Many sports become a philosophy, a way of life. But only a few are elevated to the ranks of a religion and their stars become cult figures. So it is with Hobie Alter, known to everybody as “Hobie”, just like his famous catamarans, who died in March. Seeing him again on Youtube was a truly emotional experience. We surfers have a ceremony: the paddle out, where we celebrate the death of a fellow surfer. That of few weeks ago was a salute to Hobie, one of the best.
Hobie, the Henry Ford of surfing, accidentally caught the wave of surfer culture in the late 1950s. He was able to innovate the materials for his boards, first going with light polyurethane foam, an intuition which helped him become the number one in the U.S. market, long before there was a global market. Then, ten years later, he revolutionised pleasure sailing: his small catamarans – 14 and 16 feet – allowed anyone with less than a thousand dollars to enjoy the sea without the need for mooring fees or membership of a yacht club.
His products became more than symbols of an era: they have become embedded right into the culture. The company slogan, “Have a Hobie Day”, has for decades been used as a greeting message among followers of the sea. It is part of a philosophy that goes beyond brand and consumer. It is something pure that we all find every time we go down into the water to play with the wind and the waves.