This story appears in ESPN The Magazine’s Feb. 17 Cuba Issue. NOT LONG AGO, surfers in Havana had to fashion boards out of plywood desks stolen from classrooms. Today they surf on fiberglass boards left behind by tourists and donated by pros. They buy wet suits on the black market. Economic changes are crashing into Cuban life like waves onto the rocks at the beach on Calle 70, one of Havana’s top surf spots. Small businesses are opening. A law that took effect in January eases restrictions on the sale of new and used cars — albeit at massive markups. Cuba won’t be mistaken for a free market any time soon, but it sits at the precipice of a new path. And Cuba’s small community of skaters, surfers and BMXers sits at the precipice of the precipice. They have made an imported culture their own. They ride Frankenbikes, assembled piece by piece over years, and skate with no aspiration for sponsorship or fame. To the international media, they’ve become both a metaphor for Cuba’s gradual opening — “Not even the Castros can keep out kickflips!” — and a symbol of its continued isolation: There are still more skaters than skateboards in Havana. But after spending five days on Havana’s action-sports scene, it’s tough to attach much political motive to its athletes. Five minutes into my first conversation with a lanky brown-haired skater named Raciel, who wears fake diamond earrings and has red kiss marks tatted up and down his torso, […]
These amazing guys are supporting Cuba’s surfers and kids. Check out what they are doing in the US to help. Hasta Cuba! An event raising money to provide surf gear to further Royal 70 in their mission to empower Cuban youth through surfing. Beer and Cuban Food from 6-7:30 pm Screening of Surfing with the Enemy at 7:30 pm Tickets can be purchased Samson Student Center 12-2 all week for $10, or at the door! All gear to be delivered during MIIS Cuba trip in March! For more information on Royal 70: www.royal70.net Check out the event at https://www.facebook.com/events/365992010210225/?notif_t=plan_user_invited
Standby Collective (Humberto Rodríguez and Elvis Morales) was one of Cuba’s first grassroots, underground, skateboarding and surfing film creators, capturing some of Cuba’s and Havana’s best. Check out Revolucion – Evolution from early 2011, a movie they made with another Havana-based skater and filmmaker who operates under the name YMG Films. La evolución nunca termina, perseverancia, adaptación, coraje, instintos, supervivencia y autoestima son las cualidades que nos permitirán seguir adelante. Dedicado al skateboarding en Cuba y a todos los que ayudan a la escena skater cubana en el mundo entero. Revolución – Evolution es una coproducción de Standby Collective y YMG Films filmado desde principios del 2011 y estrenado en Cuba en Mayo. En casi 40 min abarca lo mejor de todos los skaters de La Habana y otros extranjeros que han patinado junto a la escena skater de la isla. The evolution never ends, perseverance, adaptation, courage, instincts, survival and self-esteem are the qualities that enable us to move forward. Dedicated to skateboarding in Cuba and all those who help the Cuban skater scene in the world. Revolution – Evolution is a collaboration of Standby Collective and YMG Films filmed from early 2011 and premiered in Cuba in May. In nearly 40 minutes covering the best of all skaters in Havana and other foreigners who have skated with the skate scene of the island. Skaters: Yohani Pérez (Mamerto) / Che A. Pando / Humberto Rodríguez (Bankai) / Raciel Pereda (Raper) / Fernando Verdecia / Yoan Galiana / Reinaldo Vicet (Karem) […]
A few years ago I befriended an author named Michael Scott Moore who was writing a book about how surfing spread from Hawaii and California to the rest of the world. For Sweetness and Blood Michael approached me, and Eduardo in Havana, as he wanted to include a history of surfing in Cuba. Today I thought about Michael and wondered why I hadn’t heard from him in a while. After all, we had regularly kept each other updated, him on his book and me with what was happening with surfing in Cuba. On searching for a current address for Michael I found out why his contact with me came to an end. On January 6, 2012 Michael was kidnapped by Somalian pirates while conducting research for a book on the subject. Michael is still being held today and it seems, after a little online research, has been forgotten by the US government. Our thoughts are with you Michael…
Royal 70 and Cuba’s small surfing family, over the years, have been blessed with some amazing support. This has included writer, musician and teacher Joel Harper and his book All the way to the Ocean. All the way to the Ocean came to life after Joel had an epiphany while riding home on his bicycle one day. He noticed the effect pollution in the storm drains was having in his community. He realised he needed to do something meaningful with his talents to help change the way people interacted with their environment. Joel’s vision became a reality with his popular children’s book and social anthem, All the Way to the Ocean in 2006. Today, Joel is working with his partners at Mediatavern to take his idea to the next level, and tell his story in an even more powerful way. Animation. Check out this snippet from the amazing track by Joel and leading Rastafarian/reggae artist Burning Spear featured in the upcoming movie based on Joel’s book. www.allthewaytotheocean.com The Time is Now – Burning Spear & Joel Harper Purchase The Time is Now here | iTunes
