Local rivalries are a glorious thing, and when it comes to surf, perhaps no other rivalry has burned as brightly or shaped the world we know quite like the epic head-butting of Hobie Alter and Dale Velzy.
Alter and Velzy are two of the most iconic surfboard builders during the sport’s Golden Age of the 1960s. Nearly 70 years since Alter opened Hobie Surfboards—and Velzy subsequently opened a Velzy shop five miles south in San Clemente the following year—a funny twist of fate has brought them both together again.
“We’re really excited to now be building Surfboards by Velzy,” Hobie brand manager Kris Carlow shared. “Velzy’s boards have not been available for quite some time. We made a connection with Fran Hoff (Velzy’s widow and the owner of Surfboards by Velzy) and are assisting Fran with the endeavor.”
Back in December 2021, historian Matt Warshaw covered their relationship in classic detail for San Clemente Times.
“Velzy swooped down from Los Angeles in 1955 to open a new outlet in San Clemente, on Pacific Coast Highway, for the express purpose of siphoning off potential customers driving up from San Diego,” Warshaw wrote. “And thus began the start of the first great American boardmaker’s rivalry. Customers lined up behind one man or the other, Hobie or Velzy, giving their allegiance not just to a brand but a form of surfing leadership.
As Warshaw previously explained, Alter “was earnest and respectable” running his shop as cleanly as he was, while Velzy, on the other hand, was known for smoking cigars, “wore a diamond pinky ring, and kept a roll of hundred-dollar bills in his back pocket.”
“Their salesmanship styles differed, too,” Warshaw wrote. “In a bit of ad copy, Alter described his boards as having ‘evolved through careful and original changes, using proven principles and vast experience.’”
Many of his most loyal followers even knew Velzy as a “smooth, likable hustler” who would “sidle up to a mink coat-wearing divorcée looking to buy a board for her teenage son.”
“True to form, Velzy wasn’t just bad at bookkeeping, but spectacularly bad, as he ignored creditors, snubbed the IRS, and threw away all notices and warnings,” Warshaw wrote. “Then, in late 1960, his entire mainland operation, five outlets in all, collapsed overnight.”
Federal agents had gone to all of his shops at the same time, padlocking the doors and confiscating the boards in his showrooms, board-building tools and machines and even his gullwing Mercedes.
“Everything was confiscated and put up for auction,” Warshaw wrote, adding: “The Velzy Surfboards meltdown was a surf-world sensation, but it didn’t cause any break in the supply line—thanks in part to Alter.”
And that brings us to the present day, as Hobie’s crack team of craftsmen will be reproducing some of Velzy’s most famous models. The shaping duties will be headed up by Adam Davenport and Gary Larson. Initially, they’ll be offering two models, the Pig and Malibu Express.
“We’re working on a noserider and Malibu Chip, as well,” Carlow said.
Bringing the relationship full circle, the Velzy boards will be unveiled at Hobie’s San Clemente location after its warehouse sale this Saturday, March 18, from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., at 32921 Calle Perfecto in San Juan Capistrano.
There will be one of the last balsa/redwood boards Velzy made on display, as well as archival photos courtesy of the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center’s vast collection.
“All of us are really excited,” Carlow added. “There is so much history between Hobie and Velzy, and now it’s all going to be together under one roof.”
Jake Howard is a local surfer and freelance writer who lives in San Clemente. A former editor at Surfer Magazine, The Surfer’s Journal and ESPN, today he writes for a number of publications, including Picket Fence Media, Surfline and the World Surf League. He also works with philanthropic organizations such as the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center and the Positive Vibe Warriors Foundation.
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