Skip to main content
Updated:
Original:

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:

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.

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.

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 “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.

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

01-LEAD-BahiaCobre

Charter the Sea of Cortez

Chartering and the notion of going “off the beaten path” may sound self-contradictory. Charter companies tend to put bases where demand is high and they can turn a profit, so if you’re lucky enough to find an outfit and a destination that gets away from the typical—say yes. To ...read more

22D6FB6F-AA49-4784-A3A8-960F5A7CE330

Cruising: Anchoring Skills

Watching charterers make a run for the last mooring in a cove is fun—and weird. I always wonder why so many would rather try to catch a mooring than drop the hook. Maybe charterers don’t trust their anchoring skills, but it’s harder to drive up and grab a buoy than most people ...read more

BD-TJV21_Malama_063

11th Hour Breakdown in the TJV

11th Hour Racing’s Mālama kicked off the second week of the Transat Jaques Vabre with keel problems, forcing co-skippers Charlie Enright and Pascal Bidégorry to adjust for a more conservative approach to the race’s remaining 2000 miles. “We’ve been dealing with a lot of ...read more

2021-rolex-y-of-y-email-graphic

Rolex Nominations Open

Award season is upon us, and US Sailing is looking for the next Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year. Established in 1961 by US Sailing and sponsored by Rolex since 1980, the annual Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards recognize individual male and female sailors ...read more

04-IMG_3448

Buying a New Main Sail

I’ve always known the importance of having good sails. As a low-budget boat punk, I prioritize making sure I can get where I’m going with the help of the wind, as opposed to under power. It isn’t necessarily my goal to be engineless, or basically engineless. It just happens that ...read more

WAC

VIDEO: Protocol and Class Rules of the Next America’s Cup

The Defender, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, and Challenger of the Record, INEOS Britannia, have announced the protocol and class rules for the 37th America’s Cup. According to team CEO Grant Dalton, “As the oldest trophy in international sport, the America’s Cup maintains ...read more

Chartwork

Are You Ready to Bareboat Charter?

Judging your own readiness is never easy. That goes double for chartering and running a yacht on vacation. What I hear most often from first-time charter guests is that they’ve been sailing for decades, so how different can it be to charter? The truth is it’s very different ...read more

Ventana

Looking Ahead at the USVI Charter Show

St. Thomas, US V.I. – While the crewed charter and bareboat industry are clearly slated for a very busy sailing season, the recent Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association (VIPCA) show https://vipca.org/usvi-charter-yacht-show/ held in Charlotte Amalie Nov. 7-10 ...read more