Hobart “Hobie” Alter died of cancer in Palm Desert, California on March 29th, 2014 at the age of 80. In 1958, he revolutionized surfboard design by developing the foam-and-fiberglass surfboard. In the 1960s, he introduced multi-hull sailing to the mass market with the Hobie Cat, eventually offering 13 different models. Over 135,000 Hobie 16 catamarans are sailing around the world. Alter also designed the Hobie 33, an ultralight displacement monohull sailboat. He also designed skateboards and the “Hobie Hawk,” a radio controlled glider. Alter sold Hobie Cat to the Coleman Company, Inc. in 1976. His sons, Hobie Jr. and Jeff, carry on the family tradition, operating Hobie Designs and overseeing the company’s licensing operations. Hobie Cats are currently manufactured in five different countries around the world.
From the Hobie.com blog:
In discussing the future with friends as a young man Hobie declared that he wanted to make a living without 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, he introduced the world to an outdoor lifestyle and collection of products that made things just a bit more fun for all of us. Hobie’s passing will leave an incredible void in the world of surfing, sailing and watersports. But as with any great author, actor or artist, the legacy of his work, and the strong wake of his innovations will live on forever. And for his family and friends, the lessons he taught, the quiet, moral and ethical example he set and the lingering warmth of his abiding love will comfort them as long as they live.
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.
Details of Memorial Services are pending, and in keeping with the tradition of the Waterman, there will also be a surfer’s “Paddle Out” in front of the family’s Oak Street home in Laguna Beach, where it all began. Date/time TBD.
Thanks to Diego for pointing out Alter’s passing.