Fifty Years of Boogie

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Surfpolitik

The Boogie Board, invented on this day fifty years ago, was designed to democratise surfing, which it did by removing the long learning curve that was stand up surfing’s barrier to access. Because of this it was hugely popular. However, in the right hands, the Boogie Board became, not just a simple plaything, but a specialised craft for accessing parts of the wave surfboards couldn’t go, and later, for pioneering waves considered too extreme for foam and fibreglass.

You could mount an argument that, of all Tom Morey’s noted inventions, the boogie board was his least adventurous. Here was the guy who devised Slipcheck, an aerosol wax alternative, the Trisect, a three-piece surfboard complete with suitcase, and W.A.V.E Set, the first commercially successful removable fin system. Morey also had a hand in producing the first commercial asymmetrical board, the Blue Machine by Bob Cooper, and the paper surfboard, which, as you might expect, had slightly less commercial success.

Bodyboards, however, have a long history, with wooden versions having been surfed in Hawaii since surfing’s late 19th century revival, and a wooden bodyboard even appeared in the Wedge session of The Endless Summer. That Morey’s invention - similar shape yet made of different material - would have such a profound effect on surfing seems unlikely, and yet that’s just what happened.

The story goes that, in 1969, Morey saw a kid catching waves at Doheny Park on a crude polyethylene slab. Two years later, and by then living on the Big Island of Hawaii, Morey acted on what he’d earlier seen and on the 9th July 1971 he cut a nine-foot piece of closed-cell polyethylene packing foam in two. The board was 23’ wide, 4’6” long with leading edges curved and a square tail. It weighed approximately 1.5 kilograms.

Years later, Morey spoke to Surfer Today about this act of inspiration: “I found that I could shape the foam using an iron if I put a sheet of the Honolulu Advertiser down on it first.” The black and white newsprint is still evident on Boogie #1. “Later that night, I drew a few curves on the foam with a red marker pen and went to bed.”

The next day Morey took it down to Honels, on the Big Island’s west side, and though the surf was choppy and small the sensation of riding the as-yet unnamed board was immediately compelling. "I could actually feel the wave through the board,” said Morey. “On a surfboard, you're not feeling the nuance of the wave, but with my creation, I could feel everything."

His invention now a reality, Morey’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked in. “I was thinking, 'It turns, it's durable, it can be made cheaply, it's lightweight, it's sage,” mused Morey to himself, adding presciently. “God, this could be a really big thing."

Morey refined the design, reducing the length to 3’9” but increasing the width to 25’ - dimensions that remain broadly similar fifty years later. He also changed the name from his first choice of S.N.A.K.E - an acronym for Side, Navel, Arm, Knee, Elbow - to the simpler and more culturally right-on, Morey Boogie. By late ‘71, Morey had a deal with Larry Smith from G&S to sell Boogie Boards for $37 - chosen as Morey was then 37-years old.

The first boards were made by Morey himself, but when he began having allergic reactions to the glue he began selling mail order packages for $25. Cheaper as the buyer had to assemble the parts. 

By 1977, the Morey Boogie board was enormously popular, selling 125,000 units in that year alone, which was also the year Morey cashed out, selling his invention to the Kransco toy company. Two things then happened that Morey couldn’t have foreseen: sales of Boogie boards, and Boogie imitators, sold by the millions, and also, Boogie boards found a natural home in waves of consequence.

Around the time Morey was cashing out, Jack ‘The Ripper’ Lindholm was making his first sorties into the Pipeline lineup after graduating from Town to Sandy Beach and onwards to the North Shore. The Boogie Boards’ lack of drive through flatter sections presented no problems in the power of North Shore waves, and the ability to make sudden changes to line was a distinct advantage in the warping face of Pipeline.

