The Coolest Cat
SA: There was something called the “Hobie Edict” that was issued, which banned non-Hobie Cats from any HCA sponsored regattas in North America. Remember that? Do you think that that helped or hurt overall multi-hull participation?
HA: I think it helped our participation immensely, though I don’t know what it did the other way around. It wasn’t a formal thing completely, but it came after the Prindle Cat got in at Lake Havasu, where we’d been racing for years with the Hobie and the P-Cat. We didn’t compete much with the P-Cat, but the Prindle Cat came in and pretty soon that wasn’t a fun thing. Their guys didn’t like our guys, our guys didn’t like their guys – it just wasn’t a good deal for us, so pretty soon we separated it out. We had enough people to have a good time on our own. We kept the rules tight enough that you couldn’t buy your way to victory on our boat – we were just racing equal boats. Certainly Prindle had enough boats out there to do the same thing, but to put the two together on the same weekend just didn’t work. And our guys were doing the really hard work, promoting the Class and having a lot of fun and success, so why should they promote a competing class? We really just wanted to do our own thing, and that was to have fun.
SA: Was there bad blood with you and Jeff Prindle after he went off on his own?
HA: Not really, we never really had any big problems. Prindle kind of knocked off our rudder line/drop down thing, so we put a stop to that. But basically there were a few small things, you know – Prindle got a few of our guys, but that’s going to happen. Compared to the surfboard business, where everyone was robbing everyone else’s top surfers – those guys would switch loyalties really fast, you couldn’t believe it. Compared to that the cat stuff was nothing.
SA: Your surf business went from a tiny custom thing to a gigantic monster, and it still hasn’t slowed down, right? You and Clark really…
HA: There’s a really long history behind all that that was going slowly up through the 30s and 40s through World War 2, and then the light boards, balsa wood and fiberglass were really what changed things, and that’s when I got into it. I was like 15 and guys like me all of a sudden became the best surfers – because they had the best equipment. And the old guys didn’t want to switch readily, they’d say things like, “Wait’ll the surf gets big, you won’t want that little potato chip then!” But then it got big and we still went better – but it took a few years for it all to switch over. So in the meantime, all the good surfers were these young guys building and shaping boards with the new materials. That’s gonna happen anyway with the younger people, but the change made it happen really fast for those riding balsa/glass. And then foam came in, and we figured out how to make lighter boards and to make them so much easier to manufacture, all the while balsa was getting more scarce. I think that only 10% of the tree could be used for boards, the rest was thrown out or used for model airplanes.
SA: Let’s move back to one of our reader questions. One of the writes, “A U.S. relative of mine, based in Florida these days, told me a tale of buying Hobie 14 # 1 from you way back when. He said you wanted sail # 001 back, and swapped it for a road trailer. Any truth to this tale?