In the world of sailing/surf culture, few boats have had a bigger impact than the Hobie 16. Introduced in 1971 as the bigger sister to the Hobie 14, the 16 revolutionized the multihull scene when it first appeared, and was the driving force behind the popularization of beach catamarans.
It is often said Hobart “Hobie” Alter began shaping surfboards, but finished shaping a culture. In 1950 Hobie was shaping beautiful 9-ft balsa wood icons for friends, and then, several years later, opened the first surf shop in Southern California, at Dana Point. In 1958, with his friend Gordon Clark (later of Clark Foam), Alter developed a technique for fabricating surfboards out of foam and fiberglass. The new boards were lighter, faster and more responsive than anything else in the water.
Another of Hobie’s ventures—into skateboard designing and engineering—led to the Hobie Super Surfer Skateboard and, with a promotional skateboarding team, helped spread the new phenomena of “sidewalk surfing” nationally.
Yet, it was time spent in Hawaii with legendary big wave surfer Woody Brown that most influenced Alter’s venture into the sailing world. Regarded as the Orville Wright of multihulls, Woody had designed and built, in 1947, the Manu Kai—the first modern-day ocean-going catamaran. The advantages of speed, stability and most importantly the ability to launch from the beach into the surf made lasting impressions on the young Hobie.
Hobie’s time sailing with Woody Brown on the Manu Kai, his experience in surfboard manufacturing, and his naturally innovative spirit led to the development of the Hobie 14 catamaran in 1968. Several years later, with help from Phil Edwards, Hobie designed and patented the Hobie 16. After 40 years and over 135,000 launched, the 16 is still in production and, is still the most-raced catamaran in the world. It is often characterized as the Laser of the catamaran world.
Founding pioneer of the surfboard shaping industry, skateboard designer and promoter, superb waterman, and creator of the Hobie Cat… few individuals have had a larger impact on the heritage of both surfing and sailing. Recognized as a true pioneer who helped shape a global culture, Hobie Alter was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2011.