Hobie Alter’s dream was born in his parents’ garage in 1950, when Hobie decided to apply his love of woodworking to the sport of surfing. Dad backed out the Buick to make room for a shipment of balsawood, Hobie got out his drawknife and carved out his very first surfboard. Friends soon started dropping by and before you knew it there was no room left for the Buick—Hobie’s business of fun had begun.
Hobie and the sport grew together. A couple of years and 40 tons of sawdust later, Hobie opened up Southern California’s first surf shop in Dana Point. Then in 1958 Hobie and buddy Gordon “Grubby” Clark began experimenting with new materials, literally inventing the polyurethane foam surfboard. The new boards were lighter, faster and easier to ride than anything else in the water. Suddenly everyone wanted to be a surfer — and every surfer wanted a Hobie.
By the mid-1960s, while the Beach Boys were making records, the legendary Hobie Surf Team was setting them. Hobie’s lineup was a veritable Who’s Who of surfing greats. Phil Edwards, Joey Cabell, Corky Carroll, Micky Munoz, Joyce Hoffman, Joey Hamasaki, Gary Propper, Billy Hamilton and Herbie Fletcher are just a few of the champions who supported the distinctive Hobie diamond logo over the years.
In the late 60’s Hobie started messing around in boats. Hobie developed a prototype for a lightweight, fast and easy-to-sail playboat based on the Polynesian twin-hulled catamaran. History soon repeated itself. What Hobie’s foam surfboard did for surfing, the Hobie Cat did for sailing, introducing a whole new way to have fun in the sun and revolutionizing an industry in the process. In the past four decades, more people have taken to the water on a Hobie Cat than almost any other sailboat design. Hobie Cats are still the world’s best selling cats and it’s hard to find a body of water on any continent that doesn’t have an active Hobie racing fleet.
In the years to follow, plenty of other ocean innovations emerged from Hobie’s imagination: the Hobie Power Skiff, a 33’ monohull, a 60’ ocean voyaging power cat and innovative fishing floats and a wide range of kayaks. Hobie’s logo has meant the very best in everything from radio-controlled gliders, skateboards, world-famous polarized sunglasses and sportswear.
It seems incredible that one man’s vision could provide so much fun for watermen and women the world over, but in that department, Hobie Alter stood alone. He didn’t just create toys, he created a way of life, a new way of looking at our watery world. The dream born on the beach in 1950 has become reality not just for Hobie but for new generations of dreamers, all of whom continue to spell fun in the sun, the surf and the sand with a flying capital H.
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