Cuba’s Youth Start Their Own Revolution…on Skateboards By Andrew O’Reilly Published November 29, 2012 Fox News Latino Tucked in a remote corner of the city’s sprawling Parque Metropolitano, Yojany Pérez and other skaters are gathered on a hazy and humid afternoon at the bottom of a dried-up, concrete lakebed. Ramps, boxes and rails in all sorts of disrepair lay in a seemingly random order on the lake’s dusty floor, waiting for the skaters to ramp, grind and ride them under the blistering sun in Havana’s only skatepark. Like the ubiquitous late-50s Chevys and Fords still rolling around on Havana’s streets, the make-shift nature of the park is a potent reminder of the Cuban talent for reclaiming, refitting and refurbishing things. The park’s graffiti – nearly unheard of in revolutionary Cuba unless state-sanctioned – hints at the small freedom these skaters enjoy. “When I skate I forget the world, I forget the problems, I forget the hunger, the thirst,” said the 22-year old Pérez. In response to government control – where you live, whom you associate with, when you can travel – skateboarding has become a break for these kids from the constant panoptic eye of the regime. And it attracts new converts everyday. “It’s getting huge now, people are beginning to skate all over the island,” said Che Pando, a skater/tattoo artist regarded as the sport’s godfather in Cuba. Pando estimates that there are 1,000 skaters in Cuba, which may not seem like much. But considering the difficulty in […]
In the words of surfing’s big-wave legend Koby Abberton: ”Brett Warner’s the best surfboard shaper around.” In the words of Royal 70 and the Cuban surfers: “Brett at Warner Surfboards is a f*#king legend.” Why? This Sydney-based surfboard shaper has just donated the 10 boards pictured above to the surfers and kids in Cuba without a second thought, and has also threatened to throw a few more their way. That gets 10 more kids in Cuba into the water surfing and enjoying something so many of us take for granted. Check them out at www.warnersurfboards.com and support an industry legend that is still shaping amazing boards by hand, like all true artists do.
Solidarity Rock: The Oral History of Arrabio and the DIY Punk Rock Movement in Cuba. For years, Cuban punk-rockers bought and sold records illegally. Some musicians were repressed and their shows banned. Now attitudes have changed largely due to the work of William Garcia one of the original Cuban punk rockers. William’s music, work through the Cuban cultural ministry and relationship with Edmonton based Music Promoter and Filmmaker Drew McIntosh was the cornerstone to create Solidarity Rock. This artist run organization works to partner musicians, artists and creative people in Cuba, Canada and beyond. Since 2008, Solidarity Rock has been helping build the Cuban alternative arts scene; overcoming political, social and economic barriers while doing so. On Thursday, October 25, 2012 The Oral History Centre held a public interview with Solidarity Rock organizers William Garcia and Drew McIntosh. The talk was moderated by OHC Audio Technician Kent Davies. The following video contains excerpts of that interview. http://www.oralhistorycentre.ca
The Cuban Cowboys are back in true Rock’n’Roll Style. Read what Jorge has to say about their disappearance. Where you been, Cuban Cowboy? November 13, 2013 I’ve been nowhere and Everywhere. “Nowhere” speaks to the fact that TCC’s only played two shows this year. It also refers to our relative radio silence over the past two years. No new albums, no email blasts, no press, etc. Joo get the picture. We released our last album in 2010, toured a bit, got featured on NPR, then poof.Nowhere. “Everywhere” speaks as much to where I’ve been (Spain, Morocco, Cuba, Mexico) as it does to the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual ‘places’ experience has brought me to since last we spoke. “Everywhere” refers to the fact that life happens. For an artist, life’s happening impacts art-making by influencing the emergence, kinds and intensity of inspiration that make the art possible to begin with. Art springs from life. Moreover, and with apologies to John Dewey for my clumsiness herein, experience can itself be art. Expressions like “live an artful life,” and “living artfully” come to mind. They convey a sort of grace upon everyday life, elevating it from the ordinary and toward some higher form or purpose. Put in a deeper or more rigorous way, the work of philosophers like Dewey and William James (you should check that shit out, yo.) argue that the lines between Science, Art and Experience are blurry and arbitrary. What I’m getting at here is that by saying […]
