Boating at Malibu Beaches

Power boat anchored off Surfrider Beach, near the Malibu Pier, December 2005.Copyright
Power boat anchored off Surfrider Beach, near the Malibu Pier, December 2005.

History of sailing from the Malibu Beaches

Small boat sailors formed the Malibu Catamaran Club in 1946 and the Malibu Yacht Club in 1948. The two groups merged by 1950, continuing as the Malibu Yacht Club. These sailors introduced catamarans to California after seeing them in Hawaii. As part of an active interest in sailing along the Malibu coast, the Malibu Outrigger was invented here.

In the early days of the Malibu Yacht Club, their beach location put the emphasis primarily on multihull sailboat racing, although there were a few owners of what some members called "monomarans". The Club facilities included dressing rooms, showers, a kitchen and bar, plus a launching hoist and moorings, along with storage space for seventy boats.

Historic sign at the Malibu Pier reflects the legacy of sport fishing.Copyright
Historic sign at the Malibu Pier reflects the legacy of sport fishing.

By the 1970s, between 50 and 70 catamarans were kept at the Malibu Yacht Club, a vacant lot on Surfrider Beach just east of the Malibu Pier where small stakes races were held every weekend. On special occasions upwards of 200 homemade catamarans could be seen navigating the ocean near Surfrider Beach. A photo in the Malibu Times showed a Hobie Cat regatta in August 1970 with dozens of sails in view.

In the 1970s, expectations were still based on simple fun. People wrapped a sleeping bag in a waterproof cover and launched through the surf from Malibu, crossed the 40 miles of open ocean, and camped overnight on Catalina Island.

The Malibu Yacht Club lost its lease in the mid-1980s, and moved to Trancas. The winds were higher and the surf rougher at Trancas, discouraging casual sailors. Yacht Club membership dwindled as older members dropped out and few youngsters took up the sport.

In 1998, winter storms took the remaining sailboats and a sail storage container. The loss ended the Yacht Club after sixty plus years in Malibu.

Sport Fishing in Malibu

Sport fishing boats operated from the two piers in Malibu, the one at Paradise Cove and the Malibu Pier itself, opened for charter fishing since 1934. Sports fishing boats operated from the Malibu Pier until the early 1960s and at Paradise Cove until storms destroyed much of their pier in the mid-1980s. Charter fishing from Malibu is expected to resume when the Malibu Pier returns to full operation, potentially during 2006.

Sailing and Boating in Malibu Today

Few sails are seen on the Malibu coast today since the nearest places where boats can be launched are Oxnard's Channel Islands Harbor or Marina del Rey, both rather far for sailing to Malibu. The winds are normally against you coming from Marina del Rey, a slow and difficult trip. Since the city prohibits the landing of powered watercraft along Malibu's 27-mile coastline, and there are no fixed buoys for pleasure boats anywhere in Malibu, there is little sport boating in Malibu at all. Although the beautiful Malibu coast seems to invite pleasure boating, in fact there are few seen here while hundreds float off the shores of the beach communities close to Marina del Rey or near the Channel Islands Harbor. Larger power boats are the most common sight, anchored off shore.

Some events and locations still do draw boats to the Malibu waters. In March 1999, the Marina del Ray Anglers sponsored the "heaviest Halibut over 43 lbs" contest with a big prize. The contest drew hundreds of boats to the area, visible all day from Malibu's beaches. At Paradise Cove and off the Malibu pier, in the summer when conditions are most favorable, yachts and sailboats will anchor but will leave before the risky winter conditions arrive.

Kayak off Dan Blocker Beach, January 2006With sailing and powerboats limited, what is going on in Malibu waters? Kayaks and other small hulls that can easily launch in the surf have become popular and can often be seen at Malibu beaches. Trucks towing tailers with multiple stacked kayaks line PCH when clubs arrive for an outing. People with private beaches keep the slim boats stacked near the house, ready for immediate use, at least in good weather (95% of the time in Malibu).

Sport fishing was a regular service of commercial boats docked at the Malibu Pier and Paradise Cove for many years. A winter storm destroyed much of the Paradise Cove pier in 1982, and the last sport fishing boat, The Gentleman, was forced to leave the cove. The Malibu Pier has been closed for years, but there are plans to reopen it and start up sport fishing once again.

Wylie's Bait & Tackle at Topanga is the only bait shop along Malibu's coastline and vicinity. Wylie's has been there since 1946, but is threatened by State plans for the Topanga beach and lagoon area.

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