From the second we are born, sand starts sifting through the hourglass as a fragile reminder of how short our physical life on earth is. Being at the right place at the right time takes more than luck. It requires seeing the connection within, recognizing opportunities, and utilizing the strength to achieve one’s goals through timing.
Pete Cabrinha was born in 1961 in Kailua, Oahu. His parents wasted no time opening the doors to the sea. “They were very active when I was young,” he said. “My dad was into motorcycles and was a pilot for Aloha Airlines. My mother, an artist, made me a skimboard when I was five.” It wasn’t long after that Pete was surfing every day and studying the mastery of his surfing heroes. “I used to watch Gerry Lopez, Rory Russel and Larry Bertelman. All of whom were instrumental in the development of the sport.”
Pete’s interest in exploring new extremes came at a very young age, with his roots firmly planted in surfing. At age 15, a friend led him to some windsurfing gear. He took it out and was hooked immediately. “At this time windsurfing had been around for about 10 years, and the sport’s popularity was just catching on,” he said.
After winning the first professional windsurfing contest ever in 1982, Pete was instantly picked up by sponsors and began traveling the world. He began taking the sport to the next level, thus creating the standards of modern day windsurfing.
Wave sailing was to become his forte and in 1985 he was the world champion. “I did the tour from 1982-1987 and one of the major highlights was traveling with my friend and Hawaiian local Robby Naish, and sailing some of the most beautiful places on earth,” he said. “It really opened my mind to a vast array of cultures outside of Hawaii.”
As timing would have it, he decided to leave the world tour and was given the opportunity to put on exhibitions and promotional demonstrations exclusively for his sponsors: Naish Sails, Terzo, The Wave, and Timpone Surfboards.
Sports careers rarely last forever, and during this time he began teaching himself the art of graphic design. “I was tired of advertisers not seeing my conception, so I started designing ads for the magazines myself,” he said.
With a unique insight into the future, Pete has been at the forefront of waterboard sports. With surfing as his source, Cabrinha is free to experiment with all aspects of waveriding. Recently, he’s been practicing the relatively new sport of kitesurfing and is enticed by the aerial possibilities.
“I’m 37 and still wake up every morning ready to surf,” he said. “On any given day, something new can be created and I realize the limitless potential that the ocean has to offer.” It’s his childlike enthusiasm that has led him on this journey.
Pete’s involvement in strap surfing has been a primary focus over the past few years. “I’m really glad I had the opportunity to surf Pe`ahi when the sport was brand new,” he said. ‘It was a very exciting time when we first started. My friends and I were treading unknown territory. Surfing Pe`ahi has taught me a lot; not only about the sport, but about friendship and trust. The strap team has a commitment to watch each other’s back.”
Over the years, he’s been in numerous TV commercials including Mountain Dew, Closeup, United Airlines and Minolta Cameras. He was cast as himself in the movie In Gods Hands, which he feels portrays tow-in surfing in a positive light. He’s now landed a reoccurring role in the new NBC series Wind On Water starring Bo Derek and Lee Horsley.
“The show takes place on the Big Island,” he said. “It’s about life on the ranch, and revolves around the ocean. I play the foreman of a bad ranch and have to be a tough guy, which I’m not.” He treats acting like he does surfing and graphics. “I watch and learn from observing; soak up as much knowledge and information and just try to be myself.”
Life these days for Pete is as exciting as ever, he is currently working with his wife Lisa and her growing swimwear business. “I’ve been getting into photography and combining it with my graphic design to create catalogs and advertisements,” he said.
Living on Maui for the last 11 years has been nothing short of a fantasy for Pete Cabrinha. Having the open mind and drive to succeed, he’s humbled by a life of heroic achievement. His purpose lies somewhere in between the lines of unspoken expression and being aware of the importance of timing. Cabrinha is a perfect example of personal utilization to accomplish greatness.
This story originally ran in MauiTime’s July 7, 1998 issue.
Photos: Erik Aeder Photography