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Hobie Alter’s dream was born in his parents’ garage in 1950 when he decided to apply his love of woodworking to the sport of surfing. Dad backed out the Buick to make room for a shipment of balsawood, and Alter got out his drawknife and carved out his very first surfboard. Friends started dropping by and before long, there was no room left for the Buick — Alter’s business of fun had begun.
A couple of years and 40 tons of sawdust later, Alter opened up Southern California’s first surf shop in Dana Point. Then, in 1958, Alter and buddy Gordon “Grubby” Clark began experimenting with new materials, literally inventing the polyurethane foam surfboard. The new boards were lighter, faster and easier to ride than anything else in the water. Suddenly everyone wanted to be a surfer — and every surfer wanted a Hobie.
In the late 60s, Alter developed a prototype for a lightweight, fast and easy-to-sail playboat based on the Polynesian twin-hulled catamaran. History soon repeated itself. What Hobie’s foam surfboard did for surfing, the Hobie Cat did for sailing, introducing a new way to have fun on the water, revolutionizing an industry in the process.
Fast forward to 1995, the year Hobie launched their first fishing boats. Then, in 1998, Greg Ketterman, Hobie’s vice president of engineering, was instrumental in introducing the MirageDrive that would revolutionize kayaking and kayak fishing. Inspired by the desire to produce a leg-powered kayak, he felt it made a lot of sense to propel the kayak with the lower body and leave hands free for other things. “I also felt that a back and forth motion would be a lot easier than a pure rotary motion, thus the idea to use underwater flippers that could twist and flex and assume the shape of a propeller blade — or a Penguin’s wing,” Ketterman said.
The Hobie MirageDrive was subsequently patented and has defined Hobie kayaks ever since. It did not take long for anglers in the company to realize that a hands-free kayak would present a new way to fish in waters that were otherwise inaccessible, or as an alternative to larger boats. The rest is history in progress, most recently exemplified with the new Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12.
Hobie Cat Company: Shaping a culture — where it all began…