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

mcarthy-and-mouse

Experience: McCarthy and the Mouse

Sitting at the helm in a light breeze, my arms crusted with a fine rime of salt, my skin so dry I’d lost my fingerprints, I heard a clatter and a curse from below. There were only three of us a thousand miles from shore and only one on watch at a time. Usually, the off watch lay ...read more

2018-giftGuide

2018 Holiday Gift Guide

Brass Yacht Lamp Does someone on your gift list spend the whole winter missing the warm days on the water? Let them bring a little bit of nautical atmosphere home with this new lamp from Weems & Plath. The glass enclosure means the flame cannot be blown out even by ...read more

image001

Opinion: On Not Giving Up Sailing

E.B. White was 64 when he wrote his now-famous essay “The Sea and the Wind That Blows,” which begins as a romantic paean to sailing and then drifts, as if spun around by a pessimistic eddy of thought, into a reflection on selling his boat. Does an aging sailor quit while he’s ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com A Helping Hand  This is a real-world solution, and I expect correction by my betters. However, anyone whose seacocks are modern ball valves rather than the grand old tapered cone variety may care to ...read more

1812-JeanneaueNewsVideo

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 410

Designed by Marc Lombard, the Sun Odyssey 410 shares much in common with her older siblings including of course, the walk-around deck. Other features that set the 410 apart from other models being introduced this year include the 410’s “negative bow” shape allowing for a longer ...read more

shutterstock_698968441

Cruising: The Bahamas

“The ‘Explorer’ chartbooks. All three.” “An unlocked phone. But good luck with BTC.” “Spam. It’s ‘spensive there!” These were just a few suggestions we received from fellow sailors who had cruised the Bahamas when we asked how to best prepare for the trip. In fact, several ...read more

windsensor

Gear: B&G Wind Sensors

Sense the Wind B&G has launched a new line of wind sensors, including the WS320, a wireless system that is suitable for masts up to 80ft. Wireless wind sensor technology has been hit-and-miss, with some users reporting intermittent signal failure on tall rigs, but B&G, citing ...read more