Hawaii Island Boogie Board inventor Tom Morey dies at 86

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LOS ANGELES >> The big waves off the Kona coast on the Big Island were always the domain of standing surfers as Tom Morey played in his garage with a 9 foot polythene foam board, an electric carving knife and an 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 Morey.

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 on Oct. 14 in a Laguna Hills hospital, 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 far-fetched, and at first I thought the Boogie Board was one of them,” Steve Pezman, former editor of Surfer magazine, told the Los Angeles Times in 2001. “But I was wrong. . Nothing has introduced 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 became part of the burgeoning workforce in the South Bay area. in Los Angeles as an 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 gives surf lessons, lands contracts as a drummer for hire, and pursues curious and imaginative ideas that come 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 on a train of life, 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.

As news of the Morey Boogie Board spread to the islands and then to the mainland, he worked feverishly to keep up with the orders – cutting the foam, rounding his nose, using a page from that day’s Honolulu announcer to prevent the iron from sticking together while it methodically molded the polyethylene. Each weighed just 3 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 early, 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’ll 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 Baha’i Faith and initiated the annual Wave Blessing at Huntington Beach, an event that still continues. 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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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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