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2015_Cuba_Bogdan_17

Words by Matt Kruszelnicki
Photos by Bogdan

Its only a 45 minute flight to Havana, but getting off the plane feels like stepping out of a time machine. All of the vehicles are from the 50s, and the building construction seems ancient. There is no commercial advertising, only billboards with government messages. Everything is extremely vibrant- buildings, cars, people, as well as their clothing. There is no internet, and the influence of outside TV is limited as well. There are NO skateshops or any way to get product unless someone personally brings it in. Amigo Skate Cuba (which was started by Rene, along with his wife and son) have been going there for over 5 years, bringing in gear and raising awareness about the situation. With Amigo Skate Cuba, we were able to bring in over 1000 items including decks/trucks/wheels & apparel.

The streets are surprisingly smooth, with skate spots almost everywhere. Whether we’d be mobbin’ around or stop to skate, locals would often stare with curiosity. Many have never seen it, or only have through limited media. Children always wanted to play, and we let them roll around while we held onto their soccer ball as collateral. Some were even pushing and getting the hang of it pretty quick!

 

filmed by Chris Miller & Jono Sinclair

 

Within the first few days we already had the chance to meet or skate with over 30 local skaters of all ages. Our conversational Spanish wasn’t the best, but the language of skateboarding truly prevailed. The locals showed us skate spots, took us out, and told us some epic stories of growing up & overall life in Havana. Amigo Skate Cuba organized a contest at the local skatepark, where over 150 kids showed up just by word of mouth. We saw a lot of talent there and distributed prize packs to many selected winners, along with a product toss afterwards.

The local builder Jakub, works for the Czech embassy and builds the skatepark on his free time. Jakub also teaches the locals how to work with concrete. Super cool dude, on our last day we were able to help him finish an obstacle he’d been working on. We left him with plenty of extra supplies and have remained in touch following the progress via email. Everything we accomplished on this trip was a team effort, and had the chance to work with skaters and documentarians who came from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Miami, Los Angeles & a handful of Canadians. Everyone brought down more skate supplies, a BMX bike for Loco, and contributed funds towards building supplies and some even brought paints, tattoo ink & fresh needles for the artists.

There will be a fundraiser June 12th at the indoor Homage TF at 615 Bergen, Brooklyn. The next mission is this month, to conduct the first official Go Skateboarding Day to happen in Cuba. We will organize another contest and facilitate skatepark repairs. Also, will have free lesson clinics at the local elementary school, as well as paint a mural with local and overseas artists. Its a truly amazing experience, and if anyone is interested in getting involved please reach out to us or Amigo Skate Cuba.

We’d like to thank everyone who was involved with making this trip possible, and every brand that donated supplies to give out. Props to Mickey Reyes and Deluxe for the large hard goods donation, and we’d especially like to thank Knockaround Sunglasses for covering some of our operational / flight costs on this trip.