The Most Influential Gear of All Time: Hobie Alter Foam Surfboard

1958

Early Hobie foam board

One of Hobie’s first foam boards     Photo: Courtesy of Hobie

Hobie Alter was a top paddleboard racer and surfer who made balsa wood boards in his garage with his friend Roger Bellknap. The duo constantly tinkered with design and materials. After opening his first shop in 1954 in Dana Point, California, with a total investment of $12,000, Alter was approached by Kent Doolitle, a Fiberglas representative who came by to show off a new material: urethane foam. When he saw how well it held up to acetone and resin—substances that destroyed Styrofoam—Alter started shaping boards with the new materials. By June 1958 he had figured out how to contain the foam in epoxy and orders for the boards began pouring in.

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