Hobie Alter, 1933-2014 - Hobie Alter, a true icon of our sport, passed away Saturday, March 29th at the age of 80, from a long bout with cancer. Hobie epitomized the entrepreneurial spirit in our surfing industry through a multitude of accomplishments. His first massive contribution was the use of foam cores in surfboards.
Way back in 1958, he moved completely away from balsa and entirely to foam and while it’s commonplace now, it was revolutionary then, as he and his partner, Gordon “Grubby” Clark were the first. For a while, if you were surfing a foam core board, you had to be on a Hobie. And make no mistake, the mixture to create the foam was no easy task, taking years of trial and error. But if Hobie knew one thing, it was the future of surfboard building and he stayed true to what he knew would completely change the sport.
Vintage Hobie. Video: Encyclopedia of Surfing.
Never one to rest on his laurels, he then created the catamaran, dubbing it the “Hobie Cat” and bringing the sport of sailing to the masses. In one foul swoop, Alter took sailing out of the yacht clubs and onto the beaches, as catamarans could be launched from the beach. To this day, his sailing designs are some of the best sellers ever.
His accomplishments culminated into him receiving the Waterman’s Achievement Award in 1993 from the Surfing Industry Manufacturer’s Association, a spot on the Surfing Walk of Fame in 1997 and an inaugural membership into the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2011. By all accounts, Alter was a brilliant surfer, shaper and inventor and his whole life seemed to revolve around ways to enjoy the water, which enriched our lives as well.
Please give a nod to Hobie and raise a beer to his waterman’s spirit.