In early ads, Morey filled the copy with allusions to endless creativity, and Lindholm obliged, first by venturing into waves where a soft toy had no place, then by riding the board in ways even Morey couldn’t envisage. Though it’s often called drop knee, older bodyboarders will still refer to the ‘one leg up, the other down’ stance as Jack Stance, a homage to Lindholm who pioneered it.

In years to come, bodyboarders such as Danny Kim, Chris Won, and Cavin Yap would give further credence to the Boogie Board’s capacity for creativity by standing up on them. Standing upright on a finless board seemed incredulous, and it remained on surfing’s extreme fringes until twenty years later when Derek Hynd did the same thing to slightly more acclaim.

Riding Jack Stance at large Pipeline, Lindholm was the first bodyboarder to give serious credibility to Morey’s frivolous invention. He was also the first bodyboarder to challenge the surfing hierarchy.

“At first glance, the Boogie looked like a toy for first-time beachgoers,” wrote Matt Warshaw in the History of Surfing, “But within two or three years of the Boogie’s debut, a handful of prodigiously skilled bodyboarders emerged, and they were out there mixing it up with the regular surfers—who generally viewed this new phenomenon not as a form of democratisation but as a huge annoyance.

The growth of bodyboarding surged through the 1980s, both in America and Australia, with surfers and the surf industry not exactly sure how to deal with the demands of the bodyboarders who took their surfing every bit as serious as stand up surfers did. Without endemic magazines or industry, bodyboarders began to appear in traditional surf magazines and the bigger companies would sponsor a token bodyboarder to attract the custom of the emerging market.

However, none of this was done without resistance. When Surfer magazine ran an article titled ‘Is Mike Stewart the Best Surfer in the World?’, the letters page of the next issue ran hot. Amongst many earnest and angry replies was this short but typical rebuff: "To answer your question. No, Mike Stewart is not the best surfer in the world. He's a boogie fag."

More than any other bodyboarder, Mike Stewart was a pioneering surveyor of deep tubes. With a low centre of gravity, he could ride deeper with less chance of getting bucked off, and owing to his low vision, Stewart was allowed intimate observations of the innermost limits.

“One thing I learned is to ride just inside the lip,” Stewart said to journalist Bruce Jenkins in 1988. “At Pipeline it hits so hard, it creates a trough and sends shock waves up the face, trying to push you out of there. That knocks off just about any surfer trying to ride anywhere near there. Plus, when you’re standing, you have to look straight down and you have only your peripheral vision; it’s not your focal point. But there’s a little zone, and if you’re deep enough on a bodyboard, you can get up on that thing and it can squirt you forward.” In time, ‘teasing the shocky’ became bodyboarding shorthand for ultra-deep tube riding.

In Australia, peak enmity towards bodyboarders was reached in 1990 when Tracks ran an article titled ‘Will the Next Generation of Australian Surfers Please Stand Up’, which blamed bodyboarding for Australia’s flagging fortunes in stand up surfing. The article ran with a sidebar listing the many derogatory names surfers called bodyboarders. These days you could replace bodyboarders for SUPs, foils, and softboard beginners.

The animus did little to kerb bodyboarding’s popularity, which in Australia peaked in the early-90s. Much like Hawaii, Australian bodyboarding found a natural home in waves of consequence, with Shark Island becoming the down home version of Pipe. Beginning with pioneers like Chaz McCall and Steve Doney, then through to the next generation of Doug Robson, Warren Feinbeer, Matt Percy, and Dave Ballard, Cronulla became the epicentre of Australian bodyboarding with smaller outposts scattered around the country.

The uneven uptake of bodyboarding ran contrary to Morey’s vision of democratising the surf. Sure, anyone could ride a Boogie Board in small beachbreaks, but that tires quickly. If you wished to pursue the sensation then certain waves had to be sought out - think, short, bowly and shallow. If a town had at least one wave like this then chances were a small but dedicated band of BBers also existed there and they devoted themselves to that wave, surfing it with brash commitment whenever it broke.

