Hobie Alter, Cheryl Tiegs, and a yard full of Hobie Cats

Published on May 6th, 2014

Hobart “Hobie” Alter, who started out shaping surfboards, and ended up shaping a culture, passed away peacefully at his Palm Desert home on March 29 at 80 years of age. Hobie’s impact on sailing is immeasurable, as was his impact on the people around him. Here is a story from Rob Mairs, an early Hobie dealer on the East Coast…

In November 1969, I was in Miami on business, and one evening, I went to the boat show. I believe it was one of the first shows east of the Mississippi that the Hobie 14 was displayed. In the booth was this continuous-loop 16-millimeter movie filmed by none other than Bruce Brown with Hobie and his friends on the Hobie 14 going in and out of the surf and flying hulls. I had never seen anything like it, and I was hooked! The price was $1,095, which was a lot of money for me, but I wanted one badly!

When I got home, I convinced my good buddy to go in half with me—after convincing my wife we needed it. I called the phone number on the Coast Catamaran brochure and guess who answers? Hobie Alter himself! I was obviously taken aback, but finally told him I wanted to buy one and wanted to know where the closest dealer was located—I lived in Annapolis, Maryland. Hobie asked: ‘Are you near Norfolk or New York?,’ and I said no to both. He then paused and said: ‘I could sell you one, but if you buy three boats, you can be our dealer in that area.’

I clearly was not expecting that reaction and told him I would have to think about it. I then convinced my partner-buddy that we should each get one, and then we convinced another friend to take the third. I called Hobie back a couple of days later. I told him we would do it, and ordered the three boats. He sent them via air freight! Amazingly, it did not cost that much, and as I recall, they fit into a Boeing 727, including the mast.

We weren’t really too interested in selling boats, we just wanted our Hobie 14s! Two of us had other jobs (both in meteorology and oceanography), but since we were now in the business of selling Hobie Cats, my new ‘business partner’ and I contracted for a booth at the upcoming Washington, D.C., boat show.

A huge stroke of good luck then befell us. Several weeks before the boat show, Sports Illustrated came out with its 1970 swimsuit issue with several really exciting photos of the Hobie 14 sailing in Hawaii with Cheryl Tiegs on full display!

Of course, just about every male in the area had seen the issue, and we put multiple SI’s on our demo boat trampoline and around our booth. To our complete and utter shock, we were selling Hobie Cats like they were hot dogs. We sold 70-plus boats at the show, all with deposits plus a long list of potential buyers! – Practical Sailor, read on

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