Pete Cabrinha Interview from the 2006 Towsurfer Vault


An Inspired Life

Pete Cabrinha is an uncommon individual. Pete’s dedication to water sports has gained him both pioneer and master status in three of the most cutting edge sports to come along in the past three decades. International titles in surfing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing have put Pete at the top of a short list of world class watermen.

It’s that same passion that has fueled Pete’s parallel life as an artist. For the past two decades, Pete has pursued the arts with vigor and curiosity. He has paired 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 success and lifestyle as a professional water sports athlete and the founder of Cabrinha Kitesurfing enable him to travel the world. With one foot in the sand and one foot on the sidewalk, he is continually inspired – not only by the ocean and the people of his Hawaiian birthplace but by the street art found in the international cities that he often frequents. This cultural juxtaposition strikes a precarious balance and lends a unique flair to his mixed media artworks.


For Pete Cabrinha to find the inspiration he has to look no further than his immediate surroundings.

“Luck, timing, and my passion for doing things differently have put me where I am today.”-Pete Cabrinha

Pete Cabrinha, today at 56 and showing zero signs of slowing down




March 3, 2006

by Eric Akiskalian


Age: 42
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 145lbs.
DOB: 9.13.61
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Brown
From: Kailua, Hi
Current Residence: Haiku, Maui
Marital Status: Married
Children: One Girl named Tahiti
Years Kiting: 5
Years Surfing: 36
Years Windsurfing: 27
Years Towsurfing: 10

Other Passions: Art, Photography, and Graphic Design, Travel, Playing Drums, Ukulele, Kiteboarding, Skimboarding and my Family.

Business Owner: Cabrinha Designs
Sponsors: Cabrinha

Current Titles: Winner of the XXL Big Wave Awards 2003-2004 and International Towsurfer Awards Champion Awards 2003-2004. World Champion Windsurfer 1985 Tell us about your recent win with the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards and that fat check for $70K you received.

Pete: Winning the XXL was a very cool thing for me. I’m glad that Billabong recognizes surfers who are dedicated to this aspect of surfing with their level of awards. As far as the $70K, it went a long way to take care of my tow partner Rush and my family.

You have also been awarded The International Towsurfer Awards Champion for 2003/2004. That must have added a little more icing on the cake?

Winning the International Towsurfer Awards was like receiving a bonus on top of a bonus. These two awards seem to have taken on a life of their own. There is a lot of interest generated before, during and after. I was just doing what I always do at Pe?ahi and it had never occurred to me that I would be in the running for the XXL or the Towsurfer Awards.

What was the January 10th session like for you?

January 10th was like ‘Opening Season’ for a lot of people. There had been a few small swells prior to this one, but the conditions were never quite right. The January 10th swell was forecast long in advance and was pretty hyped-up before it arrived. Everyone was either planning on surfing or watching, and it turned out to be a good day for both.

Just how crowded was it during your session?

There were over 30 skis in the channel and most were tow teams, but there were a few photographers on them as well. Rush and I watched for almost two hours before we finally surfed. I normally watch one or two sets to get inspired before surfing, but on this day there was so much going on that we took our time before grabbing the rope. In the first hour, I saw more horrific wipeouts than I have seen in the previous 10 years. It was a combination of size, a bump from the southwest wind, and the extreme west direction. It probably also had something to do with it being the first real swell of the season and some people’s first time at Pe?ahi.

Tell us about some of the crazy wipeouts you saw?

On some wipeouts, I saw guys getting the full impact of the lip right on their chest before getting dragged underwater for 100 yards. I saw mid-face wipeouts sending guys over the falls. At one point there were about 10 waves in a row where everyone ate it bad. For towsurfing, that’s unusual. The vibe was tense. It was one of the more serious tow sessions I’ve seen in a while. But in between all of the carnage, there was some good stuff going on. The usual suspects were charging and getting it right. There were some huge barrels and some big bombs.

Tell us about that 70 footer you rode?

When I finally decided to surf, it was kind of a now-or-never decision. I had a pretty good idea that the lefts were the call. The extreme west Direction kept most of them from shutting down quickly. I had two new boards that had never been ridden. I told Rush to give me a warm up wave that I could test the new board on. We tried for a couple of waves, but guys were all over the smaller, cleaner ones. We finally went way outside and decided to claim the next thing that came through. It was a pretty big set and we decided to let the first two go through and took the third. It ended up being a bomb. I let go of the rope pretty early so I could get my board up to speed to see if it was going to do anything weird. It seemed to feel pretty good, so I stuck with it. Since it was my first wave, I stuck to the basics and tried to surf it clean. When I kicked out, Rush was screaming, saying that was the biggest thing he had ever seen. I caught about five more waves in a span of about an hour and then I towed Rush into some bombs. By the time Rush surfed, the crowd in the lineup had thinned out and we got to pick and choose a little more. He got some great rides.

Sounds like the teamwork between you and Rush was clicking. Does it get a bit frustrating to see so many teams in the water at Jaws on those really epic days, especially when these types of sessions had been empty for so many years?

Rush and I have towed together since the beginning so we know what to expect from one another. Sure, it?s a bummer to see that many skis in the water now but we knew it was only a matter of time. Still though, on a day like that, there were still plenty of empty waves going by. I counted over thirty skis (teams) in the water that day but there were only about 5 towing at any given time and the rest were watching or taking a break.

What do you think would have happened to you had you fallen on that 70-foot wave?

I have no illusions about what would have happened if I fell. I would have taken a severe beating and had to deal with a long hold down, and that?s probably the best case scenario. It doesn’t matter how calculated you are; it?s still a roll of the dice. I go into it willing to deal with the worst case scenario if it arises.

The last interview we did together was back in December of 2002. It’s been a while, what types of growth and changes both positive and negative have you seen in the sport of towsurfing?

The positive changes I’ve seen have been the increased level of towing from the dedicated guys. The images of towsurfing around the world are mind blowing. Even the best guys get sweaty palms when they see shots or video of the guys at Teahupoo’o. The negative aspect is just the crowd. The lack of crowds is one of the things that made it so attractive to me in the first place.

You’re 42 now, do you feel stronger mentally and physically today than in the past few years?

I feel about the same as I have in the past years, which is a good thing I guess. I’ve been balancing the time spent with my business, surfing and my family and unfortunately surfing sometimes gets the short end of the stick. When winter comes around the time percentages shift far enough in the direction of surfing so that I can be on my game.

How long do you feel it will be before someone rides that first 100-foot wave?

I think we need to find one first. I honestly have not seen one yet and not even at Pe’ahi. I have no idea if or when one will be ridden and one thing is for certain, It is not a goal of mine.

Where do you feel the equipment design is headed for the towboard? Smaller or back to some length?

I think we are settling into a good size of board for the time being. I don’t think towboards will get much smaller and I don’t think they will go back to being bigger. Sizes might change again when the construction technique calls for something different. One thing is for certain, we need to find a way to make the boards faster. During every wave I surfed on Jan 10th, I was going as fast as I’ve ever been and it still felt like I was standing still.

Congrats on your BIG win with the Billabong XXL Awards and for the interview.

Aloha Eric and great job on the website.

(c) 2006