This natural gravitation towards heavy waves preceded a more voluntary pursuit towards waves of an ever more dangerous disposition. Stand up wisdom says the hunt for slabs started around the turn of the century with the Bra Boys discovery of Cape Solander. The footnote to that discovery, however, is that Solander was already being ridden by a bunch of Cronulla bodyboarders.

Throughout The Endless Summer there’s a running joke about surfers missing the best conditions. “You guys really missed it,” says Bruce Brown in his Californian drawl, “you shoulda been here yesterday.” The very same joke underscores many of the stand up ‘discoveries’ of the nineties and noughties - the surfers missed it, the bodyboarders were there yesterday.

Teahupoo? Raimana van Bastolaer first surfed it on a BB. The Right? BBers Chad Jackson, Brad Hughes, Sean Virtue claimed that scalp. Likewise lidders at Lunas, Cyclops, and Konys. The same is true for almost every slab discovery made after 2000 with bodyboarders staking the claim.

“When I was growing up,” says photographer and sometime bodyboarder Ray Collins, “there was a bodyboarding movie by Tom Boyle called ‘The Ultimate Waveriding Vehicle for Waves That Don’t Want to be Ridden.’”

“That title always stuck with me,” says Collins. “For me, it’s the most perfect description of the craft.” Though it was made before the slab chase began, the movie’s title sums up the test pilot mentality of the modern slab-chasing bodyboarder. 

Not averse to chasing slabs himself - he broke four ribs doing just that in February - Collins now divides his water time across a selection of craft. “When it’s down the line, then I’ll ride a hard-railed surfboard,” explains Collins, “but when it’s thick and it’s heavy and it’s breaking right onto cunji or coral, then I’ll get my bodyboard. It’s still the ultimate vehicle for those waves.”

Comments

belly's picture
belly's picture
belly Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 7:38am

Thanks Stu - great read!!

I was a body boarder in Vic. Had some great times on the lid. But when I turned 30 I found myself being pulled back to the stick.
So true about having a focal wave. I made the lid work on all sorts of Vic waves, from my hometown in SW Vic to one or two waves both east and west of Melbourne where I worked, but the real ongoing enjoyment came from visiting my folks in Port Stephens who still live in walking distance to the well known local lidder wave.
As an occasional visitor it took me a while to be accepted into the line up, got there in the end though. It was kind of weird TBH because in Vic I was used to being the sole lidder and I guess I refined a softly softly approach to line up acceptance and never had any real issues.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 7:43am

Special mention:

“…..and the paper surfboard, which, as you might expect, had slightly less commercial success”

Ultra droll. Love it.

Jasper Ashmoore's picture
Jasper Ashmoore's picture
Jasper Ashmoore Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 7:51am

An invention that changed my life and thousands of others too. I’ve met incredible people, made friends seen cool places and ridden through countless barrels. Thanks Tom

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 7:52am

Big shout out to Tom Morey for designing the board upon which I rode the most memorable wave of my life….the first one.

Thanks for all the fish.

billie's picture
billie's picture
billie Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 8:01am

I'm a bodyboarder. Rode a stick exclusively for 15 years, then snapped two boards in an hour at a local reef, so, grabbed my kids booger that I found on the side of the road and hit the waves again. Been back on the booger for 3 years now (I think) and I feel it is bringing out a childlike joy in me I had forgotten. I still ride a stick, but I'm so short of time these days that I don't want to deal with a crowded lineup. I can paddle into a bunch of closeouts and practice spinners under the lip, or ride a shocky and come home refreshed; a better husband, father and boss.

I think that average surfers think that standing up on a board is THE measure of skill, but gee, scooping under the lip on an 8 foot keg after a really deep, late drop is pretty damn challenging. Not as easy as it looks.

