Entertaining real-life stories with valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life
Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life. The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on June 17th, 2014

Hobie Alter: The man who revolutionized surfing and sailing.

Hobie recently passed away at the age of 80. But in the late 1950's with a business partner Grubby (Gordon Clark) he created mass produced surfboards, surfboards light enough and priced low enough for most people to use.

Until then, surfers had used Hobie's balsawood based boards, created a few years earlier which were a dramatic improvement from the heavy plank boards that were in use for decades.

Those bulky plank boards were so heavy, few people could carry them and surfing was a fringe sport.

But with Hobie's and Grubby's colorful and affordable lightweight surfboards, and the Beach Boys and other rock groups singing about the magic of surfing and of fun at the beach, the sport caught on. Hobie Surfboards became a success.

Today, his surfboards are on beaches all over the world.

Hobie Cat
Hobie Cat Sailboats     Abdullah Doma/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hobie also turned his attention to boats. In the 1960's, catamarans were largely the province of expensive yacht clubs and wealthy people.

Those catamarans were costly and so big and heavy, it took at least four people to put them in the water and it was difficult to transport them to the water.

So in 1968, Hobie introduced the Hobie Cat, which was small at 14 feet and so light, one person could handle it. Its price including a trailer was just $999, which meant vast numbers of people could afford it and could use it.

And by the many thousands, they bought Hobie Cats and still do.

But Hobie's goals weren't focused on money. He just wanted to have a job where he didn't have to wear a suit and tie, and which allowed him to surf each day.

In 1954 Hobie had dropped out of community college and with an $8,000 inheritance he opened his first surf shop and production facility on Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point, California just south of Laguna Beach.

"The most important thing to Hobie was to have fun in whatever he did," Dick Metz, Hobie's longtime friend and business partner told the Los Angeles Times. "He didn't want to run a business.

"Hobie was very fortunate," Metz continued. "The guys who were close to him could have robbed him blind. If you asked him, 'Don't you want to see the financial statements?' He'd say, 'No, if it's good enough for you, it's good enough for me.'

"That was his stock answer for 50 years. His philosophy was if you built something people like, the money will follow."

And the money did follow, as today Hobie's sons; Hobie and Jeff, run his multimillion dollar sports empire.

Success Tip of the Week: Do what Hobie did, follow your heart and spend your life doing what you find meaningful.

Editor's Note: To learn more, see latimes.com, nytimes.com and hobie.com

In the next KazanToday: The story of a groundbreaking deaf actress.

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