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Tom Morey, inventor of the Boogie Board, dies at 86

Tom Morey, inventor of the Boogie Board, is photographed on Capistrano Beach holding a newer model (left) and (right) his original 1971 Boogie Board.
Robert Lachman
Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Tom Morey, inventor of the Boogie Board, is photographed on Capistrano Beach holding a newer model (left) and (right) his original 1971 Boogie Board.

Tom Morey, the inventor of the Boogie Board and a renowned figure in the surfing world, died Thursday at age 86.

Morey grew up in Laguna Beach, Calif., where he started surfing and became one of the area's most notable surfers of the '50s and '60s. Morey attended the University of Southern California, where he studied music before switching to mathematics and graduating in 1957, according to The Washington Post.

Using his degree, Morey went to work for Douglas Aircraft as an engineer but left to start his own surf shop in 1964, according to the Post. By this time Morey had already begun experimenting with surfboard designs.

But it wasn't until Morey left Southern California that he created the first Boogie board. In 1971, Morey was living in Hawaii when he cut a large piece of polyethylene foam in half. He then worked to shape the foam with an iron after putting pages of the Honolulu Advertiser on top. By the time he was done Morey had a short board with a mostly rectangular body and a rounded nose. It weighed around three pounds — a fraction of what traditional surfboards weighed at the time.

With his new creation in hand, Morey went to the beach to test it out.

"I could actually feel the wave through the board. On a surfboard, you're not feeling the nuance of the wave, but with my creation, I could feel everything," Morey said as he recounted his first ride to SurferToday.com.

After his ride, Morey's wife Marchia, who was eight months pregnant, became the second person to test out the Boogie Board, according to The Orange County Register.

The first Boogie Board sold for $10, according to the Register, after Morey was approached by a man who spotted him riding waves one day.

From there, Morey and his family moved back to California to produce and sell the boards.

The Boogie name came from Morey's relationship with music and replaced the original name of S.N.A.K.E., short for side, navel, arm, knee, elbow.

Boogie Boards proved to be fun for people of all ages and found uses in places other than the beach.

"The Boogie Board was such a versatile tool – you could use it behind boats in lakes or kick around in a swimming pool. It had a huge impact on recreation, not just surfing. It had a huge market," said Dick Metz, founder of the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center in San Clemente, in an interview with the Register.

In 1977, Morey sold the Boogie Board name and company. Today its owned by the Wham O toy company. Because of the trademark, boards that are similar to Morey's invention are called bodyboards.

The impact of Boogie Boards is still seen today and was celebrated in July when Morey's invention turned 50 years old. As part of the milestone anniversary, Hawaii dubbed Morey the "Father of Boogie Boarding" and made July 9 "Day of the Boogie," according to the Register.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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