Robo's picture
Robo's picture
Robo Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 8:13am

I have a side on photo of Mike Stewart in a 10ft G-Land barrel on my office wall, i took it when i was leaving on the boat lol, probably best surf photo i have ever taken.

gingeryeti's picture
gingeryeti's picture
gingeryeti Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 8:51am

Show us the pic! I love all of those things. Mike Stewarts, 10 foots, barrels and G-lands.

Bnkref's picture
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Bnkref Saturday, 10 Jul 2021 at 8:03am

Yes, please post that pic!

I’m guessing it was down at Speedies?

conrico's picture
conrico's picture
conrico Saturday, 10 Jul 2021 at 10:22am

Can’t just explain mike Stewart at 10ft gland to us and not show the photo!

Robo's picture
Robo's picture
Robo Saturday, 10 Jul 2021 at 10:25am

not sure how to, also it's a faded print on backing board, may have the neg still.

gingeryeti's picture
gingeryeti's picture
gingeryeti Saturday, 10 Jul 2021 at 10:49am

Just take a photo of the photo with your phone

Robo's picture
Robo's picture
Robo Saturday, 10 Jul 2021 at 10:50am

Yep I did posted below.

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 8:22am

Great article. Bodyboarding is far more extreme and demanding on the body than anything you can do on a surfboard. Those at the forefront charge harder than anyone they're mental. I don't think surfing will ever come close to matching what they can do at places like Fronton etc.
I feel like my boog mates are dragging me back to it more and more in the last few years purely with the amount of barrels they come out of. It's way harder than they make it look too!
Mike Stewart would have to be one of best, if not the best, reader of waves ever. His 2nd reef Pipe waves are incredible to watch. Also the best film Tim ever made was a bodyboarding film RAW.

Jono's picture
Jono's picture
Jono Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 8:51am

Stacey did a boog redux, think it might be fibreglass, but sprayed like a Morey

shoredump's picture
shoredump's picture
shoredump Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 9:11am

Great read, thanks Stu. I still ride my lid on a handful of days a year at one particular remote mini slab near me. So much fun and this wave is just better on your gut

Trentslatterphoto's picture
Trentslatterphoto's picture
Trentslatterphoto Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 10:34am

i love bodyboarding
its fun

jasper99's picture
jasper99's picture
jasper99 Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 11:14am

It's funny to see the almost acceptance of the sport these days. When i first started (late 80's)I feared for my safety from angry surfers but fortunately we had a wave close by that was pretty much our own and it remains that way predominately today.

It's popularity through the early 90's was mental but has been losing participants for a long time now with like you say in the article "SUPs,foils and softboard beginners" taking up the slack. The shit I used to put up with for riding one was pretty full on at times but now those who hated bodyboarding have a whole plethora of new wacky watersports to hang shit on so it's great to see that tradition will live on.....

peabo's picture
peabo's picture
peabo Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 11:50am

Still plenty of stand ups with an irrational hatred of bodyboarding out there. Koby Abberton being one of the most prominent. Absolute cunt.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 12:03pm

Go look at Drag's (@dragboardco) latest story on IG for a laugh.

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 12:05pm

Yes that chap has a track record of general not a nice blokeisms.

jasper99's picture
jasper99's picture
jasper99 Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 6:50pm

Yeah I've heard plenty about him amongst others. Always going to be a few like that. I ride a surfboard 95% of the time now but still grab the lid when it's needed. Good to have the option..........

walkar's picture
walkar's picture
walkar Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 1:27pm

Discovering Bodyboarding changed my life completely for the better, in many ways, back in early high school. 25 years on and I haven't looked back for a second.
Good selection of semi-secret slabs around my locale keep me stoked.
Most surfers are ok nowadays with bodyboarders if you can hold your own a bit and maintain a presence in the line up. Particularly at the slabs.
Most older boogers tend to go pretty hard, surf more selectively, the ones that've been around for years.
Significantly less grommets bodyboarding nowadays though.

