Tom Morey: the inventor of the bodyboard in his moustache days | Photo: Morey Archive

There are people in this world that you cross paths with that bring with them knowledge and enlightenment. The inventor of the boogie board was one of them.

I was lucky enough to spend time with Tom Morey, who enlightened me about so many things from his taste in music to the first surfing contest.

His name and his inventions are known globally, but he does not have an ego which is something I admire. At the time, I was interviewing surfers and decided to go to the source.

The creator of the boogie board was to be found in San Clemente in a coffee shop. His mind is sharp and full of global travels, rhythms, inventions and amazing surf stories.

I had only been surfing a couple of years and had boogie boarded in Puerto Rico, San Clemente and Hawaii, so I was already appreciative.

He is a handsome man who speaks fondly of his wife, Marchia and his family. I was amazed at how much he shared with me over a period of several meetings that would take place at this coffee shop in San Clemente.

He shared stories of when he was a young boy creating inventions to his present-day jazz pursuits. His mind and thoughts are unique, and he is a true innovator in the surfing world. I am in awe.

Finding out the details about how the first bodyboard was created was fascinating; the materials he used like a sculptor to grabbing the name out of his brain waves.

Tom Morey: a prolific jazz drummer who performed with musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker | Photo: Morey Archive

A drummer, who grew up in Laguna listening to the radio learning all the tunes and advanced rhythms by some of the greats like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, he would envision the future of surf contests and how they should be judged.

Tom would go on and design a board to enhance his skills, the time on the wave, and the nose riding technique.

He set up one of the first surf contests. The rules? Simple. Twenty-five of the best world surfers. The entry fee was twenty-five dollars and the prize money-fifteen hundred. Five judges and a lot of excitement. Pure stoke. A simple time with just nose riding on everyone's mind.

Wearing a white suit jacket with a Hawaiian shirt underneath, he looks like a relaxed gentleman. His stories are interesting as they transport you back to a time that is simple and pure. Throughout his life, thoughts and ideas have come to him, and he has shared them with all of us.

"I'm on the beach. I've got a college education; grown up in an artist colony. Have been a surfer and a surfboard maker. Worked in plastics, composite materials. Very familiar with materials. Have become familiar with a particular material and I have it in my garage that could be used and have had it in my garage for months and tried to make something else and failed, so I backed off. Then with an electric carving knife and a hot iron and a copy of the Honolulu Advertiser made the first boogie board," Tom Morey tells me.

"I didn't know what to call it. I called it the Snake Machine for a while. Side navel and army elbow acronym. Tried that name out and it was not a very popular name. I was going to work that into the Morey name. Morey eel because the materials are like an eel. So I went into my closet and I sat. The name Boogie Board revealed itself. It came through. People talk about revelations. I have revelations. We all have revelations."

I would meet Tom at this coffee shop a couple of more times as he allowed me to ask him anything I wanted from religion to politics. He mentioned he needed someone to help him market his jazz band and I jumped right in without hesitation.

I would show up at his gigs to hear his jazz band play and fortunate enough to meet his wife, who is adorable and his friends at one of his birthday celebrations. His longtime friends were kind, respectful and interesting.

Tom Morey: teaching the young generation to play drums | Photo: Jennifer Schmeer

Filming him playing the drums and listening to the jazz harmonies was special to me. He would sign boogie boards for my daughter, and I was always present to hear his thoughts. He is a genius with a strong character, and his words are truthful.

Tom Morey was designing wave pools way before surf stars like Kelly Slater jumped on the bandwagon. I know because I was out there trying to sell Tom's designs with his permission.

I was meeting with my local Mayor of a small, southern city trying to convince him to let Tom Morey design a wave pool for our community that desperately needed the fun.

I would call him to talk business, and even though I never sold any designs, it was thrilling to just speak to Tom and consider him a friend. His character doesn't faultier, and his words and ideas are pure.

I am so grateful for my time with Tom Morey and for all of his inventions and rhythms he has shared with all of us. Tom is a true legend, and his ideas and inventions will live on.


Words by Jennifer Schmeer