Surf & SUP: Ride the Wave

By Carly Layne

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The Life of Hobie Alter

 Since Hobie’s passing in 2014, there has been an outpouring of incredible stories—anecdotes that people have probably never heard before. We covered his life a bit back then, but I wanted to go a little more in depth. Who was Hobie Alter?

Hobie “Hobert”Alter was born on October 31st, 1933. Hobie was born and raised in Ontario, California, and was the son of a second-generation orange farmer. His family had a summerhouse in Laguna Beach, where he got into an array of ocean sports.

One day in the early 1950s,Hobie asked his dad to pull the Desoto out of the family's garage, and converted it into a wood shop for his hobby. This began his career. He combined his two loves, wood shop and water, and crafted 9 foot balsawood surfboards for his friends. When his family’s front yard became inundated with sawdust and remnants of surfboard production, his father bought him a lot on Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point for $1,500.

Demand grew, and balsawood became more and more scarce. It was at this point that Alter teamed up with friend and employee Gordon DzGrubbydz Clark, and pioneered the foam and fiberglass surfboard. These boards were high quality, faster, lighter, and more responsive than the wooden ones. Hobie quickly became thenumber one surfboard brand in the world.

Alter then turned his interest to other areas, and began making skateboards in 1962. He also turned his attention to other water-based sports, unveiling his namesake DzHobie Cat.dz The name is credited with bringing high-performance sailing from the yacht club to the masses. DzThe Cat that Can Flydz quickly became one of the world’s top-selling sailboats.

He later sold Hobie Cat to the Coleman Company Inc. in 1976. His sons Hobie Jr. and Jeff carry on the family tradition by operating Hobie Designs.  Some of Alter’s other inventions included the DzHobie Hawkdz, a high-performance remote controlled glider, sailboats, and a 60-foot foam-core, twin-Diesel 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 admitted as an inaugural member of the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2011.

Additionally, Alter was a top surfing competitor. Most notably, he won the second Brooks Street contest in Laguna in 1954, achieved success as a tandem surfer, and placed second in the event at Makaha in 1962. Hobie also made the Guinness Book of World Records in 1964, by surfing the wake of a motorboat 26 miles from Long Beach to Catalina Island.

Hobie is the perfect example of how a hobby, and a true love can become a business. Once he declared that he wanted to make a living without having to wear hard-soled shoes or work east of California’s Pacific Coast Highway—he said that he would accomplish this "making people a toy and giving them a game to play with it."  It’s safe to say that he certainly accomplished what he set out to do.

Very much loved and respected by his family, friends and colleagues, we can all take a page out of Hobie’s book.

He may be gone, but he certainly is not forgotten. The Hobie memory and the Hobie name will live on forever.

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