Silly Billy's picture
Silly Billy's picture
Silly Billy Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 4:34pm

Interesting history lesson, thank you. Former stand up now body-boarding after shoulder dislocation and reduced rotator-cuff movement. 55 y.o. and still loving it. To add - no one owns the waves, practice surf etiquette and have fun.

mike.logan's picture
mike.logan's picture
mike.logan Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 5:09pm

Before BB were Coolites. I had one around 1963 in Qld - Ampol Servos sold them. I was 11 and we use to stand up on them - no fins. Stayed on it too long one ride and snapped it. Then onto the long boards - a Hayden and down to 7' boards. To 8' boards and SUP. I have had a specially made 5'2" fiberglass belly/body board for about 7-8 years now. It's name is ALWAYS OVERHEAD". So I have done the full circle. Now 1.86m and 105 kg.

Over60yrs's picture
Over60yrs's picture
Over60yrs Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 6:39pm

First one I bought was from David Jones in the city for the wife - I ended up getting back into surfing on it. Now surf all the time on one at age 65 years. Just love being in the ocean, waves and keeping fit.

Bob Sacamano's picture
Bob Sacamano's picture
Bob Sacamano Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 9:01pm

Grew up south coast NSW and that place was made for a boogie board. Cut my teeth deep in tubes on the ledges down there. When I moved to Qld the fun and mellow waves just couldn’t warrant a boog so I been surfing a stick ever since. Haven’t been barreled deep like the boog for a long time though.

It’s nice to hear people’s relationships with the boog and the water here, the foil and SUP have definitely changed the pecking order in the lineup. Heck, even the humble goat boat has moved up a wrung or two.

Mike Stewart is a great human and charger of the ocean.

JackStance's picture
JackStance's picture
JackStance Friday, 9 Jul 2021 at 10:48pm

noice.

2 mentions:

The time Gerry Lopez claimed Jack ‘The Ripper’ Lindholm to surf Pipe the best,

and,

Paul Roach's colossal, and severely under acknowledged, contribution to modern stand up surfing.

batman's picture
batman's picture
batman Saturday, 10 Jul 2021 at 9:53am

Thanks to Tom Morey's invention I've enjoyed 4 decades of this incredible sport, both as a participant (even fortunate enough to be sponsored by Morey Boogie under Kransco in the late 80's) and a judge to international level. I've formed many lasting friendships via the sport, witnessed some incredible bodyboarding in insane waves, have boog'd some amazing waves myself and have relished that feeling of close connection with the ocean (and, of course, getting barrelled more than the majority of surfers in the line-up). But you are right Stu, we were very annoying to a lot of stand-ups. I'm going to take credit for some of that annoyance, having started up one of the early bodyboarding clubs at Merewether in 1986. We certainly weren't looked on very favourably by then Merewether Surfboard Club President Martin McMillan and most of the other members at the time. But we held our ground, like bodyboarders everywhere, and have now earnt our place in the global line-up. Happy 50th fellow boogers!

Robo's picture
Robo's picture
Robo Saturday, 10 Jul 2021 at 10:33am

For those that asked, maybe not 10ft lol. Good size though.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Saturday, 10 Jul 2021 at 11:34am

Classic.. good memories!

Gotta say.. this immediately made me think this little exchange is an excellent example of surfer's memories, as Stu wrote about in 2019. 

https://www.swellnet.com/news/swellnet-dispatch/2019/01/11/eternal-sunsh...

I can imagine how your story may have been retold many times over the last 25 years, but it was only once you pulled out the photo and scanned it that you realised it was much smaller than you recollected.

Done it myself on many occasions too!

