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Boogie Board Inventor Tom Morey Dies at 86: 'His Simple Gift…Will Be His Joyous, Lasting, Legacy'

·3-min read
Tom Morey
Tom Morey

Robert Lachman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Tom Morey

Tom Morey, who celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Boogie Board over the summer, has died. He was 86.

Morey died at a hospital in Laguna Hills, California on Thursday, according to The Washington Post. His son Sol Morey told the newspaper that his father had complications from a stroke.

Two days before his father's death, Sol shared a message on social media asking for his friends and family to "send good vibes and offer prayers of healing to my folks."

"My dad Tom Morey is needing prayers shared with your love going forward," he wrote.

In a tribute posted by the California Surf Museum, Morey was remembered 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."

"Our friend Tom Morey passed away Wednesday evening, peacefully at Saddleback Memorial in Orange County. He was 86, surrounded by his family and a few close friends," president Jim Kempton wrote. "One of the early pioneers in the modern surfing era, he could be considered the Ben Franklin of the surfing world. Like Franklin, Morey was a jack of all trades and the master of so many it is almost dizzying."

Tom Morey
Tom Morey

Damian Dovarganes/AP/Shutterstock Tom Morey

In addition to his love of surfing, Morey studied mathematics at the University of Southern California and played jazz music into his 80s, according to The Washington Post.

Even before inventing the Boogie Board in 1971, Morey was a surfing pioneer. He created the first professional surfing contest, the Invitational Nose Riding Championships, as well as a number of surfboard innovations, including the first polypropylene fin, per the California Surf Museum.

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Morey's most famous creation came about in 1971 when he cut a piece of surfboard foam in half and covered it in newspaper, reported The Washington Post.

"The first thing that happens, I feel the ocean," he previously said of the experience of his first ride to The Orange County Register. "You don't get to feel the contour of the ocean until you get on a Boogie Board."

He recalled thinking at the time, "This can really be something; this thing can really be something."

Tom Morey
Tom Morey

Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times via Getty Tom Morey

The creation was originally called SNAKE — which stood for "Side, Navel, Arm, Knee and Elbow" — but Morey eventually decided on the name Boogie Board, a nod to his love of jazz, reported The Orange County Register.

As for his early pricing, the initial ad in Surfer Magazine listed the boards as costing $37, a number he picked because of his age at the time, per the newspaper.

"That single device introduced more people to the joy of waveriding than any other person in the world," Kempton wrote in the California Surfing Museum's tribute to Morey. "His simple gift — a design that allowed anyone from paraplegics to Pipeline pros to boogie their brains out on a wave — will be his joyous, lasting, legacy."

He went on to sell the creation and its trademark to Wham O in 1977, although he did not earn much money from the deal, according to The Washington Post.

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Morey is survived by his wife of over 50 years, Marchia Nichols Morey; their four sons, Sol, Moon, Sky and Matteson Morey; and daughter Melinda Morey, from his first marriage, per The Washington Post.

He was predeceased by a daughter from his first marriage, Michelle Morey, who died in 2003.

Plans for a memorial have not yet been announced.

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