The story of Hobie: an OC original

Things to Do, Travel Tips, What's New — By chrisallsop on April 28, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Hobart “Hobie” Alter was the surfboard shaping original who started off a brand name synonymous with Orange County. Mark Christy, president of Laguna Beach Properites which runs Hobie Surf shops in Dana Point and Laguna Beach, takes up the story:

Hobie Sport's Mark Christy

“‘Hobie’ was the first surf shop in America. Its founder, Hobie, was a guy who liked woodshop and the beach and swore he would never wear hard-soled shoes or work east of Highway 1. He started building balsa-wood surfboards for his friends for twenty bucks in 1950. When his dad got sick and tired of the sawdust in the garage, they built a shop in Dana Point in early ‘54.

“That was ok, he was now building more surfboards than anyone in the world, but not making a lot of money. If you want to lose money, start selling surfboards, there is so little margin in it it’s ridiculous.

“So Hobie hooked up with a guy called Dick Metz, and Dick was more of a businessman than Hobie. To this day, Hobie doesn’t care about money – he has money, but he lives very simply, he’s a very humble cat. But Dick recognized that all these guys were coming in to buy surfboards, so maybe there was an opportunity to sell them trunks at the same time. Dick brought in more surf-related products to the store and, all of a sudden, Hobie said, “We’re actually turning a profit, what a concept.”

Christy took over the stores in ’96, and has plans to install a shaping bay in the soon to open Dana Point store. “I don’t think there’ll be anywhere else for Joe Public to watch a surfboard be shaped,” he adds.

Finally, as Christy seems like an authority on this kind of thing, we asked him his tips on the best surf break in Orange County.

“If you’re an old guy like me, San Onofre is a mellow break,” he says. “However, Trestles is great, very consistent, and it builds so with a South or South-West swell it’s going to thump. Trestles is also hard to get to which is another benefit. Salt Creek is good too, but the guys who surf there can be propriety and aggressive. I prefer Sano. There are no houses as well, it’s like going back 50 years. Pretty sweet.”