Hobart Laidlaw Alter died on March 29 at the age of 80 at his home in Palm Desert, Calif. Son of second-generation orange growers, his innovations revolutionized the sport of surfing and brought sailing to the masses. In April he was honored by hundreds at a special on-the-water ceremony.
A true renaissance man, Alter started out building surfboards in his parents Laguna Beach, Calif., garage in 1950.
He combined his love for woodworking and the water by shaping nine-foot surfboards for his friends. In 1954 he opened the first surf shop in the area. He began experimenting with rigid foam as an alternative to balsa wood and his boards quickly became the choice of West Coast surfers.
Alter went on to develop his namesake boat, the Hobie Cat; a light, easily launched, and relatively inexpensive catamaran that introduced watersports and sailing to millions. Hobie Cat became one of the best selling sailboats of all time.
Alter had one final request: He wanted a traditional Hawaiian paddle-out ceremony after he died.
On April 18, a public paddle-out and remembrance was held in the waters of Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, Calif. Hundreds gathered on surfboards and catamarans to honor the man who showed them the way on the water.