HomeNewsTom Morey, Man Who Invented the Boogie Board, Dies at 86

Tom Morey, Man Who Invented the Boogie Board, Dies at 86

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Surfing pioneer Tom Morey, who notably came up with the Boogie Board, died at 86 last week.

Son, Sol Morey, told The Washington Post that his father died from stroke complications at a Laguna Hills, Calif.-hospital.

The man recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of his creation over the summer.

Days before his father died, Sol Morey asked friends and family to “send good vibes and offer prayers of healing to my folks.”

Surfing World Remembers Morey

The California Surf Museum posted a tribute to Morey after hearing of the man’s death.

The museum remembered Morey as an “ingenious, humorous, brilliant, self-effacing, philosophic thinker” whose lasting legacy was helping “anyone from paraplegics to Pipeline pros to boogie their brains out on a wave.” 

Museum president Jim Kempton called Morey an early surfing pioneer, likening him to the Ben Franklin of the surfing world. Kempton added Morey “was a jack of all trades and the master of so many it is almost dizzying.”

The newspaper said that the talented Morey studied math at Southern Cal and played jazz music into his 80s.

Boogie Board a 1971 Invention

Morey created the first professional surfing contest, the Invitational Nose Riding Championships. 

He was also an innovator for many surfboard designs and add-ons, including the first polypropylene fin.

Morey’s famous Boogie Board was a cut piece of surfboard foam covered in newspaper. He originally called it SNAKE, an acronym for Side, Navel, Arm, Knee, and Elbow. But the Orange County Register said he dropped it for Boogie Board as a reference to his love for jazz music.

Morey told the newspaper he loved feeling the ocean in his first Boogie Board run. He said, “you don’t get to feel the contour of the ocean until you get on a Boogie Board.”

Boogie Board Took Off

Morey marketed the board in Surfer Magazine at $37, which was his age at the time.

Kempton said Morey’s invention helped people worldwide experience “the joy of wave riding.” His device enabled people with paraplegia to bodyboarding pros to ride out the waves.

In 1977, Morey sold his creation and trademark to Wham O, but Morey’s deal didn’t make him millions, according to the Washington Post.

Morey was married to Marchia Nichols Morey for over 50 years. The couple had four sons, Sol, Moon, Sky, and Matteson Morey. According to The Washington Post, one daughter, Melinda Morey from his first marriage, died in 2003.  

Boogie Board Vs. Body Board

The device is about the same. Bodyboards are the generic name for the Boogie Board. According to the Center for Surf Research, Morey’s business came up with the innovation and name.

Notably, Boogie boards are relatively inexpensive compared to surfboards or paddleboards, but they range from under $100 to well over $300. You can pick up one for $20-$30, and some professional ones retail for $500.