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When The Dust Settles: Revisiting Chris Nelson’s homage to Chops and Mary in Morocco

Updated: Apr 4

“I sat down with Chops at a house party, years ago. For about two hours he told me some amazing stories that should have been recorded as they were so integral not just to the UK surf history, but to global surf history. I guess none of us expected he’d be gone so soon.”

Chris Nelson, filmmaker, author, editor and co-founder of the London Surf Film Festival (which Cord Surfboards proudly sponsors), recalls the stories relayed to him by Cord co-founder Chops Lascelles. Whilst it’s true that Chops probably had too many adventures in his lifetime to record in the midst of a party, the story of one of his many pioneering surf trips stuck and was recounted by friend and journalist Chris in one of the final issues of The Surfer’s Path.

‘When The Dust Settles’ was published in The Surfer’s Path magazine just over a decade ago and its introduction pays homage to a mission made by Chops and his wife Mary in the winter of 1975-76. Arriving from Australia to join Chops’ brother Humphrey in Cornwall, the couple worked the summer in Perranporth before buying a van and travelling down the European surf trail to spend the winter in Morocco, rubbing shoulders and sharing camp with legendary surf travel writer/photographer duo Kevin Naughton and Craig Peterson. Dubbed by SURFER Magazine (who they worked for throughout the ‘70s) as “the greatest surf adventurers of all time”, Naughton and Peterson are icons of surf culture for documenting their ten-year journey around the globe, hunting for perfect waves.

Now an extremely popular destination for travelling surfers, particularly those from Europe following the sun south, back then Morocco’s breaks were more or less uncharted. Chops described to Chris that, in a time before mobile phones, the internet or social media, this off the beaten track, point-break paradise was no tourist destination. Before the influx of holiday-makers, infrastructure and hotels, Mary and Chops camped at La Source for three or four months, surrounded by dusty vans, tents and VW Combis, hanging out with older brother Humphrey Lascelles (who knew they were ‘somewhere in Morocco’, and just turned up one day, wandering down the street in Taghazoute), Peterson, Naughton, and ‘various transient bands of travellers, surfers and hippies’. Chris writes, ‘The line-ups were empty, the waves were epic and the hash was cheap. The dye was set. Morocco was nirvana.’

Chops’ awe-inspiring tale, recorded by Chris, reminisces on one of the best waves of his life: ‘The winter of '76 has been epic, but this is the day. Ten to 12 foot sets are maxing so far out that the take off point has shifted past the ruins, up towards Mysteries. Crowning the next headland, Killer Point is beyond immense.’ Chops was quoted to say, “I'd already watched one guy get dragged down the point and come out covered in blood with his wetsuit shredded. But this wave [the last of the set, that Chops had taken off on] just kept going and going. Everyone thought I'd fallen but then I came out into the daylight and there I was - right down at the end of the point by the cove. I couldn't believe it.”

Moroccan right-hander Killer Point is named after the killer whales that can be seen there in summer. Chris also described Chops’ run-in with these giant creatures: ‘Chops looks down with a start. He scans the deep, down past the deck of his green-tinted Lightening Bolt, a 7'10" Sunset gun from his recent Hawaiian trip. In the clear waters below him, a huge black presence glides then a blast of spray signals the arrival of another killer whale as it breaks the surface. This winter these apex predators have been regular visitors to the line-up.’

Red vintage truck on the coast road in morocco with point breaks inthe background

Like father, like son, Cord’s head shaper Markie Lascelles has his fair share of ragtag travel stories, often nostalgically similar to his Dad’s 50 years earlier. Talking about a 6’0” x 18 1/4 x 2 1/4 step-up shaped for him by Chops when he was a teenager, Markie recalls treasured memories: “I hated that board at first, but wherever I took it, it just kept on surviving! One day in Morocco it actually blew off a cliff and got completely fucked up. I climbed down and managed to get it. The next spot we pulled up to, it was the only board big enough to use! I paddled it out, battered and broken, and had the sickest surf. It then travelled with me for five more years and I got some of the best waves of my life on it. I miss dad making me things I don’t want!”

markie lascells surfing in morocco, by jason feast
A young Markie in Morocco, captured by Jason Feast

Brother and uncle Humphrey Lascelles said, “Peter (Chops) and Mary did quite a few trips and of course Peter travelled extensively to surf also. Over the years we would meet up and managed to have a lot of good waves in a lot of spots around the world.” Whilst there are very few photos of these trips, Markie remembers being shown a roll of super 8mm film that’s now somewhere in his Mum’s attic. Fast forward to now, Markie and the Cord boys frequently venture to the northern African coast, where a section of TWIN was filmed (watch TWIN here), with Markie riding a Humbucker at Boilers.

markie lascelles surfing a humbucker fish at boilers in morocco from the film twin

Cord Surfboards’ lineage spans generations and continents, each decade filled with family, adventure and shaping. We’re just scratching the surface on the travels of the Lascelles brothers, whilst new stories are constantly being written by the new generation. From Cord’s innovative beginnings in 1965 to the return of the current generation of surfboard shaping Lascelles’ to Chops’ Wheal Kitty shaping bay today, we’re excited to share where the waves take us.

Cord Surfboards would like to thank Peter Le Breuilly, who met Chops and Mary in Morocco that winter and who kindly went through his collection of slides from that trip to share some of these classic images with us. Peter is posting some of his 1970s surf and travel photography to Instagram - you can follow him here.

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