Eight Bells: Hobart "Hobie" Alter - Sail Magazine

Eight Bells: Hobart "Hobie" Alter

Hobie Alter began playing games in the Pacific Ocean in his teens. At 18, he started competing in surfing competitions, and in 1953 opened his first surfboard shop in Dana Point, California. He quickly developed ways to improve balsa core surfboard production, and it didn’t take him long to invent the foam-core surfboard, which revolutionized the sport by giving surfers a lighter, more agile toy to play with.
Author:
Publish date:
 A young Hobie Alter taking a spin aboard his new 14-footer circa 1960

A young Hobie Alter taking a spin aboard his new 14-footer circa 1960

Hobie Alter began playing games in the Pacific Ocean in his teens. At 18, he started competing in surfing competitions, and in 1953 opened his first surfboard shop in Dana Point, California. He quickly developed ways to improve balsa core surfboard production, and it didn’t take him long to invent the foam-core surfboard, which revolutionized the sport by giving surfers a lighter, more agile toy to play with.

A decade or so later, Alter combined his resins and foam core experience with a newly found love of sailing to create the single-handed Hobie 14, a then cutting-edge beach catamaran that included such innovations as foam-cored hulls, kick-up rudders, a fully battened mainsail and asymmetric hulls.

 The Hobie 16 remains as fast and fun today as ever

The Hobie 16 remains as fast and fun today as ever

Two years later Alter built the Hobie 14’s twin-trapeze big sister, the Hobie 16, a boat that remains both in production and as competitive as ever to this day—over 900 Hobie 16 sailors from two dozen different countries recently took part in the Hobie 16 World Championships in Jervis Bay, Australia. Thanks to a production run of 135,000 Hobie 16s and counting, the boats can now be found on pretty much every beach in the world.

As important as these boats were from a design perspective, equally important was the lifestyle they created, based on Hobie’s unique idea of getting out on the water, having fun and going fast–all at a reasonable cost. Since Alter’s boats were easy to launch through the surf and also sailed well in big seas and lots of wind, he made it possible for pretty much anyone, not just “sailors,” to enjoy adventure beyond the sand.

During the recent ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca, when the wind was howling and the sea state almost unmanageable, my teammate, Sarah Newberry, and I would sail our Nacra 17 by our competitors yelling, “Have a Hobie day!” in tribute to the spirit of adventure Alter delivered to millions of sailors around the world.

Repeating that phrase both heightened the senses and reminded us how much we enjoy being on the water. Hobie Alter will certainly be missed, but his love of the sport will live on as we enjoy the boats he created, boats that allow every day to be a Hobie day.

Photos courtesy of Hobie Cat Worldwide 

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