Tom Morey, inventor of Boogie Board, dies

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The big waves off the Kona Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii were always the domain of standing surfers as Tom Morey played in his garage with a 9-foot polythene board, an electric carving knife and a iron he had borrowed from a neighbor.

By morning he had cut the board in half, rounded the nose, and trimmed the base to a sharp trailing edge. It didn’t sound like much, but on the water it was fast, it spun around and let the prone rider feel the rhythmic tug of the ocean, an almost intoxicating experience for Morley.

He sold one to another beach bum for $ 10 and figured that for a day’s work, it at least covered his costs. Within a year, the Morey Boogie Boards were selling by the tens of thousands, opening waves the world over to the masses, delighting millions and enraging purists who suddenly found their favorite station wagons as crowded as a freeway.

A longtime dreamer and tinkerer who designed small airships as well as interchangeable-sole athletic shoes, Morey died in a Laguna Hills hospital on Thursday, his son Sol Morey announced on Facebook. He was 86 years old.

Morey’s chunky, lightweight bodyboards never made him rich – it had sold out by the time sales were in the millions – but it changed beach culture forever, giving wave surfers a cheap alternative. and easy to much more expensive surfboards that required patience, balance, footwork and – for the most part – erase after erase before perfection arrived.

“Some of Tom’s ideas are pretty fuzzy, and at first I thought the Boogie Board was part of it,” former Surfer magazine editor Steve Pezman told The Times in 2001. “But I was wrong. Nothing. did not introduce more people to surfing than the Boogie Board.

Born August 15, 1935 in Detroit, Morey grew up in Laguna Beach, where his father was a real estate agent. A drummer and jazz fan, he went to UCLA as a music major, but eventually graduated with a math degree and joined South Bay’s burgeoning workforce as a engineer for Douglas Aircraft and other defense contractors.

When his first marriage ended in divorce, Morey recalibrated and moved to Hawaii, a poorer but happier man. He gave surf lessons, took gigs as a rental drummer, and pursued the curious and imaginative ideas that came to his mind. He invented a three-part surfboard that could be taken apart and packed in a suitcase. He came up with a liquid surfboard traction solution that he said would make it easier for surfers to stand up. Then came the Boogie Board.

“I’m just a guy with a window to a lifestyle, and maybe the guys next to me don’t have a window,” he told The Times years later. “I can look and see the future of things. And then I can tell the world about it. Or build it.

Tom Morey poses with his Boogie Board in 1971.

(Los Angeles Times)

As news of the Morey Boogie Board spread to the islands and then to the mainland, he worked feverishly to keep up with the commands – cutting the foam, rounding his nose, using a page from that day’s Honolulu announcer to prevent the iron from sticking together while she methodically molded the polyethylene. Each weighed only three pounds, was just over 4 feet long, and sold for $ 37, a price that matched his age.

But soon Morey had a tsunami on his hands. By his fourth year, he had filled 80,000 orders and a team of workers was rushing to meet the demand.

In 1978, he sold the rights to the Boogie Board to a San Francisco company. The rights to the name now belong to the toy company Wham-O. Morey later admitted he sold too soon, but didn’t dwell on the fortune he likely missed.

“You can’t hold on to all of these things. You have to let it go, ”he told The Times. “The girl you wanted and didn’t have.” The fortune you almost had. The fish that escaped. … To think I sold this for a billion dollars? I will always be sitting here in my swimsuit. I’m not going to eat more than I already eat.

Still tanned and trimmed, Morey returned to the mainland, never far from shore. He developed a lighter, softer surfboard that he called the Swizzle, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle for the second time. He joined the Bahá’í Faith and started the annual Wave Blessing at Huntington Beach, an event that still continues today. He changed his name to Y – just the letter – because ‘the symmetrical appearance of’ Y ‘is quite nice.

And no matter what the lawyers might say, he knew the Boogie Board would always belong to him.

Morey is survived by his wife Marchia; one daughter, Melinda Morey; sons Sol, Moon, Sky and Matteson; five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.


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