PALM DESERT (AP) — Hobart “Hobie” Alter, whose development of the foam surfboard and the “Hobie Cat” sailboat brought masses to the water, has died. He was 80.

A statement on the Hobie sporting goods website says Alter died Saturday at his Southern California home. A cause of death was not disclosed. The Orange County Register reports he had been battling cancer.

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Alter had his start in the early 1950s crafting wooden surfboards in his family’s Laguna Beach home. When the balsa wood used for the boards became scarce, he collaborated with an employee of his surf shop to create surfboards out of polyurethane foam. The lighter, less expensive boards revolutionized surfing, and Hobie became a top surfboard brand.

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Alter’s design of the lightweight, affordable “Hobie Cat” catamaran is credited with bringing high-performance sailing to the masses.

Even though his inventions and Hobie brand earned him a fortune, friends said he always preferred cutoffs to suits.

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