A new film by Dana Point filmmaker Craig Whetter shines some much-deserved light on today’s crop of bodyboarders
By Jake Howard
It’s been a year and change since we bid a deep, heartfelt goodbye to Tom Morey.
Over the course of his endlessly fascinating life, Morey had been a lot of things to a lot of people—jazz man, engineer, writer, board builder, inventor—but he’ll forever be tied to a whim he had on a quiet July day in Hawaii in 1971.
After becoming somewhat disenchanted with the surf scene, Morey landed on the Big Island to shape surfboards and get away from it all. As legend has it, on July 9, he started tinkering with some closed-cell polyethylene packing foam he had lying around. He whittled out a crude craft measuring 4 feet, 6 inches long and 23 inches wide.
“There was no turning back at that point. Plus, I found that I could shape the foam using an iron if I put a sheet of the Honolulu Advertiser down on it first. Later that night, I drew a few curves on the foam with a red marker pen and went to bed,” Morey would later explain.
A few test drives on the west side of the island, and he knew he had something.
“I could actually feel the wave through the board,” he recalled. “On a surfboard, you’re not feeling the nuance of the wave, but with my creation, I could feel everything. I was thinking, ‘It turns, it’s durable, it can be made cheaply, it’s lightweight, it’s sage. God, this could be a really big thing.’ ”
The world would never be the same after Morey’s advent of the bodyboard. The small, user-friendly craft has since allowed millions of people around the world to access the ocean and experience the pure joy of simply riding a wave.
Morey’s legacy lives on in too many ways to list here, but thanks to local Dana Point bodyboarder and filmmaker Craig Whetter, you can now see exactly how far the sport has come since those heady days in Hawaii. Later this month, Whetter will premiere his new film, Breaking Even.
The project has been in the works for more than a year and features a number of today’s top bodyboarders doing their thing at exotic locations around the world, including Chile, Mexico, the Canary Islands and, of course, Dana Point. The 40-minute movie will premiere at the San Clemente Community Center on Dec. 17 at 7 p.m.
“The state of bodyboarding today is hot and growing very rapidly,” Whetter told San Clemente Times. “Every day I get in the water at the local beaches in Dana Point, I see new kids practicing and just simply having fun, and there are a lot of them, which is so awesome to see. The sport is in a great spot right now.”
For those old enough to remember, Bodyboarding magazine, published in the area via Surfing magazine, was wildly popular during the sport’s heyday in the late ’80s and early ’90s, providing exposure for pros, coverage of big-time events and the spotlights on the latest products.
“There isn’t really any financial support in the sport right now, so it goes to show that being a bodyboarder really isn’t about the money; it’s about the love and passion us bodyboarders have for the sport,” Whetter continued. “Hence, the film’s title, Breaking Even. If we are breaking even, we are winning.”
Dana Point and San Clemente both boast a long, exceptional bodyboarding history, with some of the sport’s biggest names blossoming in the area—and that’s not even counting Morey.
“I believe that Creek and T-Street breed some of the most talented bodyboarders in California and continue to do so,” Whetter says. “The younger generation is looking good. I couldn’t be prouder of everyone who is working hard to progress each session.”
For more info and availability of tickets to the premiere, check out Whetter’s Instagram @craigwhetter. There’s a link in his bio for tickets.
Jake Howard is a local surfer and freelance writer who lives in San Clemente. A former editor at Surfer Magazine, The Surfer’s Journal and ESPN, today he writes for a number of publications, including Picket Fence Media, Surfline and the World Surf League. He also works with philanthropic organizations such as the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center and the Positive Vibe Warriors Foundation.