Looking back at some legends…
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I met Tomas Crowder a few years ago through working with the Cuban surfers and kids. His passion for supporting Cuba’s extreme sports were a true inspiration and still is today. The following is an interview from back in 2009 with ESPN and Skateboarding legend Chris Nieratko. Cuba Libre Tomas Crowder is an Argentinean filmmaker that garnered critical acclaim for “Surfing Favela,” his 2005 documentary about impoverished Brazilian surfers. It is by a sheer stroke of luck that I met and befriended him. A mutual friend at Red Bull, Peter Jasienski, had been working with Crowder on sponsoring his upcoming documentary, “The Other Ché,” about the Cuban skate scene and its unofficial leader, Ché Alejandro Pando Napoles. Inspired by this documentary about the difficulties confronted trying to skateboard in Cuba, I mentioned to Jasienski that I wanted to go there with some industry heads (The Skatepark of Tampa guys, Tod Swank, Scuba Steve, Zered Bassett, Ron Deily, Rick McCrank, Mike Anderson, Quim Cardona, Bryce Kanights and various wives and girlfriends). Watching the footage, we saw just how difficult it was to get any products into Cuba, let alone skate stuff. In the video, a kid breaks his board and has to nail and glue it back together using a 2-by-4 to hold the pieces in place. The effect of the U.S. embargo on Cuba is sad, most notably its effect on the children of the country. I am not in favor of children suffering for the sins of their fathers. […]

Trinidad, Cuba. Through Our Eyes….
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Trinidad is one-of-a-kind, a perfectly preserved Spanish colonial settlement. With a hurricane heading towards our next destination of Baracoa, Trinidad became our home for a few days so we enjoyed it’s beauty and colourful people while deciding whether to carry on to Baracoa to get surfboards to the local kids.

Cuba’s Surfing Underground…
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Cuba’s Surfing Underground Scrappy surf culture survives despite hardship on this communist island What if surfing weren’t quite legal? Suppose you paddle your homemade plywood board—or hand-me-down, if you’re lucky—out to dangerous, crowded, reef breaks off the side of the highway and make it back to the concrete shore unbloodied, only to be greeted by men in uniform who suspect of you of being a spy. What if surfing weren’t quite illegal, either, but your only surf report were your eyes, and your only surf shop were one man’s apartment supplied by occasional donations from abroad? Welcome to Cuba! The New York Times had a fantastic piece yesterday about surf culture in this island nation which neither officially recognizes surfing as a sport, nor has the capitalist infrastructure to create an above-ground market for gear. And official recognition is everything: this communist country calls surfing a “recreation,” according to Michael Scott Moore, author of last year’s Sweetness and Blood, meaning no competition and no passports for surfers. In other words, want to wax your board? Melt a candle. Self-taught surfers like Eduardo Valdes, who runs the apartment “shop” and cofounded surf non-profit Royal 70, help sustain this growing underground community through the sheer force of their passion. Even though Cuba has more than 2,300 miles of coastline, the logistics of doing something relatively simple like transporting your board to a less dangerous spot than Calle 70, Havana’s treacherous break described above, are often prohibitive: “If we could maybe move to the eastern side of the city with […]

Three minutes in Cuba…
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Three minutes in Cuba is a trailer for the Cuba-Chapter of an upcoming surfer’s documentary. Here is there visual teaser.  Check it out…     We´ve missed out on tobacco manufacturing, rum distilleries and Buena Vista Social Clubs. But we´ve found Habanas surfers, skaters, bmx riders, graffiti- and tattoo artists and soulfood-mamas. We joined them for the last 7 weeks and documented their subcultural lifestyle: the struggle in a communist system, broken skateboards, a lot of police, illegal innercity surf, abandoned russian buildings, unofficial tattoo parlours, selfmade gasoline based graffiti paint, and much more. Take a first look!   “Salt and Silver – A culinary Surftrip”   Follow Cozy and Jo on their search for perfect waves and meals through Central- and South America. www.saltandsilver.net

Uprising – ESPN goes to Cuba
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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, […]

HASTA CUBA!!!! – Supporting Cuba’s surfers and kids
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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  

A timeless revolucion – Standby Collective
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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) […]

The Pirates of Sweetness and Blood…
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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…    

‘The Time is Now’ – Burning Spear & Joel Harper
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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                    

Skate Revolution Cuba
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  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 […]

Warner surfboards sticks it to Cuba..
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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.            

Friendship through punk rock…
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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

Where you been, Cuban Cowboy?
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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 […]

Havana’s lefts…
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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?
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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