New Restrictions Threaten Cuban Skateboarding…
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Thanks to Rene Lecour at Amigo Skate Cuba Cuban state media recently announced new customs restrictions on the amount of items allowed in the country through commercial travel. While the government says that the new rule is intended to cut down on a growing black market that undermines recent economic reforms, many fear unintended consequences. For example, the fledging Cuban skateboarding scene relies on skateboards and gear brought in from the outside world. Skaters on the island feel that the new rule may change their way of life. It happened at 23 y G, an intersection in Havana, Cuba. It’s nothing much really. Just a few small benches spread out among scrawny trees that offer scant protection from the sun’s glare. But for one scrawny kid that day some 12 years ago, the humble parcel of land seemed like Eden. At age 13, Fernando Verdecia Maseda finally found some other skaters. Maseda would go on to become one of Cuba’s greatest skaters – but he had to emigrate to Miami to find widespread respect for his skills. Years earlier, Maseda first discovered skateboarding at his next-door neighbor’s house. The enterprising neighbor would let him play a half-hour’s worth of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater for 5 Cuban pesos on a well-worn PlayStation. “In the beginning, I thought that Tony Hawk was just a character,” Maseda said through a translator. “But when I saw the real videos in the game of him, then I wanted to go out and do it.” Soon after, […]

Patinas Sin Fronteras En Cuba Trailer
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PATINAS SIN FRONTERAS (SKATE WITHOUT BORDERS) Check out this 6 minute trailer by film buff and street artist Spencer Keeton Cunningham. He recently created this while visiting the island of Cuba with the guys from Amigo Skate Cuba. I traveled to Cuba this month with some close friends to donate skateboards to skateboarders on the island. During our stay I shot a film titled “Patinas Sin Fronteras.” The film documents current conditions of skateboarders in Cuba. In Cuba there are no skate shops of any kind and no ways of getting skateboards or any of the necessary equipment needed to skate. The only way for skateboarders to continue to skate in Cuba is if people continue to share boards, wheels, trucks, etc with each other. This is the trailer for the film shot in Cuba. The title of the film translates to “Skate Without Borders” or “You Skate Without Borers” Cinematografía Chris Miller Y Spencer Keeton Cunningham Special Thanks: Amigo Skate Cuba, Rene Lecour, Matt Eversole, Roberto Gomez, George Lorenzo, Anthony Perez, Mike Freeman, Rodney, Jimi, Gordito,Will Sprott, Jose Rojo, Carlos and Jen at ES7, El Che, Jonathon Hexner, and 23 G

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. […]

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) […]

Havana’s skateboard subculture…
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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 […]

A portrait of Cuban Skaters…
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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