Mr. Hobie Cat

The California-based Hobie Company makes some of the best fishing kayaks on the market, including nine models fitted with the company’s almost magical “MirageDrive” peddle system. They’re good boats and I highly recommend them.

They make other stuff, too. Sailboats. Paddle boards. Catamarans. But it all started in 1950 when a 17-year-old surfing hotshot named Hobart Alter started shaping balsa wood surfboards for his friends in his family’s Laguna Beach summer home. His nickname was “Hobie,” which was understandable. What California surf wiz has buddies who are going to call him Hobart?

Four years later Alter opened a surf shop and never looked back. He and some friends/employees came up with a foam surfboard and the small company soon owned the surfboard market. About 15 years later Alter came up with the “Hobie Cat” catamaran, and soon commanded that market. Other ideas and stuff followed, including the MirageDrive fishing kayaks.

Hobie Alter died a couple of days ago. He was 80, and along with a raft of achievements – including his 2011 induction into the National Sailing Hall of Fame – he had made good on an early ambition: to make a living without having to wear hard-soled shoes or work east of California’s Pacific Coast Highway.