THE HOBIE MEMORIAL T
he statue, bronze-cast and glowing brilliantly in the sun, has frozen in time a man, focused and intent, but undeniably stoked, at the helm of a catamaran, surfing down a wave. Unveiled in early December by the City of Dana Point, the gleaming statue memorializes Hobart Laidlaw Alter. Better known as Hobie, the master craftsman opened one of the first surf shops in what was then a tiny Southern Californian beach town on Pacific Coast Highway in 1954. Hobie — who passed away in 2014 at the age of 80 — went on to build a watersports empire, making sailing fun, easy and affordable, and creating one of the largest classes of sailboats in the world, and the lifestyle that went with it. The new memorial, officially titled "Hobie Riding the Wave of Success," is the first of several statues that will honor local watersports legends, and part of a larger development on Pacific Coast Highway, near the entrance to Dana Point Harbor and across the street from Doheny State Park. But the new Hobie memorial is not just a statue, it's also a foundation supporting young innovators. "Hobie's contributions are far reaching in the boating world," said Robbie Roberson, the president of the Hobie Memorial Foundation and former HoHobie tandem surﬁng in the black-and-white era.
PHOTOS / THE HOBIE MEMORIAL FOUNDATION UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED
The Hobie memorial, left, is a tribute to the innovative spirit of its namesake. The Hobie Memorial Foundation hopes to keep that inventive ambition alive by awarding scholarships to young prodigies. Right, Hobie Laidlaw Alter doing a little "research and development."
bie employee, who worked through the ranks of the company's production line during the heyday of boatbuilding in Southern California. Having constructed several thousand catamarans during his long tenure, Roberson built the Hobie 14 portions of the memorial, which was a collaboration of several artists over three years. "I got to build the Hobie Cat myself because I was building the first ones, and to build the last one 50 years later was really special. It's the neatest thing that's happened in my life.
was probably 6 or 7, and we would go down to Hobie's surfboard shop in Dana Point and find scraps of balsa wood to build boats with. Hobie was always real gracious about it. He'd yell 'Go ahead and take it and get the hell out of here,'" Roberson laughed. "We built little boats and would Page 58 •
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go play with them at Doheny beach. Years later, I would be building all of his boats." Roberson started in Hobie's surfboard factory in 1967, and by 1968, was helping to build the Hobie 14, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. "I started in the metal shop, and through the years, did different stuff; I worked in the mold shop, and then did fiberglassing. I had the dream job." Roberson called the Hobie Cat — in its many different sizes and iterations — the most produced boat in history (citing a Yachting magazine timeline). "We're talking hundreds of thousands. In 1976, we were averaging 40 boats a day. In the summer of '76 we were actually building 92 boats a day for three days during the week; that included the Hobie 11.5, the Hobie 14 and the Hobie 16. It eventually leveled back off to 40 boats a day — but we were filling entire rail cars with boats." Located in San Juan Capistrano, the main Hobie factory had about 250 employees in the mold shops, according to Roberson, who said they often worked double or even 24-hour shifts. Their second factory in Irvine near John Wayne Airport had between 100 and 150 employees. Hobie was said to have never turned anyone away who needed work. "And when you're building that many
The February 2019 eBook issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.