Hobie Alter, Innovator of Sailing and Surfing, Dies at 80
By DENNIS HEVESI
Mr. Alter created the Hobie Cat sailboat, which skims the water like a surfboard.CreditAbdullah Doma/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Hobie Alter, who was known as the Henry Ford of the surfboard industry for his manufacturing innovations and who used his idle time to create the Hobie Cat, the lightweight, double-hulled sailboat that achieved worldwide popularity, died on Saturday at his home in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 80.
By the time Mr. Alter, a surfer himself, developed the Hobie Cat in the 1960s, he had had great success in developing manufacturing techniques and using breakthrough materials in the production of surfboards. He worked out of a small factory along the Southern California coast, not far from where the famous Killer Dana wave roared.
Only minutes from the beach, Mr. Alter was a familiar figure there, surfboard in tow. But like other surfers, he was frustrated when strong offshore winds were blowing, flattening the majestic wave tubes they so cherish. So he decided to use the time to work on his idea for a downsize version of a catamaran: a small, twin-hulled sailing craft that would skim the waves, not unlike a surfboard. It would give surfers something to do when they could not ride their boards to full exhilaration.