Surfboard and Boat Innovator Hobart 'Hobie' Alter Dies at 80

Surfboard pioneer and founder of the Hobie fishing company, Hobart "Hobie" Alter, passed away at his Palm Desert, California home on March 29. He was 80 years old.

The son of a second-generation orange farmer, Hobie spent most of his youth in the garage of his family's Laguna Beach summer home where he combined his two loves -- wood working and water -- crafting handmade 9-foot balsawood surfboards for his friends.

He started the area's first surf shop in 1954. As wood materials became scarce, he began experimenting with foam, creating surf boards that were lighter and more responsive than anything on the market, helping propel his brand to the number one in the world. In the late 1960s, he shifted from surfboard design to sailboat engineering and created the Hobie Cat catamaran, which became one of the world's top selling sailboats, and created the Float Cat--one of the first personal pontoon-style boats for anglers. Hobie sold his operation to the Coleman Company, Inc. in 1976.

Since then, a portion of the company has expanded its pedal- and paddle-powered product lineup to focus on duck hunting and fishing. More recently, the company has helped propel the sport of kayak fishing worldwide. The Hobie Fishing World Championship, now entering its fourth year, attracts kayak anglers from over 20 different countries to compete in a series of regional qualifiers for a chance to participate in the final tournament. This year the championship is in Amsterdam, Netherlands, October 6-10, 2014.

Details of memorial services are forthcoming, but in keeping with the tradition of the Waterman, there will also be a surfer's "paddle out" in front of the family's Oak Street home in Laguna Beach.