Tom Morey: The Man Behind the Boogie Board
Tom Morey’s history with watersports is a storied one. A California transplant from Detroit, Michigan, Morey spent the majority of his formative years in Laguna Beach, surfing and honing in on his talents as a drummer and ukulele player. In 1957, he earned a degree in mathematics from USC and spent a few years working as an engineer in the corporate world before setting off on his own as an entrepreneur.
The surf and watersports industry wouldn’t be what it is today without Tom Morey’s contributions. He is credited with the invention of the first concave nose pocket (1954), the wing tip (1955), the first interchangeable fin system (1964), the “paper” surfboard (1965), and his most famous creation, the boogie board (1971).
The inspiration for the boogie board came out of necessity. Tom’s wife, Marchia, was eight-months pregnant and they were in need of some extra cash. Tom had recently witnessed someone attempting to ride waves on four pool noodles strapped together and thought that once the idea was refined, it had potential.
Tom had access to materials and a surfboard shaper and quickly got to work. After experimenting with different types of foam and perfecting the shape, he landed on a successful design and the boogie board was born.
“[Tom]really gets into his work and you can see the wheels in his mind working all the angles,” says Tom’s wife, Marchia. “ When he did the first test run after shaping and putting a closed seal on the board he was super excited about the results. I knew he had made something very special.”
Once Tom was satisfied with the design, he turned to his faith to help him select a name. The Bahá’í Faith teaches its followers not to dwell on unpleasant things, so Tom sat quietly, waiting for inspiration to strike. Eventually it did, and he landed on the name “Boogie,” an ode to the popular dance music of the 1940’s.
“The tools were available to anyone,” Tom notes. “I just happened to be the guy that had a little more ambition and engineering experience.”
Due to its versatility, accessibility, and affordable price point, the Boogie exploded. Fast forward forty-nine years and today, you’ll find boogie boards in most any lineup.
In 2020, San Clemente local John Clark and family wanted to find a way to make boogie boarding even more accessible to the masses and set off to invent a board that would allow people to share the experience with family and friends. Their inspiration led them to the idea for the Tandem Boogie and they consulted longtime friend Tom Morey for his advice.
“He said to stick with the shelving business,” Clark recalls. “He said, ‘The industry has changed and everyone is looking for a low cost board from Costco. There is no way to compete.’”
Luckily, the Clarks decided to go for it anyways.
Tom introduced the Clarks to a boogie board shaper he’d worked with over the years and offered valuable feedback on choosing the right board features to ensure a quality product with a unique design. When they presented their inflatable board with a built-in camera mount, he loved the idea and suggested they protect their board design by hiring a patent attorney. The Tandem Boogie Dynamic AIR board design is currently patent pending.
These days, at age eighty-five, Tom has left much of the fame and glory of his inventions behind him. He spends his time investing in his faith, his family, and contemplating the world. His wife Marchia, still gets in the water from time to time, and enjoys seeing the progression from Tom’s original design to the Tandem Boogie.
“I had a great time riding the Tandem Boogie with John Clark,” Marchia says. “We were dancing on and bouncing up and down on the waves. We laughed so much.”
Although the future of the sport is anyone’s guess, Tom continues to have ideas up his sleeve. Keep your eyes peeled for a limited edition of Tom Morey signed Tandem Boogie AIR’s dropping this spring.