Surfing mourns death of pioneer Hobie Alter

Surfing lost an iconic pioneer in Hobart "Hobie" Alter after he died Saturday at his home in Palm Desert, Calif., surrounded by his family, according to a statement released by Hobie, the company he founded. He was 80 years old.

The cause of death was not disclosed in the statement, but the Orange County Register reported Alter had been battling cancer.

After getting his start shaping surfboards out of balsa wood in his father's garage, Alter opened his first surf shop in Dana Point in 1954. Capitalizing on surfing's growing popularity, the business flourished. Over the years, he gave luminary craftsmen such as Phil Edwards, Reynolds Yater and Terry Martin their start. In 1958, alongside friend Gordon "Grubby" Clark, Alter introduced the use of polyurethane foam and fiberglass in surfboard construction, which is still largely in use today.

"People laughed at me for setting up a surf shop," Hobie said. "They said that once I'd sold a surfboard to each of the 250 surfers on the coast I'd be out of business. But the orders just kept coming."

An ocean enthusiast of all stripes, he also lends his name to the small sailboat known as the Hobie Cat, a lightweight boat inspired by the twin-hulled Polynesian catamaran. The craft could be launched from the beach and is credited with bringing high-performance sailing to the masses. For his contribution to the sport, Alter was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2011.

In 1962, Alter also began building skateboards and in 1964 founded Hobie Skateboards. Like in surfing and sailing, after Alter put his fingerprint on skateboarding, the sport would never be the same.

"He wanted to make a living without having to wear hard-soled shoes or work east of California's Pacific Coast Highway," reads the statement on "By 'making people a toy and giving them a game to play with it' he was able to realize this dream. And in the process, he introduced the world to an outdoor lifestyle and collection of products that made things just a bit more fun for all of us."

His biography, titled "Hobie: Master of Water, Wind and Waves," was published in 2013.

Alter is survived by his wife, Susan, a daughter and two sons.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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