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Surfing pioneer Hobie Alter passes away

Surfing pioneer Hobie Alter passes away

HOBIE Alter, who has passed away at his home in California aged 80, not only pioneered the production of the modern surfboard but also designed a top-selling sailing dinghy.

Born Hobart Alter, the young Hobie combined his love of woodworking with water sports in 1950 when he turned the garage of his family’s summer home at Laguna Beach into a workshop producing 9ft. balsawood surfboards for friends.

Four years later he opened the area’s first surf shop at Dana Point in California — famous for the Killer Dana wave — but Mr. Alter was aware that balsawood had no future as the base material for surfboards. Not only was it heavy but supplies were dwindling. So he began to work with alternative materials and in a secret process developed the first boards made from foam.

Combining the new lightweight foam with his innovative designs soon made his Hobie Surfboards world leaders. Over the years, many legendary surfers and shapers either rode or worked for the company.

But Mr. Alter (who was also a champion surfer in his day) did not restrict his genus for design to just surfing. He designed a range of innovative products including the Hobie Super Surfer skateboard, the Hobie Hawk glider, and even float for use in fly-fishing. However, it was one of his boat designs which was to prove a massive success. The Hobie Cat sailing dinghy has enjoyed massive sales across the world.

The Hobie company paid tribute to their founder. In a statement the company said: “A humble man of incomparable character, he made it clear that the one thing of which he was most proud, was his family. His sister recently recalled that their father taught Hobie early on to always tell the truth, no matter the consequence, and that any deal worth doing could be done with a handshake. It was a lesson that Hobie incorporated into every aspect of his personal and professional life.”

The statement also recalled what the young Hobie had told friends during a discussion about the future. He had declared he wanted to making a living without having to wear hard-soled shoes or work east of California’s Pacific Coast Highway. 

Mr. Alter is survived by his wife Susan, sons Hobie Jnr. and Jeff, and daughter Paula.

To view an excerpt from a documentary which looks at Mr. Alter’s life and achievements, click here.

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