SKATING IN CUBA AFTER THE EMBARGO…
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“The thing that I hated in Barcelona is that nobody would talk to you,” Che said. “They’re all a bunch of pros, filming videos there, skating with their iPods on and not talking to anybody. That sucks. People are too concerned about how they can market themselves to be a professional and stuff like that. It’s turning into a job, and people are losing the passion.” A brilliant look into Cuba’s skate scene by Daniel Oberhaus for Vice Sports. It was high noon on a weekday in June, and I was sweating profusely as I fought my way through the dense, overgrown park that surrounds a massive sporting complex just south of Havana’s Vedado neighborhood. I was searching for Cuba’s only skate park, rumored to be somewhere in the area, but every time I approached someone to ask for directions to the patinodromo, all I got was vague hand gestures in contradictory directions. On the verge of succumbing to the heat and humidity, I heard the telltale clatter of polyurethane wheels on concrete. Pushing through the jungle scrub of palm and Marabou weed, I nearly fell face-first into an empty man-made pond. The patinodromo was in rough shape. Two thirds of it was unusable, covered in standing water and detritus. The remaining third was an amalgam of concrete ramps and benches, metal quarter pipes, pyramids, and a tower ramp. Murals and graffiti—mostly variations on the mantra “patina o muerte” (“skate or die”), a play on Che Guevara’s famous call to […]

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, […]

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  

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

Living Off The Wall – CubaSkate
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One of Cuba’s most creative skaters and surfers, Yojani Pérez Rivera reflects on how he and his amigos are #livingoffthewall to make the most of the little they have. Mamerto, as he’s known around the island, is among the most active local skaters advancing Cuba Skate’s mission. Cuba Skate, an NGO created by American skater Miles Jackson, is in the process of creating a documentary feature following the lives of Mamerto and his scrappy crew, 23yG, to rally the international skate community around its goals: 1. provide much needed skate materials to the Cuban youth 2. renovate the only, dilapidated skateparks in Havana 3. establish the first skate shop in Cuba and foster a bilateral educational exchange between Cuban and American skaters Winning Vans’ #LIVINGOFFTHEWALL Contest would help us make the Cuba Skate documentary a reality and share Mamerto and 23yG’s story with the world. Thanks for your consideration!  

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  

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. […]

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, […]

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 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 […]

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