Eight Bells: Wayne Schafer
Published on June 7th, 2020
Wayne Schafer, 91, part of a group of Southern California watermen who spent their days surfing, sailing, and coming up with ideas that would change the water world, died on June 2 at his home in Capistrano Beach, CA.
Schafer, who graduated from USC and served in the U.S. Naval Air Reserve, moved to Capistrano Beach in the ’50s, developing Dana Point real estate and surfing just off his front yard at Poche reef.
Schafer’s Tahitian-influenced beachfront yard was where Hobie Alter and Gordon “Grubby” Clark, who along with iconic surfer Phil Edwards lived with Schafer, first brainstormed about using foam as a core for surfboards instead of wood, a monumental shift in surfing that would provide for more inexpensive, lighter, easier-to-make boards.
Early versions of the new-wave surfboards were tested by this small group of surfers, just as years later they would test Alter’s portable catamaran idea using a similar material.
“In modern terms, it was not only the birthplace of the surf industry, it was the Silicon Valley of the California surfing industry, spawning a lifestyle that is unmatched in the history of outdoor sports,” said friend Steve Dunn. “It was Wayne Schafer that created this magical place, yet they kept it very under the radar and did not want it to become a Malibu or a Huntington Beach.
One of the classic stories about their adventures comes from when Schafer and Edwards, in 1958, made a 14-foot Polynesian outrigger and competed in the 125nm Newport to Ensenada Yacht.
“This is one of the boats that directly influenced the development of the Hobie Cat, and really started Wayne’s life path as a champion catamaran sailor,” Dunn said.
Wanting to follow through on their desire for a beach cat, Schafer and Alter wandered their beach for ideas, with Alter taking a drawing in the sand and a lot of paper napkins to create what would become the Hobie 14.
The day inventor Hobie Alter broke the mold to his first batch of Hobie catamarans – July 4, 1968 – the friends launched from the sandy front yard of Wayne Schafer’s home in five 14-foot boats, not knowing that the lightweight sailboats would soon forever change the sailing world by allowing masses of people access to the ocean.
Schafer went on to win two Hobie 14 US National Championships and runner-up in the Hobie 14 Worlds and Hobie 16 US Nationals.
Schafer is survived by his son, Wayne Martson Penn Jr., daughter-in-law Aileen Briceno Penn, and granddaughter Sofia Elise Penn.
A memorial paddle out will happen in early August. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Wayne Penn Schafer Memorial Fund at the Surfing Heritage & Culture Center at 110 Calle Iglesia, San Clemente.