Historical Society Spotlights a Modern Icon

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Author Paul Holmes
Author Paul Holmes

Local author and resident Paul Holmes presents a program based on his book, “Hobie: Master of Water, Wind and Waves,” for the Laguna Beach Historical Society in City Hall at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25.

The biography on the life and career of Hobi Alter, one of the town’s most iconic figures, whose innovation shaped the culture of surfing and sailing.

The 300-page book includes 585 photographs and illustrations and was released last December by Newport Beach-based Croul Publications. The author spent five years convincing Alter to let him write it.

Holmes writes about how Alter revolutionized surfboards by introducing polyurethane foam as a substitute for balsa wood, making surfing accessible to millions of people around the world and popularizing the sport.

After interviewing Alter and nearly 70 of his cohorts, Holmes says three things impress him about his subject. Alter is completely self taught, his accomplishments go beyond surfing and sailing to fly fishing and desert motorcycle racing, and there was no acrimony among partners or lawsuits to report.

A young Hobie Alter on board a Hobie catamaran sailboat.
A young Hobie Alter on board a Hobie catamaran sailboat.

Alter “always felt that he could make things better than anybody else,” said Holmes, who felt his subject’s accomplishments deserved to be recorded in book form. “Hobie…is a Laguna Beach living legend,” said Holmes, a former editor of Surfer magazine.

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