Hobie Alter, Surfing and Sailing Pioneer, Dies at 80

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Hobart "Hobie" Alter, whose innovations revolutionized surfing and sailing, died in California on Saturday at the age of 80.

Alter died in his home in Palm Desert on Saturday after a long bout with cancer.

In 1958, Alter worked with Gordon "Grubby" Clark  to perfect the first polyurethane foam surfboards. Their alternative to the heavier balsa wood model was faster, less expensive, and easy to mass produce. It eventually revolutionized surfing as a sport.

The Hobie surfboard brand rose to the top of a young industry, which also received a boost in popularity after the surfing movie Gidget came out in 1959.

In 1967, Alter unveiled his Hobie Cat 14, a small leisure catamaran, which opened the world of sailing to a wider audience. The model soon became the standard in sailing because it was so light and easy to maneuver.

The Hobie Cat 16 came out a few years later, and the model is still made today.

His surf shop Hobie in Dana Point south of Los Angeles became a hub for surfing culture in southern California.

"In discussing the future with friends as a young man Hobie declared that he wanted to make a living without having to wear hard-soled shoes or work east of California's Pacific Coast Highway," according to a remembrance statement posted on the Hobie Cat company website.

"He introduced the world to an outdoor lifestyle and collection of products that made things just a bit more fun for all of us," the statement on the website said.

The Hobie Cat website says that in keeping with tradition, a mass "paddle out" will be held in Alter's honor, when surfers will take to the water near Alter's childhood home in Laguna Beach. A date for that event has yet to be announced.

Image via YouTube

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