Royal 70 Surf Havana Cuba
A Cuban collective creating opportunities for Cuba's youth with extreme sports, music and art.
This article originally appeared in Huck 15 – The Maya Gabeira Issue from summer 2009. As relations thaw between Cuba and the US, and talk of lifting the blockade is in the air, Huck is thinking about how the blockade has affected young people and how their lives will change if it’s lifted. In this archive piece from summer 2009, we headed to Cuba to uncover the island’s underground surf scene. Cuban surfers are among the most dedicated in the world, risking imprisonment to find materials and relying on donations from foreigners to get boards and leashes. Never mind the blockade. Psssst, psssst…” Eduardo Valdés, head of the Asociación de Surfistas de Cuba, looks uncharacteristically shifty as he peers through a wire fence, trying to attract the attention of a worker at Cuba’s national plastic factory. It’s here that the island’s chairs, tables and packaging are produced and employees, like in every industry in Cuba, supplement their meagre wages by selling the materials of their trade on the black market. Pretending to take a cigarette break, a man sidles up to the fence three metres to the left of Eduardo. Looking in opposite directions, a rapid-fire exchange takes place. “What you want?” “Three bottles of resin.” “45 CUC.” “No way, man. 30.” “40.” “35.” “Wait for me outside the bar around the corner. Give me thirty minutes. I need the money now.” Forty tense minutes later and the worker appears clutching a flimsy plastic bag containing three cylindrical […]
Check out how to create a crude Cuban surfboard in the time it takes The Goons Of Doom to sing ‘Slapper’. It took me about one week to source a small piece of scrap plywood. This is because in Cuba nothing is wasted. Everything is recycled and re-used. The Pleybo is a Cuban surfboard that was, and still is, very common around Cuba’s beaches…
Miles Jackson from Cuba Skate has to be one of the hardest working guys I know. He never f#@king gives up and this is why he is one of the most amazing guys in the international skateboarding community. This time he has teamed up with the legends from YMG Films to create some amazing footage with Cuba’s street-skating freaks. Check out this preview of their work…
“I had my fears about landing in Havana with a surfboard. The things aren’t illegal, per se, but the Cuban government—until its recent moves to make traveling out of the country simpler for Cubans—had been sensitive about any flotation devices that could aid would-be defectors. And there was that 2011 report in state-run media that the CIA tried to bring in surveillance equipment disguised as surfboards in a fake surfing contest.” – Alexa Van Sickle, roadsandkingdoms.com Check out this honest and amazing look into the lives of Cuba’s small surfing community and the struggles they face just to get into the water. Surfing The Embargo – Alexa Van Sickle
Black Market Collective is the latest initiative from Royal 70 and Havanasurf. More than 50 years of US sanctions on the island of Cuba have forced Cubans to create and survive by a black market system through which basic necessities (limited by sanctions) are traded and purchased. This not only benefits citizens but also the nation’s government. Black Market Collective works in a similar way on an international scale, not bound by US sanctions within or outside Cuba’s borders. It is a network of passionate people with the same goal: to help surfing grow on the island and to get more kids in the water by sourcing and donating much-needed surfing equipment and educational tools. Music by The Cuban Cowboys http://www.cubancowboys.com
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 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 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
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…
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.
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 […]