to make for Sunset in Hawaii and stuff like that. I still have all of his templates, planers and plenty of his old tools. I’ll never ever get rid of them however manky they get.
Beachbeat as a brand isn’t just another name in the clouds – it’s a Cornish institution, what’s the ethos behind building boards?
I guess Beachbeat was born in the best era of surfing and it grew big pretty quickly. It’s harder now and it’s different. The landscape is a lot more diluted and there are lots of different pockets of surfing too. But I like to think I still hold dad’s values close with Beachbeat. And he drilled the saying into me from a young age, “function over fashion”. If people ain’t having fun whats the point.
You’ve got the likes of Conor Maguire and Noah Lane on your team – there’s no arguing, they are two of the most humble humans and surfers to walk the earth. What’s it been like shaping for them? And how long have you been doing that?
I’m really lucky to just have these lads as mates and the fact they enjoy riding my boards (most of the time anyway) is a bonus. So I think I started shaping for Noah first, I guess around seven-years-ago now, feels weird saying that as it's gone so quick.
I just turned 30 and I was living a very different life back then. As for Conor it was about five-years-ago I believe. I think we had an epic couple days in the surf and an epic night in the pub and it ended with me offering to make him some boards.
It has been amazing shaping for these two. They both ride very different boards. I shape for Noah under the Cord brand now (the original family brand born in 1965), although he started with Beachbeat, but as time has gone on his boards have changed quite dramatically. I would hand on heart say he’s one of the best guys on a twin fin in the world, particularly in heavy water.
So Conor put some hot whiskey on the stove and that was it, we had our Mully gun, the Hot Whiskey was born
And then you have Conor who is becoming one of the best guys in heavy water around. Watching his rise to this wave back in October has been amazing. He wants it more than any one I've ever met.
As for how it is to make their boards and the feedback I get, they are both really similar. Both of them very dialled in when it comes to their equipment. Both really humble blokes but they know what they want and most importantly for me they are both up for trying new stuff, pushing it out side the box a bit. I know for sure my boards wouldn’t be what they are without these two.
And, how do you even go about shaping for the likes of Maguire? What’s he do, dial you up, say ‘Hey Markie, I’m going to go paddle some swell sucking, heavy-lipped, nightmare of a wave, what ya got?’ and you’re supposed to be like, ‘yeah cool?’
[laughs] Making boards for Maguire scares the absolute shit out of me if I’m honest. I don’t know what that freak is going to do next.
So for the original gun I did him, it started as a convo in Ireland. It was after a surf just chatting boards and then after some dinner and a few pints of the black stuff the talks intensified. And by the time we got back to his place from the infamous Paris night club we had half a plan.
So Conor put some hot whiskey on the stove and that was it, we had our Mully gun, the Hot Whiskey was born. Thank god I remembered most of our conversation and I shaped it up as soon as I got back to Cornwall and sent it over. He absolutely tamed it first surf.
And we have been tweaking that board ever since. He’s just about to get the newest version which I’m really excited about. The longer I’ve shaped his boards the more trust I have in him to make them go past their full potential. He reads that heavy Irish slab like a book now, it's crazy, and I hope that he gets that feeling of trust in me to make him the right thing.
Now, we know Maguire was on a tow board for that insane Ireland job a few weeks back – how’d that feel seeing your team rider on what’s going to be considered one of the biggest waves ever surfed in Ireland?
Did he tell you he was going to be surfing that?
I was chatting to him a bit as he’s really not good at using a mobile phone, in fact I’m amazed he managed to do all the interviews and replies on social [laughs]. And was mostly chatting to Clem who filmed about that day.
I was so nervous looking at the swell. I knew it was going to be next level but I had no idea it would be that big. And that clean. It’s the biggest wave surfed in Ireland but it has to be the heaviest thing ever surfed in Europe.
It’s on a world beating level that wave. Im so stoked to see a mate achieve something like that and even more stoked to see them all come back in unscathed.
And how does that differ for Mr Lane? Mind you, he’s not adverse to throwing himself down something silly. And does that feedback translate to the every day punter's boards?
If I had to describe them I would probably describe Noah as calculated and Conor as crazy [laughs]. But Noah ain’t shy. Me and Noah have gone down a bit more of a left of centre board path these last few years though.
Mostly twins or 2+1s and a lot of channel bottom stuff. Their feedback, along with any other feedback I get is what makes my boards. I can ride boards well enough myself but it’s not the same. Having my own opinion and then having these guys dial in the subtle tweaks, the little bits that really elevate the board. And that’s what I love too.
For sure it goes into the everyday punter board. The point with that feedback is if it can make the elite surf better then for sure its gonna make even more difference to the average Joe. It doesn’t matter what level you're at, if something makes you have more fun or slightly improve then it's good for every one right?
Right! A load of surfers nowadays are kinda missing the point about board design – you get people walk into a shop and say they surf a 30 litre board, or whatever – as a shaper, is that something you’d wish would change?
I don’t know really. We as shapers have put in a lot of time with models and volumes to adapt now [laughs]. I think having more of an open mind is good though. Volume isn’t an enemy of shapers.
It’s nice if someone can come to you and say a ball park. What’s difficult is if they wont budge from that one specific thing. If anything that’s more of a factor that could hold them back.
What advice would ya give to people looking to buy their first board?
Chat to a shaper! Getting the right board made for you will 9/10 times be better for you than any stock board you will find. And be honest with your self about where you are in your surfing and where you want to go.
Markie's currently shaping Conor a freshie for big Irish slabs under the Cord Surfboards brand. Cover shot by Sharpy Surf