One of Havana’s left-handers being enjoyed by one of Havana’s local surf and skate freaks Humberto… Footage by Standby Collective, La Habana, Cuba
Will the real terrorist please stand up? by Saul Landau “Will the real terrorist please stand up” chronicles half a century of hostile US-Cuba relations by telling the story of the “the Cuban five”, intelligence agents sent to penetrate Cuban exile terrorist groups in Miami and now serving long prison sentences. The film highlights decades of assassinations and sabotage at first backed then ignored by the very government that launched a “war against terrorism.” In the film, viewers see leading terrorists, now in their 80s, recounting their deeds, and Cuban state security officials explaining why they infiltrated agents into violent Miami exile groups. The film, featuring Danny Glover and 84 year old Fidel Castro in key scenes, raises and tries to answer the question: what did Cuba do to deserve such hostile treatment? It traces key events from the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis, through multiple assassination attempts on Fidel Castro’s life. This documentary reveals a story of violence that also echoed on the streets of Washington DC, New York and especially Miami where Cuban American critics of the bombers and shooters also wound up dead. A must watch… Please check out these sites and support Cuba’s innocent heroes http://realterrorist.wordpress.com http://www.freethefive.org http://cubanfive.ca
Imagine 30 days in Cuba with no swell and a heat even too hot for the devil… Eduardo Valdes, President of the Cuban Surfriders Association leaves me on the porch of his house in the suburb of Playa to take a phone call. It’s 4.30pm on a boiling hot summer afternoon in Havana and I’ve been stuck here now for nearly a month. The days are unbelievably sweltering, the nights even worse; muggy and sticky beyond belief. You don’t get used to this kind of heat. You only learn to deal with it. Before the trip, Ed warned me not to come to Cuba in summer, they say not even the devil would visit during summer. I never listened, but every minute I spend in this heat I wish I’d heeded his advice. The power has been out all day around the neighbourhood because of the heat. It’s not unusual. Cuba’s electrical grid struggles to supply the people. As I wait for Ed to finish the phone call, a few local surfers gather on his porch, as do some neighbours. Everyone’s talking about the power outage; they are over it. No-one slept last night since there has been no electricity since then. You can’t survive a night here without air-conditioning. Cubans speak fast and I lose any hope of understanding what is creating the bursts of laughter among them. Despite the language barrier, I struggle to imagine leaving this hell I have grown to love with all its […]
HAVANA – Some call Che Pando the godfather of Havana’s skateboarding scene, and the 40-year-old tattoo artist can still recall how tough things were in the 1980s when he and a handful of other pioneers first started shredding in public squares. Like listening to rock music in the 1960s, interest in such a uniquely American import marked the young skaters as socially suspicious, and sometimes for rough treatment by police and arrest, though their experiences were perhaps not all that different from confrontations between U.S. skaters and civic authorities concerned about the destruction of public property. “One time we were a big group of kids skating on the smooth floor in front of the Havana Libre,” Pando said. “The hotel security and the cops came running out.” “It was difficult because we were misunderstood by most people,” added Pando, who was named after revolutionary commander Ernesto “Che” Guevara. “They used to kick us out everywhere.” Attitudes have largely done a 180 ollie, to borrow the term for a popular aerial manoeuvr, and today a small but thriving urban tribe of pierced youths prowls Havana’s streets, looking to have fun and, just maybe, land the perfect trick. Familiarity has come through high-profile visits by professional skateboarders and brands such as Red Bull; a brief partnership with a local cigarette company that helped build a skate ramp, and a series of semi-sanctioned or at least tolerated trick competitions. A program documenting skaters’ lives even aired on state television, the official arbiter of […]
Surfing With The Enemy is a documentary about a small group of surfers from Havana struggling to establish a niche for their sport in Cuba’s restrictive society. Guided by Eduardo Valdes, one of the country’s only shapers and the founder of the Havana Surf Association, two filmmakers from Venice Beach travel across the island to the notorious Guantanamo province, home to the country’s best waves. Searching for surf along this controversial coast, they discover a forbidden paradise just miles from the American border, and learn what it means to be a surfer and a citizen of modern-day Cuba. The film is narrated by actor Lance Henriksen (Aliens, The X Files), produced by Venice the Menace and presented by Polaris Global Media.
