Hobie Alter, “Henry Ford of Surfing,” Dies at 80

by Owen James Burke

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A young Hobie Alter (1933-2014) aboard one of his early “Hobie Cat” catamarans (photo: LBI)

Depending on who you talk to, Hobie Alter was famous for his contributions to the sports of surfing, sailing, skateboarding and flyfishing, among others. He died surrounded by his family at his Palm Desert home on March 29th.

Hobie Alter produced the first widely available, mass-produced foam surfboard in the 1950s when balsa wood was becoming too expensive and scare for continued use. He went on to build skateboards, pioneer a 33-foot monohull sailboat, “The Float Cat” (a float tube for fly fishing), the first motorize surfboard, and a 60-foot power-catamaran from scratch, which he named Katie-Sue, after his mother and his wife.

Perhaps most notably, he could also be credited with shaking the starch out of sailing by turning his shoulder to the highbrow exclusivity of pleasure yachting with the design and production of his Hobie Cat catamaran, a sailboat that made the sport available to all, which continues to sail all of the seven seas today.

A paddle-out in honor of Hobie Altar is being arranged in front of the family’s Laguna Beach home.

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