Surf industry pioneer Hobie Alter passes away at 80

March 31, 2014 | Surfing
Hobie Alter: there's always an alternative to conventional surfboards

Hobart "Hobie" Alter has passed away at 80. The surf industry leader teamed up with Gordon Clark to use polyurethane foam in modern surfboards.

"Hobie" Alter was born in Ontario, California, in 1933. He began surfing at 16, in Laguna Beach. After reaching the finals of the Makaha International surf contest, he started producing his own boards.

In 1958, he teamed up with laminator Gordon Clark to develop polyurethane foam blanks that could be marketed for surfboard shaping.

Hobie Surfboards was already a huge commercial success, just like his innovative shaping machine. In 1960s, Alter got into wakesurfing, skateboarding and catamaran design.

The famous Hobie Cat model sold like hotcakes. Over 135,000 Hobie 16 Cats are sailing around the world. "The Cat that Can Fly" could be launched off any beach and soon became one of the world's top selling sailboats.

"He wanted to make a living without having to wear hard-soled shoes or work east of California's Pacific Coast Highway," tells the statement on the Hobie sporting goods website.

"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."

Alter was inducted into the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame, in 1997, and into the National Sailing Hall of Fame, in 2011. Discover more about his life in "Hobie: Master of Water, Wind and Waves", by Paul Holmes.

The Surfing Christmas Gift Guide for 2023 | Explore our Christmas gift ideas for surfers