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Paddle-out tribute pays homage to Boogie Board inventor Tom Morey

They sat in a circle and slapped the saltwater toward the sky, cheering and giving thanks to the man who helped share the thrill of the ride.

A paddle-out memorial in San Clemente on Saturday, Nov. 6, paid homage to Tom Morey, who 50 years ago invented the Boogie Board, a lightweight foam board easy to maneuver on waves big and small. Tributes were held around the globe, on coasts and at rivers and lakes, an indication of the reach of his invention’s influence.



At San Clemente’s T-Street beach, bodyboarders and surfers came together under overcast skies, some old friends reminiscing about decades ago, others new friends brought together by Morey and his Boogie Board. Morey died last month.

“He brought so many people together,” said son Sol Morey, who came from Hawaii for the tribute. “The ocean here behind us is something that connects all of us. I’m blessed to see you’re all here in celebration of that very one thing, the love for the ocean.”

Morey, born in Detroit but who grew up in Laguna Beach, lived in Southern California, from Ventura to San Diego, and in Hawaii. He lived for many years in San Clemente and then moved recently to Laguna Woods, at each chapter of his life having a huge impact on people near and far.

Stories flowed about the creative craftsman who was “always dreaming of something,” as described by Bill Dennis, who met Morey in the ’50s when they both attended USC.

“He was never focused on ‘normal,’ and I mean that in a positive way,” Dennis said.

When the Boogie Board became a world-wide phenomenon “most of us weren’t all that surprised,” Dennis said.

Morey created several surf inventions in his younger years and was also credited for hosting the first paid surf contest, the Tom Morey Invitational in Malibu in 1966.

But it was in 1971, while living in Hawaii, that he cut a big piece of surfboard foam in half, wanting to ride a bombing surf break when the wind was too strong to stand up on a board. A tribute in the shape of a Boogie Board with the image of a young Morey was erected on Saturday near Honl’s Beach in Hawaii, where Morey lived at that time.

Tony Prince, a well-known bodyboarding photographer, remembers telling Morey during a 50th anniversary celebration just months before his death on Oct. 14 about the influence he had since the moment he dreamt up the Boogie Board.

“You took a piece of trash out of a dumpster and changed the lives of millions of people,” Prince said he told Morey. Prince is a former pro whose life has revolved around the bodyboard, what the Boogie Board is generically known as today.

“Tom’s dream was just ‘have fun,’” Prince said. “Just have fun all the time.”

Gary Williams, son of surf icon Les Williams, brought an old prototype his dad bought on the sand at San Onofre State Beach, one of the first Boogie Boards made when Morey returned to the mainland from Hawaii to start production.

“This has seen a lot of waves over the years,” Williams said.

Bob Mignogna remembered when Morey approached him to put his first ad in Surfing Magazine. Mignogna gave him credit for the quarter page, telling Morey he could delay payment for a few  months.

“Otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to advertise to start selling the bodyboard,” Mignogna said, noting he was a skeptic when he first saw it, but later on, along with Peter “PT” Townend, started Bodyboarding Magazine.

“It opened up wave riding to tens of millions of people all around the world, who probably wouldn’t have been wave riders if Tom hadn’t invented it,” he said.

As the memorial got underway, hundreds gathered to watch the traditional Hawaiian blessing and a few of Morey’s favorite songs were played on the ukulele, including one he wrote, “The Boogie Song.”

Son Moon Morey and his wife, Caroline, along with Morey’s wife Marchia, the second person to ever ride a Boogie Board while she was 8 months pregnant with son Sol, sang along with others in the crowd.

Marchia Morey spoke about the many things her husband, who was 86 when he died, was passionate about:  their strong spirituality, his curiosity about outer space and the importance of equality among people of different ethnicities and between men and women.

“We get to spend a very short time here,” she said. “Most of us, it takes us a long time to learn the basics – the basics of loving one another, that we are a world family.”

Despite strong swell that slammed the shore, about 100 bodyboarders and surfers headed out in the water for the paddle-out, where they gave thanks to the ocean and Morey for the thrill of the ride.


Marchia Morey paddled out to the sea for the tribute. On her way back in, she was weaving along the whitewash with a smile across her face – just as she did that first ride she took 50 years ago after her husband thought up the lightweight invention that would change the world.

“Tom Morey, from a young man to his later years, was always looking for a fix on how to enjoy life,” Sol Morey said. “He certainly did it with the Boogie … he knew there was something there. The masses of people gravitated toward it. It was all about fun. It’s all about you and the ocean.”

Source: Orange County Register

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