Eight Bells: Hobart “Hobie” Alter - Sail Magazine

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:
 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

SouthernOcean

The 50th Anniversary of the Golden Globe

Here we go! The 50th anniversary of the Golden Globe, the first singlehanded nonstop round-the-world race, is upon us. On July 1 one tribute event, the Golden Globe Race 2018, will start out of Les Sables d’Olonne, France, with a fleet of 19 amateur skippers setting out in ...read more

180621-X01-Landing-Page

Volvo Ocean Race Cliffhanger

After racing over 44,000 miles round the world and battling their way past the world’s great capes, including the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn, it’s all come down to the final 700-mile leg from Gothenburg, Sweden, to the Hague. Brunel, Mapfre, Dongfeng: going into the ...read more

Stearns Photo

Racing the Solo Mac for a Cause

There are plenty of reasons to do a Chicago-Mac race, and Rich Stearns, who has done literally dozens of ‘em should know. This year, though, he’s doing the Solo-Mac for an especially important reason: to help those with prostate cancer.“Two years ago, I was diagnosed with ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comRafting dangerOne unseen danger when sailing yachts lie alongside one another for a convivial night is that if they happen roll to a wash or begin to move in an unexpected sea, the spreaders can clash ...read more

180615-01 Lead

A Dramatic Comeback in the Volvo

After winning three of the last four legs in the Volvo Ocean Race (and coming in second in the fourth), Dutch-flagged Brunel is now tied for first overall with Spanish-flagged Mapfre and Chinese-flagged Dongfeng following the completion of Leg 10 from Cardiff, Wales, to ...read more

MFS-5-2018-Propan-SP02

Tohatsu LPG-powered 5hp Propane Motor

Gassing it UpTired of ethanol-induced fuel issues? Say goodbye to gasoline. Japanese outboard maker Tohatsu has introduced an LPG-powered 5hp kicker that hooks up to a propane tank for hours of stress-free running. Available in short-, long- or ultra-long-shaft versions, the ...read more