Cuba will increase salaries and benefits in its sports sector, a decision adopted by the Council of Ministers as a necessary step, despite the difficulties that the country is undergoing which have been worsened by the current world economic crisis. According to the Granma newspaper, this measure has as its essential objective an improvement in current salaries for personnel connected to sports and will come into force in January, 2014, although in the case of baseball, it will be implemented when the National Series begins in November, 2013. New steps will be taken in coming months to improve this sector, generate income sources, seek quality and rigor in competitions, increase salaries gradually and guarantee that everybody receives what they deserve, according to the work they perform, Granma said. A high-performance athlete is one that is entirely devoted to practicing a specific sports discipline and his/her income depends on the results attained. In the case of work abroad, participation in the main yearly competitions held in Cuba would be taken into consideration, the newspaper says. Monthly payments in CUC, “foreign currency or convertible pesos, currently received by active and retired coaches, for medals won” and other payments in CUP (the Cuban peso, national currency) will be added. Granma also says that this way, retribution based on the socialist principle: “from each according to his/her capability and to each according to his/her work,” will reach its highest expression after competitive results, as agreed to at the 5th Conference of the Cuban Communist […]
Ostensibly a film about skateboarding in Cuba, Revolution on Wheels uses the Cuban skate scene as a vehicle to examine the attitudes and feelings that Cuban youth have towards their country. The 12-minute film profiles two Cuban skaters with a wide variety of views. Miguel is an 18-year-old who recently dropped out of high school to skate full time. He feels that there is no future for youth in Cuba and wants to go to school in the United States. Roberto, on the other hand, has made a future for himself in Cuba. After filming skate videos of his friends on a second hand camera, the 20-year-old managed to get a job as an editor for a Cuban TV station. Guiding us through these two adolescents’ stories is Cuban skateboarding pioneer Che Pando. The 39-year-old runs a black market tattoo parlor in Havana and acts as a mentor to younger skaters. For him, skateboarding has made life bearable during Cuba’s rough times, stating, “Skateboarding is freedom. It’s the freedom to do what the fuck you want, when you want it, in a country where no one can do that.” A film by Matt Sezer
The story of CIA-backed Freedom House and its attempt to smuggle illegal satellite dishes into Cuba disguised as surfboards/bodyboards has again been revisited. This time by blogger Tracey Eaton in Havana Times. However, in the interview both Barry Fink and Robert Guerra declined to give details. Check out the story at http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=93369 Since Fink and Guerra have decided not to comment about the incident that occurred in 2008, we thought we’d fill in a few blanks to help them remember. Fink entered Cuba with the intention of filming a documentary about local surfers. He brought with him 12 surfboards into Havana, surfboard accessories, tools for board shaping, plus filming equipment. While Fink and the Cuban surfers travelled around doing the odd bit of filming, during this period Fink also spent a lot of time splitting up technical items he had with him and dropping off packages in odd locations – such as in bushes and under bridges etc. The original Granma newspaper article states that a black bag which was to be dropped off under a bridge was not found at its location. The intended recipient was Cuban electronics technician Dalexi González Madruga. The reason the package was not found by Madruga was because when Havana’s surfers realised what was going on, they dumped the black bag in a neighbourhood rubbish bin. Perhaps silence isn’t so golden after all, but the truth undeniably is. Photos : Havana Times
Like the Revolution…Some things never die. “I will always remember the drive from the airport to Havana. The cars passing by, the people dancing in the streets, the Che billboards, and all this in the sunset light” - Ozzie Wright (Sipping Jetstreams) On leaving Cuba, Ozzie left his board with the Cuban surfers. Many years have passed and the board still lives on in Havana. Now stored in Cuba’s national aquarium it is used by local kids who do not have boards of their own to surf.
