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Remembering Tom Morey, the eccentric surf icon and inventor of the Boogie Board

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Chances are good, if you've been to the beach in the last five decades or so, this might ring a bell.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BOOGIE SONG")

TOM MOREY: (Singing) There is something really rolling around the USA. The Morey Boogie Bodyboard is here to stay. Get your body on the Boogie...

SHAPIRO: The Morey Boogie Bodyboard - usually just called a Boogie Board or a bodyboard. You know, it's that foam board around 3 feet tall, used to ride the waves.

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

That board was invented by Tom Morey, a pro surfer who was also an aircraft engineer, mathematician, musician, father and husband. He died last week at the age of 86.

SHAPIRO: Morey made the first Boogie Board while living in Hawaii in 1971 from a piece of foam that he cut using scissors and shaped with an iron. This was by no means his only invention, but it was his most popular.

PATTI SERRANO: I don't think he really comprehended how big it was, but the people that got on the boards - like myself - it changed their lives.

MCCAMMON: That's Patti Serrano, Morey's longtime friend and business associate. She says she can still remember her first ride back in 1975.

SERRANO: And I can remember my eyes were, like, had almost closed - I was laughing so hard. (Laughter) I was having so much fun. I got out of the water. I went up to Tom's house. It was, you know, half a block away, up on the corner. I walked in wet with the Boogie Board, and I said, I'm in.

MCCAMMON: From then on, Serrano and Morey worked together as the Boogie Board rode a tidal wave of global success.

SHAPIRO: Serrano attributes its popularity to that same feeling she had on her first ride. Unlike surfing, the Boogie Board made riding the waves easy and fun for anyone.

SERRANO: All he wanted was for people to enjoy the ocean. So when you asked me - why do people today look back on him? - it's because, like me. He got me out on the ocean. He got dads out on the oceans, aunts out in the oceans, grandmas out in the oceans. This is what he did.

MCCAMMON: Morey was beloved in the community, known for his eccentricities and positive spirit.

SHAPIRO: Even in his final years, he often attended bodyboarding competitions and was on the beach.

(SOUNDBITE OF UKULELE PLAYING)

SERRANO: And then he always had his ukulele with him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MOREY: Now I'd like to play a little song.

SERRANO: Break out into "The Boogie Song" or something.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MOREY: Well, it's going to go.

SERRANO: If you end with that, that'd be perfect because that's pretty much who he was, yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BOOGIE SONG")

MOREY: (Singing) Buy your boy a Boogie and send him to the sea. Initiate the lad into the moving wall fraternity. Buy your gal a Boogie and send her on her wave.

MCCAMMON: Tom Morey, professional surfer, inventor and the father of the Boogie Board.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BOOGIE SONG")

MOREY: (Singing) To Yokohama Bay. Because when you're high in the crook of a hot little hook, salt spray singeing your nose, you know you ought to be home. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.