The Hobie Memorial Foundation is raising funds to construct a memorial honoring Hobie Alter’s life and his many contributions to the surfing, boating, and skateboarding industries. The Hobie Memorial Foundation Newsletter publishes fascinating historical accounts such as this one in every issue.
Dick Metz arrived home in 1961 after three years hitchhiking around the world on a two-thousand-dollar budget. In the 1950’s, only so many liquor licenses were sold in Orange County, California, so it worked out well when his liquor store near the Huntington Beach Pier was going bankrupt and Disneyland was in need of a license.
“What are you gonna do now?” Hobie asked Metz when he got back in town.
“Tend bar, I guess, maybe patch dings,” he told him.
“You can’t do that,” Hobie said. “Why don’t you come with me to Hawaii? I’m going for two weeks on business.” George Downing had been renting and selling Hobie’s boards on the beach in Honolulu, and well, it wasn’t working out like he had hoped.
Packing the basics, a pair of swim trunks, a few shirts, and, of course, his surfboard, Metz headed for Oahu with Hobie on a DC-4 from LAX to Honolulu via Oakland.
Once settled in a rooming house on Liliuokalani, Metz grabbed his board and went out surfing across the street while Hobie rented a car to take care of business with George, and to scout locations for a possible surf shop.
Metz couldn’t believe his luck. Who would’ve thought he would be out surfing in Hawaii after his recent travels. Hitchhiking to Central America, bribing the French Embassy $80 to hop a French Legionnaire’s ship to Tahiti, chasing girls for five months around Quinn’s Bar on the waterfront in Papeete, known as the ‘Toughest Bar in the World,’ even mingling with the Masai in Kenya; the memories ran through his brain as he sat outside at Queen’s Beach.
While Metz was catching waves, Hobie was all business. Leasing an empty storefront near Ala Moana Beach, he started setting up shop; building a counter, installing racks, Hobie kept plugging along at record pace, not wasting a minute of his time in the islands.
“I couldn’t believe it,” remembers Metz when Hobie brought him by to check it out. “I don’t know how he did so much in such a short time. The least I could do was paint the walls.”
At the end of two weeks of hard work, Hobie told Metz, “I gotta go home.”
Figuring the vacation was over, Metz started to pack up when Hobie added, “But I want to buy this store and I want you to run it.” Knowing Metz knew how to manage a liquor store, even though it didn’t turn out so well, Hobie left him in Hawaii to run an empty surf shop. “Don’t worry,” Hobie told him. “I’ll send you some surfboards and you don’t have to pay me until they’re all sold.”
Before Hobie left, he opened a checking account, gave Metz money to buy a car, and three days after he left for California, seventeen boxes were delivered on the grass outside the Honolulu Hobie Surf Shop.
Although each board came with a worksheet, Metz was confused. He didn’t know whether the prices were retail or wholesale. It was all very vague. But as he opened the boxes, kids began surrounding him and shoving money into his pockets. At the end of the day he sold all seventeen boards before he even got them in the shop.
“I sold all the boards, Hobie. What do I do now?” Metz said over a very staticky long distance phone call. Three or four days later, Hobie sent five more boards, and to keep up with the new demand, he started stockpiling.
Hobie already had dealers around the country; the first was a ski shop in Santa Monica that didn’t sell a lot of skis in the summer. With the “garage” on PCH in Dana Point being basically a factory at first, the Hobie Store in Honolulu was the first retail surf shop on Oahu.
Everything changed when foam came into the equation. Girls started buying boards where before they couldn’t carry the 100-pounders, and surfing took off. Hobie went from selling 200 boards to 6,000 surfboards a year.
The surge in sales earned Metz $35,000 a year in the Honolulu store, and prompted him to open a second in Haleiwa on the North Shore. There was never a contract written up, just a gentleman’s handshake between he and Hobie.
Over the years, Metz opened more surf shops; Santa Monica, Santa Cruz, San Diego, and ended up owning 22 in all. They were all bought with the money he earned selling Hobie’s surfboards and products.
“Then one year,” Metz remembers fondly, “I sent Hobie a $100,000 check at Christmas, and I sent a check every year after that.”
Contributions to the Hobie Memorial Foundation are tax deductible. To make a donation or for further information, visit www.hobiememorial.com.