Chantelle “Channy” McCoy is a Sydney Northern Beaches surfer, graphic artist and freak, who is about to give her heart and soul to South and Central America. On her travels, Channy will be heading to Cuba to spend some time with Havana’s Cubanitas, a few bottles of Havana Club and a handful of Cohibas. Cuba is visited a lot by both pro and amateur male surfers, so it’s about time Havana’s small community of female surfers are blessed with support from the likes of Channy. Check out what goes on in Channy’s head by checking out her Tumblr at www.http://wheat-barrel.tumblr.com
Only 90 miles separates Cuba from American soil, but immeasurable ideological differences have kept Cuba a relatively untapped surf destination for American surfers. Last December, in the midst of peak Hawaii season, Ian Walsh traveled to a small village on the northeast tip of Cuba. Not knowing what to expect, Walsh discovered an empty cobblestone pointbreak and that the universal appeal of surfing can transcend politics. Not many people can say they have surfed Cuba, or even traveled there for that matter. Can you give us a little background on how this trip came about? The idea for the trip had been floating around for a while. When it started coming together, it began to look like a real possibility that I’d be able to get into the country. I went in December, which is a good month for waves in Cuba, but a time of the year that I am not used to leaving Hawaii. The timing was cutting it close with the Pipe Masters and Triple Crown. Luckily, the Pipe Masters ran within the first few days of the waiting period and I was able to get a flight the day after it ended to Mexico City. From there, I flew to Cuba and drove across the whole country in a couple of days. I ended up at a tiny village where these kids surf and make their own equipment out of refrigerator foam, resin, and fiberglass from the boatyards. They’d also piece together their own surfboards from […]
Want to support musicians in Cuba? Check out this compilation of bands supporting Solidarity Rock and for a few dollars you too can help. Bands: The Mandates, Uh-Oh, No Problem, The Vibrating Beds, Adictox, Eamon McGrath, SLATES, Kids on Fire, The City Streets, ARRABIO,Guerillas of Soul, The Fight, Falklands, Gatillo, The Get Down, Morals, Old Wives, Limalla, Vicious Cycles, Previous Tenants Compiled by James Stewart Mastered by Jesse Gander
Juan of the dead is the real thing. Juan is 40 years old, most of which he spent in Cuba doing absolutely nothing. It’s his way of life, and he’s prepare to defend it at any cost, along with his pal Lázaro, as lazy as Juan but twice as dumb. Juan’s only emotional tie is his daughter, Camila, a beautiful young girl that doesn’t want anything to do with her father because the only thing he’s good at is getting into trouble. Suddenly some strange things start to happen, people are turning violent attacking one to the other. Juan was first convinced it’s just another stage of the Revolution. Official media refer to the attacks as isolated incidents provoked by Cuban dissidents paid by the US government. Little by little Juan and his friends start to realize that the attackers are not normal human beings and that killing them is quite a difficult task. They’re not vampires, they’re not possesed, but they’re definitely not dissidents; a simple bite turns the victim into other violent killing machine and the only way to beat them is destroying their brains. Juan decides that the best way of facing the situation is making some money out of it….. “Juan of the Dead, we kill your beloved ones” becomes his slogan. Lázaro, along with his son Vladi, and Camila (who had no other choice but joining her father after he rescued her from grandma´s killing desires) are Juan´s army, and their mission is to help […]
Surfing to Baracoa is a beautiful little film that features Royal 70′s Cuban family and Havana’s surfing community. Featuring Arnan Perez Lanigua, Cuba’s first surfer to compete internationally, and US big-wave surfer Ian Walsh, it takes a look into the lives and struggles facing Cuba’s surfers.
In August 2011, Royal 70 was contacted by a US filmmaker by the name of Steve Tozzi. Steve had an inspired thought. He was interested in taking US hardcore punk bands into Cuba to do some shows, hoping to enlist the bands with which he was connected to perform. Bands like Youth of Today, Vision, Token Entry, Sick of it All, Agnostic Front and Mouthpiece. I loved the idea, and I knew Cuba’s punk and hardcore scene would, too. Unfortunately, I received his email just a few days before we were due to leave for Cuba ourselves for a few months, so I passed on his details and ideas to Drew from Solidarity Rock and William from Cuban hardcore punk band Arrabio, knowing that if anyone could help Steve out it would be these guys. They had been taking rock bands into Cuba for shows since 2008. Steve’s idea never came to fruition, but all was not lost. One year later, Arrabio travelled to Canada to open for Agnostic Front. Steve’s dream of bringing US hardcore bands to Cuba may not have been realised, due to the politics between these two countries, but he has still opened doors to realise a dream for a bunch of Cubans who are doing so much for punk on the island. Riot on the Dance Floor is Steve Tozzi’s latest film. If you love a little chaos, history and hardcore, learn more about it at, www.citygardensfilm.com
Yojani ‘Mamerto‘ Perez is a young surfer and skater from the suburb of Playa in Havana. Mamerto rips on both concrete and in the water and is destined to be Cuba’s next extreme sports freak. Check him out in this little Cubaskate film. Recorded a few years back by Miles Jackson at CubaSkate, it isn’t hard to imagine just how good Mamerto is today.