Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Hobart 'Hobie' Alter | Surfing innovator, 80

Hobart "Hobie" Alter, 80, who helped popularize surfing and sailing with the development of the foam surfboard and the "Hobie Cat" sailboat, died Saturday at his Palm Desert, Calif., home. He reportedly had been battling cancer.

"He wanted to make a living without having to wear hard-soled shoes or work east of California's Pacific Coast Highway," a statement on his website said. "By 'making people a toy and giving them a game to play with it' he was able to realize this dream."

The self-taught innovator and surfer had his start in the early 1950s carving wooden surfboards in the garage of his family's Laguna Beach home.

When the balsa used for the boards became scarce, he and his friend Gordon Clark created surfboards out of polyurethane foam. The boards were durable but had better flexibility and were less expensive than wooden boards. The invention revolutionized surfing, and Hobie became a top surfboard brand.

In the late '60s, he turned his focus to sailing and designed a lightweight sailboat inspired by the twin-hulled Polynesian catamaran. The more affordable Hobie Cat, which could be launched from the beach, is credited with bringing high-performance sailing to the masses. For his contribution to the sport, he was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame. - AP
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