Robo's picture
Robo's picture
Robo Saturday, 10 Jul 2021 at 11:46am

Haha, here is another one I found, from the headland at Racetracks Ulu. Easy 10ft ;)
Back in the dirt road motorbike in and bamboo ladder days, I use to pay to get my board down too lol.

keeif's picture
keeif's picture
keeif Monday, 12 Jul 2021 at 12:15pm

Yeh my first trip to Ulu's there was one warrung on the beach and yes the rickety old ladder to get down. I also by chance was there the 2 weeks after both bombings in Kuta and almost had the island to myself. Surf pumped the whole time with no one to be seen except myself

Robo's picture
Robo's picture
Robo Saturday, 10 Jul 2021 at 10:55am

For this that missed the post above, G-Land around 93/94 I think.

bbbird's picture
bbbird's picture
bbbird Saturday, 10 Jul 2021 at 11:54am

Before bb were in OZ, we started surfin & sliding on a blowup surfmat.
You could roll it up and put it in ya backpack.
Difficult to maintain position & control lying on your belly.
The boogie was an improvement in control with a harder rail edge.
Here is a skilled mat rider "rafting" in '67
https://eos.surf/video/entry/george-greenough-rafting/

Robo's picture
Robo's picture
Robo Saturday, 10 Jul 2021 at 12:32pm

Awesome, some great old footage there.

wax-on-danielson's picture
wax-on-danielson's picture
wax-on-danielson Saturday, 10 Jul 2021 at 12:39pm

I remember reading an interview with Camel on this site as to how he was able to surf tombstones getting some of the craziest, deepest, psycho pits a stand has ever got anywhere. Low and behold his response was that he wired the spot on a lid first.
The main negative with bodyboarding is the reason the surf is so crowded these days is that most of the guys out probably got into surfing as kids riding bodyboards in the 90s.

keeif's picture
keeif's picture
keeif Monday, 12 Jul 2021 at 12:12pm

I love riding the boog. Funny the only surfers who still seem to hate the sport are the ones that seem to struggle standing up themselves. I've had 35 years of riding the boog with my brother and I probably 2 of the first boogers on the Mornington Peninsula and we're still going strong...Just a little fatter and a touch slower when paddling but we still get barrelled as good as anyone

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Tuesday, 13 Jul 2021 at 11:21am

On the eve of the lid's fiftieth, Maui councillors passed an amendment to ban 'single use' bodyboards - cheaply made polystyrene bodyboards.

Maui County looking at banning certain bodyboards

spenda's picture
spenda's picture
spenda Tuesday, 13 Jul 2021 at 1:57pm

Great to see the positive comments. I've ridden shortboards for decades, but recent injuries (heed Stu's warnings on Mountain biking) got me into bodyboarding while things healed. I thought it would be as boring as bat shit, it sure looks that way watching someone else do it, but it is a blast. You feel the wave way more, and you can get really fun cover ups on waves that board riders wouldn't look at. A great way escape the crowds by pulling into close outs or riding the inside shoreys. Never come in feeling pissed off.

sangsta's picture
sangsta's picture
sangsta Wednesday, 14 Jul 2021 at 9:18pm

Bought my first BB, original Morey Boogie 135 multi coloured beast, in 1978 from Sea N Sea on a family Hawaii trip. When I got it back to Oz, most times I was the only booger in the line up for a long while and yep, there was a lot of "WTF is that and why are you in our lineup?" going on. Migrating from a surf mat to a BB was an awakening. Even with a non slick bottom, the 135 had so much more speed. (still got a good rash up most days). Fast forward 40+ years and when I am on tour surfing with mates, I am still the only boogie in the line up most times and my stand up cohorts are still cursing me:-) And I wouldn't have it any other way!

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Friday, 15 Oct 2021 at 3:41pm

Sad news - Tom Morey has passed away, following an operation to remove a brain clot. RIP.

Baron von Spatula's picture
Baron von Spatula's picture
Baron von Spatula Friday, 15 Oct 2021 at 4:00pm

'The best surfer I ever knew, no one would ever have heard of him today.
Nor do I remember his name.' - Tom Morey

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Friday, 15 Oct 2021 at 4:19pm

Rest in Peace Tom, the OG boog lord.