Hobart Alter was originally from Capristano Beach, Southern California.
In 1950, a restless californian high school student brought together his two loves-water and wood shop. His Dad backed the DeSoto out of the family's Laguna Beach, California garage, and a young Hobie Alter (nee 'Hobart') started building surfboards.
Hobie began by building beautiful 9-foot balsawood icons for his friends. They worked well! Hobie's hobby had become a business and his dream of never owning hard-soled shoes or having to work east of California's Pacific Coast Highway was becoming a reality. A couple of years and 40 tons of sawdust later, Hobie opened up Southern California's first surf shop in Dana Point, California. Then in 1958 Hobie and his buddy Gordon 'Grubby' Clark (as in Clark Foam) began experiments making surfboards out of foam and fiberglass. The new boards were lighter, faster and more responsive than anything else in the water. Demand skyrocketed, production cranked up, and everyone wanted to be on a Hobie surfboard. In the 1960's, while the Beach Boys were making records, the legendary Hobie Surf Team was setting them. Hobie's lineup virtually comprises the surfing hall of fame Joey Cabell, Phil Edwards, Corky Carroll, Gary Propper, Peter Pan, Mickey Munoz, Joyce Hoffman and Yancy Spencer among many, many others.
In 1967, it all started as if in a dream with a drawing in the sand at a beach party - Hobie Alter, Wayne Schafer, Sandy Banks and the number one surfer in the early 60's, Phil Edwards. Hobie Alter then made that dream a reality with the design of the Hobie Cat 14. Hobie wanted to make a boat that you could easily launch into the surf from the beach, sail, and bring back through the surf. And it was this 14-foot fiberglass single-handed catamaran with asymmetrical hulls that single-handedly changed the course of sailing.
Hobie and his friends started out a small series production in California. Shortly after production started in 1968, a full feature spread appeared in Life Magazine: 'The Cat that Flies'. The publicity that this generated caused the instantaneous popularity of this baby beachcat.
Somewhere around this time the Hobie 10, 12 and 3.5 were designed, but did not remain in production long.
In 1969 Hobie released the Hobie 16 - a two person 16-foot version of the hobie 14, which he called appropriately, the Hobie Cat 16. The boat was an immediate success, and lent considerable impetus to the Hobie movement. The Hobie 16 became the most well known catamaran, and is still very popular. The Hobie 16 can be found today in most countries of the world, and is an official ISAF full international class.
As of 1971, he boats were manufactured by Coast Catamaran Corporation in Irvine, California, at this time they went public. In January of 1976, the Coleman Company, world renowned manufacturer of camping and outdoor products, agreed to purchase Coast Catamaran Corporation and this is when production took off. In 1979 Coleman moved production to Oceanside, California where Hobie Cat is still based today. Tony Wilson purchased Coast Catamaran from Coleman in January 1989, changing the name back to the Hobie Cat Company.
The Hobie 18 in 1976, Hobie 17 in 1985, Hobie 21 in 1987, Hobie 18SX in 1989, Hobie 17 Sport in 1990, Hobie 20 in 1991, Hobie 21 Sport Cruiser in 1992, Hobie Wave in 1994, Hobie TriFoiler in 1995, a long gap in production, the Hobie Getaway in 2000, then the Hobie Bravo in 2002.
The Hobie Wave, with its simplistic design and plastic hulls, was instrumental in communicating to the public that catamarans do not have to be drag racing fast boats, they can be recreational too. This caused a resurgence of sales in North America... but to a different market, the resort, and the recreational buyer, frequently cottage owners. The Getaway was a subsequent design of recreational catamarans to give a bit more performance to the recreational buyer.
But in the meantime a higher performance racing catamaran had not been introduced by Hobie Cat USA since the Hobie 20 in 1991. Hobie Cat Europe had been making inroads into new racing designs with spinnaker 'cata's' with the Hobie Tiger, introduced in 1995. Hobie Cat USA then made arrangements to bring in the racing performance catamarans from Hobie Cat Europe, bringing us the Hobie Tiger, the Hobie Fox and the Hobie FX-One.
Today, Hobie Cats are manufactured in 5 corners of the globe:
At one point manufacturing was done in Japan, however not anymore. Hobie Cat USA has recently (end of 2001) taken over operations in Australia.
Other Hobie innovations have followed over the years:
R/C gliders like the Hobie Hawk - a mass produced radio-operated glider airplane with a wingspan of 99 inches.
In 1964, Hobie Alter teamed up with the Vita Pakt Juice Company to create Hobie Skateboards and accessories.
In 1984 Hobie Alter introduced the Hobie Skiff. This powerboat was able to hold up to a 50 hp engine, was self-bailing and had great capacity.
Also 1984, the Holder 14 monohull was introduced, it was updated and re-released in 1986 as the Hobie One-14.
60' ocean shredding power cats, float cats, Alpha Sailboards and then Hobie apparel and sunglasses were additional innovations.
The Hobie 33, a monohull, was another venture of Hobie Alter. 187 Hobie 33's were built between 1982 and 1986 and can be found throughout North America. Hobie 33 North American Class Association.
Official news: Hobie Alter and the Hobie 33 are back. January 2002 the new Hobie 33 will go into production. The new licensed builder is Spartan Marine in San Clemente, California. On the regatta front, The factory will be building two boats to represent the factory team to travel to all the regattas and compete. The plan includes Hobie Alter and his sons being involved in the regattas as well. The Hobie 33 website will display a new factory section. Pictures of production etc. will be found there.
Hobie Sr. is now residing in Idaho, where the family is busy with Hobie Apparel with sons Hobie Alter Junior and Jeff Alter. I am not sure where daughter Paula Alter is living now. I am sure Hobie Alter Sr. is proud as can be of his three children, for they are all outstanding sailors... the tradition continues.