During the summer of 1950, with a love for woodworking and the ocean in hand, and a dream of never having to wear hard-soled shoes, Hobie Alter charted a course that would forever influence the “Sport of Kings.” Described by his peers as a man of great imagination, Hobie started out shaping surfboards for friends in his family’s Laguna Beach garage, and ended up shaping a culture.
Phil Edwards said “Hobie had a sort of magic touch. His genius was in his ability to invent, experiment, and follow-through.” Hobie recalled “I started out making maybe twenty boards a summer for friends. It sure beat being a lifeguard.”
But by 1954, his father had grown tired of the 35 pounds of balsa wood shavings per board on the garage floor, so he shelled out $1,500 for what would become Southern California’s First Surf Shop on PCH in Dana Point (a block from the current Hobie Surf Shop location). Hobie recalled for a LongboardMagazine interview, “My Laguna run totaled 99 boards. Number 100 came with the purchase of the Dana Point shop.”
Hobie Surfboard’s unparalleled reputation for innovation and quality attracted a Hall-of-Fame team of inspired craftsman and athletes including Phil Edwards, Joey Cabell, Mickey Munoz, Mike Hynson, Dick Brewer, Terry Martin, Herbie Fletcher, and World Champions Joyce Hoffman and Corky Carroll, among many others.
The winds of change began to blow again in 1958. At that time surfboards were still primarily balsawood. Phil Edwards noted that “balsa was an expensive process, with two-thirds of the wood ending up on the shaping room floor.” The ever industrious Hobie, remembered a winter’s evening in 1954 when KentDoolittle dropped a small block of polyurethane foam into his hand. Impressed with its strength-to-weight ratio, resistance to soaking up water and its ability to be glassed with polyester resin, Hobie filed the information away for possible future use. So in ’58, with quality balsa becoming more scarce and expensive, he knew the time for innovation had arrived.
Hobie teamed up with Gordon “Grubby” Clark (Clark Foam), an engineering student and laminator for Hobie Surfboards, to produce a polyurethane foam suitable for surfboard applications. The expansive properties of “this junk,” (as Hobie called it) was incredible. While testing mold after mold, his father’s garage wall suffered from the trial and error explosiveness of the new material. Fearing that the competition (Velzy/Noll) might try to steal their formula, the duo rented a stealth, weather-beaten shack in an obscure coastal arroyo, blacked out the windows and set to work perfecting the recipe for the new technology. “The revolution was subtle, yet complete” recalled Edwards in his 1967 autobiography. It forever changed the manufacturing of surfboards, and facilitated an explosion of the ocean sports lifestyle.
Today, Hobie Surfboards and Surf Shops carry on the legacy of Hobie’s commitment to innovation, follow-through, and inspired performance. Whether you’re into our apparel lines, hand-crafted surfboards or our quiver of innovative Stand-Up-Paddleboards (recreation, racing or surfing), our team will bring to you the finest products and technology while providing you with a comfortable place to meet and talk shop. A place where the surfing, SUP and ocean-inspired communities can call home. One that promotes the clean living, fun-in-the-sun beach lifestyle that Hobie Alter began shaping for us over sixty years ago.
Written by Andy Cowell