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Hobie Alter sets template for modern surf company



Surf History

Corky Carroll reflects on how to have fun & making a living

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 22 December, 2013 - The long-awaited biography of legendary surfer, surfboard builder, catamaran guru and all around master of watery things, and fun, Hobie Alter was released at a star-studded book signing and celebration party Dec. 7 at the Surfing Heritage Foundation in San Clemente.

When it comes to amazing lives built around surfing, not too many come close to Hobie’s. The guy is one of a kind when it comes to figuring out ways to make a living off of ways to have fun. 

Read more of Corky's take on Hobie here

Fresh out of high school and thinking outside of the conventional 1950's box, the 17-year-old Hobie was already beginning to shape a culture-along with a lifestyle and an industry. He started out shaping balsa and fiberglass surfboards for himself and a few friends in the garage of his family's summer home above Oak Street beach in Laguna. By the end of 1953 he'd made some 80 boards there and was fine-tuning his craft.
Fed up with the piles of wood shavings and gobs of resin on the floor, Hobie's father helped him set up in a small workshop and showroom on Coast Highway in nearby Dana Point - on the well-traveled road to and from the most popular surf spots in the area. By the end of the decade, Hobie had a big head start on his surfboard-building contemporaries. After the movie "Gidget" was released and surfing became a major youth culture obsession, Hobie had already realized his dream of making a living and doing exactly what he wanted to do.
During the mid-1960s Hobie repeated his visionary thinking. He joined forces with a nationally known citrus juice brand, Vita-Pakt, to create the Hobie Super Surfer skateboard and a promotional skateboarding team that spread the word to landlocked cities across the country. "Sidewalk surfing" as it was known, became a nationwide phenomenon.
By the late 1960s, Hobie was at it again, this time designing, engineering and producing the Hobie Catamaran, a small and relatively inexpensive sailboat that revolutionized the rather staid and sometimes elitist world of yachting. Anyone with $999 at the time could become a sailor and launch a Hobie Cat - "the people's boat" - without a yacht club membership, marina slip fees, or even access to a boat ramp. Simply trailer the "Hobie Cat" to a shore, drag it down to the waterline, raise the sail and...go!
Hobie launched a chain of dealerships and retail stores and established a series of clothing licenses to stock the shops with soft goods, complementing the hard goods categories of Hobie-branded surfboards, skateboards and sailboats. In just over 20 years, Hobie Alter had created a model for everything the surf lifestyle and industry stands for today, doing exactly what he wanted to do - having fun, in, on, and around the ocean.

Corky Carroll, Editors

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