We are honored to present Kuhio Vellalos’ Limited Edition Quick-Dry towel, from the 2021 Creative Canvas contest.  Kuhio is an incredibly talented + passionate lifestyle and ocean photographer from Oahu, Hawai’i.  He is known by his community for being in the water often and shooting images non-stop.  He’s the guy you can count on for some photos from your session + are always met with aloha. We are so grateful for the opportunity to put Kuhio’s work on a new canvas and equally as grateful to share more about him, his path to photography, and what inspires him on our blog. Read through below + enjoy the amazing imagery from Kuhio’s friend, Pekuna. 
When did you start making art?
I've been interested in photography forever. My mom had a 35mm nikon SLR, and I tried to learn how to take photos as a kid. After wasting a roll or two of film, I gave up. 
Fast forward to my early 20s, I was working as a marine technician aboard the Research Vessel Kilo Moana, and I realized I needed a camera to document my travels. For several years, I would pull out the camera on the road, but then it would stay on the shelf once I got home.
Fast forward another 10 years and now with a wife and two young sons, my Canon Rebel DSLR and lenses were just too much to carry around, but I needed to document life as dad! So in 2017 I sold the DSLR and lenses and picked up a sony mirrorless camera system, With its much smaller form factor, here was a camera that I could carry around in a hip pack and easily capture those moments of kids being kids.
And then I found water photography. Ocean knowledge has been acquired since I was a child, starting on a boogie in the shorebreak then whitewater at Haleiwa Alii's and then out into the various lineups around O'ahu through competitive surfing. I devoured surf imagery during this time, amazed at the fisheye photos of Pipeline and pulled back photos of perfect lineups. My wife really encouraged me to save up for a waterhousing and make it happen. What began as a "I'll only shoot photos when the waves are too crowded or after i'm done surfing" became something a lot more. I began to search out talented surfers to shoot with. I'd say it was at this time that I started to make ART, and really look at what draws my eye to an image (composition, light, lines, shadows, etc), and critically look at my own images to see what I could improve.
What or who inspired you to start?
My buddy Keoki Saguibo (IG: @photokeoki) was the one that really planted the seed in my mind, telling me that my ocean knowledge/abilities would translate well to swimming/shooting at Pipeline. You might know Keoki best as a WSL longboard competitor, photographer and magazine editor, but that guy charges Waimea, so his words went a long way. 
Keale Lemos (IG: @kealelemos) is another photographer friend that really helped me with swimming/shooting at Pipeline. How to swim out, lineups for different swell directions, how to swim in, thank you Keale!
What or who are you currently inspired by?
There's so many photographers whose work I look to for inspiration, too many to list. 
What is really special to me are the excellent photographers that I've been able to befriend: Brooke Berry (IG: @brooklynhawaii), Mike Ito (IG: @mikeitophoto), Pekuna Hong (IG: @kickingbirdphotography). I surf, swim, shoot photos and/or hang out with them and their kids.
Any advice for aspiring artists?
To all artists I would say: do what you love and what inspires you. Capture what you want to capture, and know that it's special because your eye found it attractive. Not everyone is going to like it the same way that you do. If you stay true to what makes you fired up, your inspiration will shine through your art.
Is there a story about the winning art?
This photo was captured during Covid lockdowns, before tourism was reopened in Hawaii, so there were only locals/residents on the island at the time. Noone else on the beaches or in the water. No traffic, no litter on the beaches, and the water clarity was so good! 
Only the second time shooting with this group of friends, first and only time swimming at this spot. With the palm trees and clean blue water, this photo could be anywhere in the world. Yet, it is in a very well known location. 
I want to say thank you for including me in your little world, Brooke, Malia, the Issas (Mel and Mariss), Marty, Babe...your entrepreneurial group of friends are truly inspirational! 
What is a change you've made in your life that has made the most impact on you or the people around you?
One change that has made a huge impact in my life and those around me is when I quit drinking alcohol in 2010. 
What started as a way to have fun and socialize became my way to ignore stress and numb my emotions, and was destroying my relationships with those around me. My girlfriend at the time (now wife, Maria) offered to also quit drinking alcohol, to simply assist with making that change in my life. 
The health benefits of not drinking any alcohol were obvious within 6 months; you would be surprised with how alcohol affects your metabolism, ability to get the deep sleep you need, everything. 
While I'm still working on emotional maturity, raising our sons in a home without the turmoil that comes with alcohol consumption is a blessing and I am grateful for my wife for helping to make this change.
When you're not creating what are you up to?
When I'm not looking through the viewfinder, my wife and I are taking turns surfing, with the boys growing up playing in the shorebreak and exploring the tidepools. And now the boys are starting to get the surf bug, so we're almost a surfing insta-crowd.
We also all train at Central Oahu Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, since 2019. I wanted to give my sons a foundation in a martial art, that would give them confidence and some abilities to defend themselves. There have been so many good life lessons on the mat: learning to be calm in uncomfortable situations, learning who you can trust, learning to put down your ego and tap out, learning that you can reset and start over...and I could go on and on. 
Find yourself a good school, where your safety in learning Brazilian jiu jitsu is their goal, and you will be forever enriched. There's always free hugs on the mat!
What is your dream trip?
My dream trip is the one that Covid canceled.
Fly with my family down to Queensland, Australia. Check out the city life of Brisbane, catch a cyclone swell on the Gold Coast (just one endless barrel at Kirra, please!). Cruise down past Byron Bay, New South Wales. Setup camp at one of the many holiday parks. Trade waves on an empty sandbar with the wife and groms. Enjoy the clear water and white sand. Watch the sunrise out of the Pacific Ocean. Devour the fish n chips and meat pies. Stay away from all the animals that will kill you. And just when I'm completely sunburnt and surfed out and tired of living out of a suitcase, come back home to a 3-4ft northwest swell.
Do you have a favorite product of ours?
I have two favorite Slowtide products. First is the Changing Poncho; whoever came up with this is a genius. Second is the Turkish towel. They are simply amazing and so light and soft.