The Hobie Cat success story
In the beginning there was a dream and a few drawings in the sand of California. In 1968 Hobart "Hobie" Alter sketched the first beach catamaran - the Hobie Cat 14.
So it begins, the Hobie story as we know it. But was it like that? Wasn't there also the wave that flitted over the drawing in the sand and made the straight, neatly structured lines into a banana shape? That's probably how many put it together the first time they drove a plug. Or was the banana shape of the hulls after all planned to surf waves better in practice, or in theory to make the wetted area smaller with increasing speed? Details about this are unfortunately not known. The only thing that is certain is that Hobart took his cue from the Polynesian double-hulled boats in order to build an easy-to-handle beach catamaran. Even before that, he and his friends Wayne Schafer, Sandy Banks, Dick Barrymore and Bobby Patterson sailed catamarans like those offered by other manufacturers. In 1966, the five friends decided to build their own boat that would sail particularly well in surf and near the beach. He devised a rudder system that folds up automatically when the boat touches the ground, replaced centerboards functionally with asymmetrical shaping of the hulls, which presumably got the famous banana shape because of said wave. In 1968 he built the first prototype from the plastics he knew. He benefited from his vast experience in surfboard production, which he had been doing since 1950. The 14 foot long prototype hit the sailing and surfing scene like a bomb. The 14 rode easy and fast, was fun, and whether you were skidding on a surfboard or plugging along with the 14, it was part of the fun. The Hobie 14 became very successful with the public right away. Wayne Schafer organized a regatta in Newport Beach (California) in the very first year. The press was enthusiastic, and an article in the US magazine Life entitled The Catamaran That Can Fly made the Hobie 14, its creator Hobart Alter and the Hobie Way of Life socially acceptable. The Hobie 14 obviously embodied a mix of holiday spirit and serious sport and fun for all. At the same time, the Hobie 14 was not exactly inexpensive by German standards: it cost $999, the equivalent of just under DM 4,000.00. At that time you could almost get a new VW Beetle for that.
Surfing on the wave of success, Hobart Alter 1970 enlarged hulls, trampoline and rig, gave the boat jib and 2 harnesses - ready was the 16er. Flying over the water in a double trapeze - what an experience. The world had to experience that: In 1971, the first Hobie 14s came from USA to Europe. In the same year, the US shipyard subsidiary Coast Catamaran France in Hyeres (France) began production of Hobie 14 and 16 for Europe. Importers to Germany were quickly found. Carlo Backhaus, Ernst Bartling, Harald Pohlmann and others supplied the German market and satisfied an ever increasing demand for the colourful boats with the coloured sails, which were of course also available in white. But yellow hulls, yellow trampoline and a sail with panels in different colours - that was so blatantly different from the one that was recognised as a sailing boat in Germany that resistance arose: Clubs objected to bringing Hobie Cat boats onto club grounds, counties issued bans on sailing lakes. The resistance crumbled, the Hobie Cats prevailed and grew to become the largest catamaran community in Germany.
In the meantime, many more models have been added, so that a wide range of needs and interests from young to old can be catered for, not only for the sake of the sailors, but also to assert themselves in a market that many other manufacturers have discovered for themselves. While in the first 20 years it was certainly the sales figures that shaped the success story of Hobie Cat, it is now the consistency with which Hobie Cat is present on the sailing scene. Behind all this is the longing for freedom, which each of us sailors may define for himself and individually. And this longing lives on - Hobie Cat forever
Have a hobie day