- WSL / Parallel Sea

After a spur-of-the-minute text exchange, John John Florence and Kai Lenny jumped on John's 18-foot catamaran and sailed 200 nautical miles from Oahu to Kauai. John describes the voyage as "fast and uncomfortable."

Outfitted with foils on the boat's hulls, John's boat features the latest in cat technology, but the tradition of the world's best surfers hoisting a sail goes back to the early 1960s when master stylist Phil Edwards and surf empresario Hobie Alter lived on the same stretch of sand between Dana Point and San Clemente in California.

"Phil started it with the 16-foot outrigger that he built. Then guys would say, ‘If I buy this catamaran can I keep it on your beach?' So, we had different catamarans here that different people bought," recalled Wayne Penn-Shaffer, who along with Phil and Hobie helped develop the first incarnation of what would become the Hobie Cat.

"We had this cross section of catamarans, which was very good because it allowed us to try all these different boats, including the Pacific Cat, or the P-Cat. None of them worked the way we liked, but that was the state of the art at the time. The one that worked the best was Phil's 16-foot outrigger canoe. It was simple. We could take it on and off the beach. And that's what put the concept of the '14' in Hobie's mind. He felt he needed to amplify off of that," continued Wayne, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 91.

They began testing hull designs, shaping them, fine tuning them, and experimenting with all kinds of different concepts until they eventually came up with what would come to be known as the Hobie 14.

"Catamarans give more options for going bigger or smaller and they are very steady boats. And they're quick and fast," explained Wayne. "When he did the 14, basically, our concept was that we wanted to be able to take it on and off our beach here. Of course, Hobie had more in mind than just satisfying a few of us, though we were naturally part of the influence."

Over half a century later, John and Kai are still having fun and still pushing the design concepts of Hobie's original boat forward. John's boat is four feet longer than the original Hobie Cat and utilizes the latest in modern materials and design, but based on the success of their trip across the Kaʻieʻie Waho Channel, the thrill remains the same.

Wayne Schaffer Wayne Penn-Schaffer piloting an early iteration of the Hobie Cat more than 60 years before John John Florence and Kai Lenny made their crossing from Oahu to Kauai. - WSL / SHACC.org
World Surf League
Download it for free on the App store. Download it for free on Google Play.