Eight Bells: Hobart “Hobie” Alter

Hobart “Hobie” Alter, the creator of both the Hobie catamaran line and an entire sailing subculture, passed away peacefully at his Palm Desert home on March 29.
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on
 Alter (inset); the Hobie 16

Alter (inset); the Hobie 16

Hobart “Hobie” Alter, the creator of both the Hobie catamaran line and an entire sailing subculture, passed away peacefully at his Palm Desert, CA, home on March 29.

 Alter in his early surfboard days

Alter in his early surfboard days

Born in 1933 in California, Alter came to know and love the Southern California beach culture in its early days, thanks to the time he spent at his family’s Laguna Beach summer home. It was here in the family’s garage in 1950 that he began his somewhat accidental career by combining his two loves, wood shop and water, and crafting handmade 9-foot balsawood surfboards for his friends.

As time went by, the business flourished—and his father grew increasingly tired of all the sawdust—so in 1954 Alter opened the area’s first surf shop in Dana Point.

As demand grew and balsawood became scarce, he and his friend Gordon “Grubby” Clark then pioneered the development of the foam surfboard, which proved lighter and more responsive than anything that had come before it. After that, Hobie quickly became the leading surfboard brand in the world, and in the years that followed, the list of legendary surfers that worked or rode for Hobie comprised a virtual hall of fame. Throughout this time Alter also remained active as a top surfing competitor.

 The Hobie Mirage Adventure under sail

The Hobie Mirage Adventure under sail

In the late 1960’s, Alter turned his attention to another of his water-based passions—sailing—and after much on-the-water R&D unveiled his namesake “Hobie Cat” catamaran—a fun, lightweight and affordable craft that is credited with bringing high-performance sailing to the masses.

 The MirageDrive

The MirageDrive

The “cat that can fly” could be launched off any beach and soon became one of the world’s top-selling sailboats. After that came the Hobie 16, a boat that remains in production and is actively raced to this day. An impressive 901 Hobie 16 sailors from two-dozen different countries took part in the recent Hobie 16 World Championships in Jervis Bay, Australia.

Other cutting-edge innovations bearing the Hobie Alter stamp include the “Hobie Hawk,” a high-performance remote-controlled glider (another of Alter’s many lifetime passions); the hugely successful Hobie Super Surfer skateboard; the lightning fast Hobie 33 monohull; and the revolutionary pedal-operated MirageDrive which is at the heart of Hobie’s Mirage line of inflatable and rotomolded expedition kayaks, many of which include sailing rigs.

Hobie Cat has also remained at the forefront of beach cat development, with boats ranging from the family-oriented, rotomolded Bravo and Wave to the super-fast Wild Cat which competes in the ultra-competitive Formula 18 class.

As a young man, Hobie declared that he wanted to make a living without ever having to wear hard-soled shoes or work east of California’s Pacific Coast Highway. By “making people a toy and giving them a game to play with it,” he was able to realize this dream, and in the process introduced an active outdoor lifestyle and collection of products that made the world just a bit more fun.

Alter is survived by his wife, Susan; his sisters, Carolyn and Lillian; his daughter, Paula, and her partner, Ian; his son Hobie Jr. and his wife, Stephanie; his son Jeff and his wife, Laurie; grandchildren Cortnie and her husband, Dylan, Brittany, Scotty, Cody, Ashlyn, Tyler, Noelle and Justin; great-granddaughter, Serena, and many close friends that were always made to feel like they were immediate family.

 A Hobie Wild Cat making knots

A Hobie Wild Cat making knots

Hobie received the Waterman Achievement award from the Surfing Industry Manufacturers Association in 1993, was inducted into the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame in 1997 and admitted as an inaugural member of the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2011 alongside Dennis Connor and Ted Turner.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you consider a donation to either:

Sport of Kings Foundation – in Memory of Hobie Alter

PO Box 2499 Capistrano Beach, CA 92624

sportofkingsfoundation.org

Surfing Heritage Culture Center – Hobie Alter Scholarship Fund

www.surfingheritage.org

Orcas Island Community Foundation – Deer Harbor Volunteer Fire Department– in Memory of Hobie Alter

www.oicf.us

All images courtesy of Hobie

Related

101218BTSC-9887

Just Launched: Little Big Boat

Peter Nielsen looks at Beneteau’s latest entry-level boat and a new cruiser from Tartan Group Beneteau’s commitment to entry-level boats has been reaffirmed over the last year with the assimilation of the sporty Seascape line of pocket cruisers and the ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No chafe, safe stay  If you’re leaving the boat unattended for a longish period, there’s a lot to be said for cow-hitching the shorelines, as this sailor did. They’ll never let go, and so long as the ...read more

belize600x

Charter Special: Belize

It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia ...read more

DSC00247

DIY: a Top-to-Bottom Refit

I found my sailing “dream boat” in the spring of 1979 while racing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Everyone had heard about the hot new boat in town, and we were anxiously awaiting the appearance of this new Pearson 40. She made it to the starting line just before the race ...read more

01-oysteryachts-regattas-loropiana2016_063

Light-air Sails and How to Handle Them

In the second of a two-part series on light-air sails, Rupert Holmes looks at how today’s furling gear has revolutionized sail handling off the wind. Read part 1 here. It’s easy to look at long-distance racing yachts of 60ft and above with multiple downwind sails set on roller ...read more

HanseCharles

Video Tour: Hanse 348

“It’s a smaller-size Hanse cruiser, but with some big-boat features,” says SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane. At last fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, Doane had a chance to take a close look at the new Hanse 348. Some of the boat’s highlights include under-deck galleries for ...read more

amalfitown

Charter Destination: Amalfi Coast

Prego! Weeks after returning from our Italian flotilla trip last summer, I was still feeling the relaxed atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast. It’s a Mediterranean paradise, with crystal-clear waters, charming hillside towns and cliffside villages, plenty of delicious food and wine, ...read more

image005

Inside or Outside When Sailing the ICW

Last April, my wife, Marjorie, and I decided to take our Tartan 4100, Meri, north to Maryland from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida. This, in turn, meant deciding whether to stay in the “Ditch” for the duration or go offshore part of the way. Although we had both been ...read more