Another brave new world is unfolding in the West. The prophet is Tom Morey, and his crowning creation is the Morey Boogie board. The Boogie board, for those whose surf never comes up higher than the foam on their mug of beer, is a sort of proletarian surfboard ranging in length from 35" to 42". At least half a million of these snub-nosed laminated polyethylene boards have been sold in the last eight years to people who find it easier to Boogie than to surf.
The Boogie board is only a short subject in the nonstop invention film that's running in Morey's brain. He has invented a new kind of Mylar toothpick, a circular book, an improved football, a sailboat with an adjustable mast, three-player chess and Ping-Pong games and... much, much more, most of which has never made it out of the theater of his mind.
"Almost everything has not been invented yet," says Morey, which gives him plenty of room. "Some people think of one or two new things in their lifetime. I have the misfortune of being a fabulous inventor."
The Boogie board was just the first manifestation of Morey's belief that "closed-cell plastic is the flesh of a new order of being." Many of his inventions are variations of the material he used to make the Boogie board. "The Boogie board is just a spineless protoplasm, an amoeba," he says. He has fashioned the foam into sailboards, surfboard-shaped life preservers and deck chairs. He has also built a revolutionary ukulele with a styrene-bead core and a fiber-glass outer shell. "I feel sorry for Stradivarius," he says with a laugh. "The poor guy had to work with what he had: wood."
"Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can play weird; that's easy. What's hard is to be simple as Bach. Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity."
Morey, who is 46, lives with his wife, Marchia, and their four children just off the beach at the end of a three-mile road on the Kona Coast of Hawaii's Big Island. His community, Puako, is flanked by a couple of luxury resort hotels and bordered by a field of petroglyphs, ancient carvings of Hawaiians. "I'm living in Hawaii because it's the place of drums and surfing heritage," he says. "It's the spirit of what's going on."
He occasionally plays bebop drums with an electric guitarist who lives nearby and also works with a jazz group called Rip! He performed with a band at one of the big resort hotels until he quit a few months ago. But he found it hard to improvise on tunes like Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree.
The front yard of his beach cottage is among the scruffiest on the block. It's overgrown with white opiuma trees, crown flowers and monkeypod trees. Morey's unfinished projects lie around like abandoned prototypes at a Department of Defense weapons laboratory.
His two oldest sons guide you on a tour. Their names are Sol and Moon. Morey gave his first three sons celestial names: Sol, Moon and Sky. The fourth was named Matteson. "Sky's the limit," Morey says.
Sol, 10, and Moon, 9, start in the living room, where their father keeps his books on Bahaism, science fiction novels and Uncle Scrooge comic books. These are his major influences and sources of inspiration. In Uncle Scrooge he likes the character Gyro Gearloose, a fellow inventor. He mines Gyro for ideas. In fact, half of Morey's inventions look as if they belong in a comic book.