Surf Revolution Cuba – Huck Magazine 2009
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    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 […]

The Cuban Pleybo vs The Goons Of Doom
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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…

Misfits Of Bull Bay – Maroons of the ocean
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  Jamaica has many ties with the island of Cuba.  They are neighbours. Fragments of Jamaica’s political past stood beside Castro’s ideology without apology. They fought similar battles against Babylon. Out of Cuba came some of the Rastafarian movement’s greatest figures: Mortimer Planno (Rasta Elder), Rita Marley, and the godfather of Jamaican ska, Lorenzo “Laurel” Aikken. Both islands are rich in Africa’s past and present, from Jamaica’s Rastafarian movement to Cuba’s Yoruba, and so much more. Both islands have been, and still are at  the forefront of the green revolution. Both islands have a love affair with Ethiopia and all things African. Cuban president Fidel Castro was quoted in August 1979 by the Associated Press as saying he was frustrated by the lack of enthusiasm from his citizens, who would prefer to volunteer in Ethiopia then their own country. “Hundreds of thousands turn up wanting to go to Ethiopia, or Angola, or wherever. Demonstrating their revolutionary political consciousness in somethings, but when it is required on a daily basis, it fails to appear.” Outside the US, Cuba had the largest number of Marcus Garvey’s UNIA  (Universal Negro Improvement Association) branches. Garvey was a Jamaican political leader, journalist and entrepreneur whose teachings gave rise to the modern Rastafarian movement. The connections could be listed endlessly, but the most important tie of all is that both islands have a small community of grassroots surfers who have bonded over recent years, thanks to Jamaican Icah Wilmot. He travelled to Cuba back in February  2010 to compete against the Cubans in […]

Cuba Skate team up with YMG Films…
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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…

Surfing The Embargo – Alexa Van Sickle
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“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  

Cuban Punk Invasion is heading to Canada…
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SUNDAY JUNE 15 SOLIDARITY ROCK PRESENTS SLATES – ARRABIO – ADICTOX – VIKING FELL – BOOK OF CAVERNS – BACK TO THE BLANKET BARBER HA $12 at door SLATES – New Damage recording artists ARRABIO – CUBAN HARDCORE HEROS ADICTOX – SANTA CLARA STREET PUNX VIKING FELL – Melancholy Dance Rock BOOK OF CAVERNS – DIY true believers BACK TO THE BLANKET – Hip Hop breakouts from Eden Valley, AB Solidarity Rock is back with a history bending Cuban punk invasion. June 15, Edmonton heavies SLATES will take the stage with their Cuban brethren for the first time in 4 years. Trinidad, Cuba’s Hardcore heros ARRABIO return to Edmonton, their second home. This time, they will travel with ADICTOX from Santa Clara, the punkest band in the world (not joking). This will be ADICTOX’s first show out side of Cuba. VIKING FELL is the latest Canadian band to make the journey and tour across Cuba. They are sportin new dance jams and can’t be stopped. BOOK OF CAVERNS are a DIY tour de force. Building and crashing, singing songs with heart and a pile of emotion, this is straight outta 1998. BACK TO THE BLANKET are a young hip hop act from Eden Valley, AB and will be playing with ARRABIO and Adictox in towns across treaty 7 territory later in the month. Cash bar, early start, Don’t miss it. THIS IS SOLIDARITY ROCK. WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER – ESTAMOS JUNTOS EN ESTO  

Last Paradise Film – A Must See
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Back in early 2009, my partner and I travelled to Gisborne, New Zealand to interview kiwi surfing legend Allan Byrne. I was hoping for 10 minutes of his time for a few words and thoughts about New Zealand’s surfing past. But what I actually got were three hours of beers, laughs, inspiring thoughts and an education on everything from board designs to star consolations. It was a time when I was only thinking about working with the Cuban surfers and I had nothing set in stone, only a few concerns about the whole idea. Allan changed all that on this one single night, inspiring me to throw everything I had behind helping and supporting Cuba’s surfing community without a second thought. Allan Byrne was one of the worlds greatest surfing heroes, shapers and inspirations. A true legend… This is a short extract from the film “Last Paradise” which was about to release before Allan’s tragic passing. The original adventure pioneers tell the story of a 45 year global quest for adventure and paradise in stunning original footage. Cinema screenings of Last Paradise will be held in 2014. See www.lastparadisefilm.com for movie screenings.

Cuban Fidelity – Red Bull Skateboarding
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Cuban Fidelity – Red Bull take to the streets of Cuba. Time stands still in Cuba, as the old US cars and vast colonial mansions vie for your attention. If you’re on the lookout for a beautiful background for your skateboarding, there’s no place like this Carribean Island. Even though the Castro brothers are becoming older and Cuban society is now on the verge of transformation, things change slowly in Havana. Videographer Patrik Wallner and skateboarders Walker Ryan and Michael Mackrodt took what may prove to be their last chance to visit the ‘untouched’ Cuba. Enjoy! Check out the teaser here : http://www.redbull.com/en/skateboarding/holy-shit-video/1331647244702/cuban-fidelity-skating-through-the-past-teaser http://www.redbull.com/skateboarding  

Cuba’s Rock’n’Roll and Hardcore Gods…
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ARRABIO hail from the Trinidad, Cuba, the 500 year old jewel of the nation’s Caribbean coast. After years in isolation The band has distilled its unique sound, carving their spot in the international hardcore community. It was once illegal in Cuba to play rock n roll, now this 4-piece has been at the forefront of creating a DIY rock n roll revolution in Cuba, a country hungry for something new.

Surfboards and Cuba’s first steps…
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“You cannot stop the waves, but you can learn to surf” – Jon Kabat-Zinn This may not be one of the worlds greatest surfboards but it is one of Cuba’s first hand-shaped glass surfboards. Shaped with recycled foam from old freezers/refrigerators with a cheese grater, this board was then finished with glass and resin sourced on Cuba’s black market from boat builders in Havana. A first step for Cuba’s surf culture and future in true Cuban style.

The Black Market Collective Cuba
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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    

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 […]

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, […]