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SUNDAY JOINT, 10-17-2021: TOM MOREY, THE LONG GOODBYE

Hey All,

I know nothing about the Baha’i faith, which played such a big part in Tom Morey’s long and well-lived life, but I do not think it would be considered an indulgence or trespass on my part to dedicate another Joint to Tom. If you haven’t already read it, here is the Friday Joint I sent out two days ago. And while this is an indulgence, here’s me talking about Morey on Beachgrit yesterday:

The boogie made him the Johnny Appleseed in terms of spreading wave-riding happiness, so there’s that. But the thing that stands out just as much, for me anyway, is how Tom looked at surfing and saw it as being infinitely flexible and funny and worthy of our time. Lesser minds, especially in the late ’60s and ’70s, loaded the sport down with 15 varieties of philosophical bullshit and we had to drag that around for years. Tom’s view of surfing was bigger and broader than anybody’s, but he never lost touch with the fact that at the bottom of it all we’re just out there riding waves, and riding waves is fun, and that the serious stuff, the more profound stuff, is really just a byproduct of having a good time. You don’t aim at enlightenment by surfing, in other words. You aim for a good ride, a good pun, a long late-night board design bullshit session with other surfers and a half-case of Zinfandel—and if you do that for enough years, enlightenment in one form or another will find you. Tom was smart as hell, creative, a bullshitter who knew he was a bullshitter, with a great sense of humor. Surfing doesn’t have a surplus of those people. We’re no longer producing them as fast as they’re dying off. 

The very first article in the very first issue of Surfer’s Journal is “Bazooka: Tom Morey Fires Into the Past, Forward Into the Future.” The piece is smart and funny and all over the place, and rereading it yesterday I zeroed in on a section titled “A Few Predictions.” This was written in 1991, and Tom was looking two decades ahead. His strike rate is excellent.

“Skimboarders will finally realize they can also surf the crap out of their boards.” Check.

“The kite[board] . . . will become an alternative to the sail[board]. This is easy to mess around with, and should come soon.” Check.

“There will be 100 wave parks in the United States.” Check. More or less.

“Who will begin riding an oversized boogie in the updraft above trucks on the I-5?” Whoops!

“The surfwear business will continue to shake out.” Check.

“People will start to catch on to actually surfing just for the fun of it. Not for reputation or gain; just for fun. And these few precious souls will help revolutionize the thinking of man.” I pulled a muscle eye-rolling this one, but would like nothing more than to be proven wrong.

Morey wasn’t always gazing to the future and he wasn’t above tearing a new asshole where and when it deserved to be torn. Here is his 1991 take on WCT surfing: “Contests have gone from plain laughable to big-money and laughable. I just spent a week in Biarritz watching 50,000 people watch the world’s finest surfers rip and shred two-foot beachbreak, with the French National aerobatic jet squadron tango-buzzing the beach and topless women every 10 feet. It was a circus. And it was boring. Least interesting was watching jerky little all-the-same-style turns and counter-turns that someone somewhere in a booth was actually judging for quality. I’d rather watch milkweed grow.”

Last night Mike Stewart emailed me a copy of Tom Morey’s burial instructions, and what a perfect way, literally and figuratively, to wrap things up. The document is 100% flowertop Morey, deeply soulful and good-humored. I’m still smiling at the detail Morey provides regarding his simple DIY coffin (5/16″ plywood, Gorilla Glue, burlap strips, “a few nails”), and that it should have a “flat bottom” and “zero rocker.”

Come for the zingers but stay for the wisdom. Morey delivered to the end. “A melting iceberg exists as water before it is frozen. Imagine me and I exist for you.”

Thanks for reading, everybody, and see you next week.

Matt

[Morey portrait photo by Art Brewer]