Surfboard, sailboat innovator ‘Hobie’ Alter dies

Hobart “Hobie” Alter, the man who pioneered the development of the foam surfboard and the Hobie Cat sailboat has died.

According to a statement on his website, Alter passed away peacefully at his Palm Desert home on March 29 surrounded by his loving family. He was 80 years old.

Alter began crafting nine-foot balsa wood surfboards in his family’s garage in 1950, but as wood became scarce, he helped develop a lighter, more responsive foam surfboard and quickly became the number one surfboard brand in the world. His success is considered by many to be the launch point for California’s iconic surf industry.

Alter also developed the Hobie Cat, a top-selling sailboat that could be launched off any beach, the Hobie Hawk, a high-performance remote controlled glider and the Hobie Super Surfer skateboard, a revolutionary 33-foot mono-hull sailboat.

Alter 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 alongside Dennis Connor and Ted Turner.

“Hobie’s passing will leave an incredible void in the world of surfing, sailing and watersports,” his website said. “But as with any great author, actor or artist, the legacy of his work, and the strong wake of his innovations will live on forever. And for his family and friends, the lessons he taught, the quiet, moral and ethical example he set and the lingering warmth of his abiding love will comfort them as long as they live.”

Alter is survived by his wife, Susan, and two children, Paula and Hobie Jr. The cause of his death has not been released.

Memorial services are pending, but will include a surfer’s paddle out in front of the family’s Laguna Beach home.

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