Hobie Cat Inventor Dead at 80

Photos: Inset/Hobie, background/Wikipedia
Photos: Inset/Hobie, background/Wikipedia

Hobart “Hobie” Alter, the famous surfboard maker and sailing craft designer, passed away peacefully at his Palm Desert, California, home on March 29, 2014. He was 80.

The son of a second-generation orange farmer, Hobie flourished spending time at his family’s Laguna Beach summer home. In 1950 he began his somewhat accidental career by combining his 2 loves—wood shop and water—by crafting handmade 9’ balsawood surfboards for his friends. In 1954 Hobie opened the area’s first surf shop in Dana Point. As demand grew, he pioneered development of the foam surfboard, eventually making Hobie the number-one surfboard brand in the world. Hobie himself was a top surfing competitor.

In the late 1960s Hobie turned his attention to sailing, and unveiled his namesake Hobie Cat catamaran. The lightweight, affordable craft is credited with bringing high-performance sailing from the yacht club to the masses. “The Cat that Can Fly” could be launched off any beach and soon became one of the world’s top-selling sailboats.

Hobie also invented the Hobie Hawk, a high-performance remote-controlled glider and the hugely successful Hobie Super Surfer skateboard. He built a revolutionary 33’ mono-hull sailboat, pioneered a Float Cat for fly-fishing and built the “Katie Sue”, and built a 60’ power catamaran from scratch.

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 was admitted as an inaugural member of the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2011 alongside Dennis Connor and Ted Turner.