'Surfing Hawaii' - Pete Cabrinha shows his art

Pete Cabrinha is known for his success and lifestyle as a professional water sports athlete and founder of Cabrinha Kitesurfing. Besides his passion for the ocean, for the past two decades Pete has pursued the visual arts with vigor and curiosity. In his collage pieces, Pete combines his technical photography skills with his off center painting techniques to capture the essence of a life lived above and below the Hawaiian waters. Pete's new collection is now featured in the exhibit 'Surfing Hawaii' from December 16th until February 15th in the Schaefer International Gallery at the Maui Arts And Cultural Center.  

We talked to Pete about why surfing is art, his inspiration and how art is incorporated into each Cabrinha product.

Hi Pete, your art is featured in the exhibit “Surfing Hawaii” on Maui for the next two months, can you explain what the show is all about?

The show is a broad look at the diverse culture of surfing in Hawaii. Mostly it’s a contemporary art show but there is a lot of historic surf related memorabilia and art for context. In addition to the artist contributions there are some amazing old Hawaiian wooden surfboards.

Your pieces are a vibrant mix of photography and various painting techniques. How did this style evolve and which elements do you use?

I really like to use photography to tell a story but most of the time a single image is not enough for me. Therefore I collage images together with painted iconography and sometimes I’ll include carved wood into the pieces. It’s a way for me to render complex issues or ideas into a single piece. When I do it properly, you can stand back and the piece will work as one. Or you can push in and find many sub plots to the story.

Besides the ocean, what fuels your art? What do you seek to capture and transport with your work?

I’m a pretty visual person so I’m constantly looking at life for those moments that create ‘snapshots’ of a particular scene or situation. I like to focus on situations that constantly change, like the weather or the ocean. Both provide a renewable source of imagery that that colors the basic way of our life here in Hawaii. Light, drama, beauty and tension. All of this can be found daily in Maui if you know what you’re looking for.

Have you always been interested in art or was there a point in time that made you discover and pursue your creative talent?

My mother was an artist so I was exposed to art at an early age. I’ve dabbled in it for many years but got somewhat serious in it over the last 20 years. Art for me has always been a seamless extension of what I’ve been doing as a surfer and in the building of the Cabrinha brand. So it’s been a constant part of my daily regiment even when I’m not actually working on a particular art piece. There’s a lot of conceptualizing, collecting, and planning that goes into my work long before I touch a canvas.

What’s your favorite piece of the collection and can you explain the creation process and its influences?

For the upcoming surf show I wanted to narrow my work to focus on the culture of surfing and how the media plays a role in it. Surfers and the media are always switching roles when it comes to defining surf culture. Sometimes the media simply documents the culture of surfing and sometimes the media can steer it. In the changing media landscape the lines are blurred as to who is driving it. One of my favorite pieces in the show is a surfboard gun shape. Half of the board has a glossed and polished black lower section and a rough matt collaged nose section. 

The exhibit show some incredible works from other pro watermen. Do you think there is a creative link between surfing and art and how does a life in the ocean inspire your art?

The very act of surfing is an art in itself. Unlike some sports where there is a defined playing field with a clear set of rules and people enforcing these rules, surfing is (sorry for the pun) much more liquid. Surfing is up to the individual to determine how they want to surf each wave. Their style, the maneuvers they perform on the wave, the type of board they ride, and just about every other aspect of surfing is a set of artistic choices made by them. Many surfers are free thinkers and are great at expressing themselves in and out of the water.

You take a very active part in the design process of each Cabrinha product. What similarities do you identify in the design process?

Designing products that people identify with is really an exercise in finding solutions to existing problems. To find where the barriers are and to break past them. This requires creative and sometimes out of the box thinking. Once the target is established the fun begins and everything comes into play. Function, performance and one of the most important parts of the process ...aesthetics.

Is there a Cabrinha product that stands out from a creative design point of view during your years of work with the company and why is it a favorite?

I think our surfboard collection this year really represents our design philosophy. Keep the lines and curves clean, and don’t try to overstate anything. The control system also follows that philosophy with its ergonomics and minimalist hidden features.


December 16th - February 15th
Schaefer International Gallery at the Maui Arts And Cultural Center



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