Hobie Alter Honored with Paddle-Out

April 21, 2014 2 min read

Hobie Alter paddle-out
PC: Bruce Chambers(OC Register)
Hundreds of watermen and waterwomen paddled out into the water off Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, California on Friday to pay tribute to surf legend Hobie Alter.  People in surfboards and sailboats gathered to participate in a traditional Hawaiian paddle-out ceremony: the way Alter wanted it.  After a battle with cancer, Alter passed away on March 29th at 80 years old in his Palm Desert home.
According to the OC Register, Alter's family released bowls with Hawaiian soil, ocean water and sand from Waikiki Beach into the water.  They also released rock salt into the waves, which symbolized "the purification of one's soul, body and life," "Kahu" Hawaiian priest Eric Keawe told the OC Register.
Alter was renowned for shaping Southern California's surf industry, and is responsible for the switch to the foam core surfboard: a staple in the surfing world.  He began shaping balsa wood boards in Laguna Beach in the 1950s, but after joining up with Gordon Clark, Alter replaced the balsa core with polyurethane foam.  This revolutionized the sport, as more people were interested in buying the lighter, cheaper foam core surfboards.
Alter also dabbled in sailboats, and designed a catamaran called the Hobie Cat.  According to the OC Register, at an affordable price of $999, the boat was known as "the people's boat".
"He was a great friend and certainly a good business partner," Surfing Heritage Foundation founder Dick Metz told the OC Register.  Metz was one of Alter's earliest employees, and he quit his bartending job to help Alter eventually open 20 stores.  "“He invented toys the public could have fun with at a reasonable price, and they all worked better than anything else. He made better toys,” he said.
Although the man may be gone, Hobie Alter's spirit will be in every surfer's foam core board and every sailer's Hobie Cat.  Rest in peace, Hobie.
Sarah Webb
Sarah Webb