Hobart ‘Hobie’ Alter: 1933-2014

The creator of Hobie Cat catamarans was also a pioneer in the surfing industry.

Hobie Cat catamarans

Many yachtsmen can recall learning to sail on Hobie Cats, Hobie Holders and Hobie Sunfish as children.

Hobart “Hobie” Alter, who created the Hobie Cat catamarans that can be found in the water-toy collections aboard superyachts worldwide, died March 29, 2014, at age 80.

Alter got his start on the California coast, where he is credited with creating the first mass-produced foam surfboard. At the time, surfers had to lug heavy wooden boards out into the Pacific waves. Alter’s foam-production method was coming into shape just as the movie “Gidget” introduced surfing culture to the world and gave Alter a huge audience for his product. He became known as the Henry Ford of surfboards.

The small sailboats better known to yachtsmen worldwide followed Alter’s surfing endeavors, when he applied his lightweight construction methods to boats starting in the 1960s. He had a 600-pound catamaran that required at least four people to move from the beach into the water, and he thought it should be easier for people to go sailing.

The first Hobie Cat was a 14-footer that one person could lift and even stow on a car’s roof. He sold more than 30,000 of them inside of six years.

The Hobie company, which Alter sold for several million dollars long before his death, is hosting several tributes right now on its website: www.hobie.com.