A rainbow of sails dotted the horizon at Doheny State Beach the last weekend of October as fifty sailboats took to the water to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Hobie Cat. Although Hobie Alter passed in 2014 at the age of 80, his legend and legacy will forever live on through the lives he touched and the crafts he built.
Hobie first began shaping boards in his parents’ garage in 1950—a few years later he opened up southern California’s first ever surf shop in Dana Point. By 1958, Hobie, alongside his buddy “Grubby,” invented the polyurethane surfboard. The board was lighter, faster, and easier to ride than any other board on the market and forever changed the surf industry.
Fast-forward to 1968 and Hobie made history yet again. The Hobie Cat 14, a fast and easy to sail playboat inspired by the Polynesian twin-hulled catamaran, was released to the market. Just like the foam surfboard, Hobie’s catamaran design forever changed the world of sailing. To this day, the Hobie Cat remains the best-selling catamaran in the world.
“Catamarans give more options for going bigger or smaller and they’re very steady boats. And they’re quick and fast,” Hobie’s right-hand-man, Wayne Shafer, told the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center. “When he did the 14, our concept was that we wanted to be able to take it on and off our beach. Of course, Hobie had more in mind than just satisfying a few of us, though we were naturally part of the influence.”
On Saturday, October 27th, sailors, surfers, fisherman, locals, and tourists gathered at Doheny State Beach to celebrate the legacy of Hobie’s incredible craft. Hobie Cats from near and far lined the beach, their eye-catching sails flapping in the light, autumn breeze. As the sun peaked its way through the fog, fifty-some cats launched through the surf to take part in the historic regatta.
The cats sailed 10 miles past noteworthy Hobie landmarks, including Poche Beach where it all began, while onlookers cheered them on from the sand and the water. As the cats finished the historic sail, they gathered in front of the beach, where they were then ushered in, a few at a time, through the surf. The day wrapped up with a barbeque, where friends gathered to swap sailing stories and standout Hobie moments.
Since its invention fifty years ago, the Hobie Cats has impacted the lives of sailors worldwide. The cats have made sailing accessible to the masses, and thousands of people have discovered the joy of sailing worldwide aboard a Hobie Cat. What the next fifty years will look like is anyone’s guess, but if it’s anything like the past fifty it surely will be a sight worth seeing.