A story that shows how the power of longboarding can unite people from all over the world no matter their culture or origins.
October 19th 2017. Finally, after months of preparation, the moment for taking the plane that Will drive us to our next adventure is here. The destination, the island of Cuba.
Cuba is a communist country with a particular economic system, where tradition and emerging trends coexist. With the arrival of the smartphones, internet and social media, a new inspiration window for the young Cubans has appeared, opening a huge GAP in the cultural feed of the locals, where the traditional way of thinking is challenged by the new media constantly. This new context is generating cultural friction at different levels.
A clear example of this reality is the situation of the skateboard-longboard in Cuba. Considered a symbol of the north American capitalism, the local government is not supporting this sport, and has implemented initiatives to avoid the growth of a local scene, considering the skateboarders as urban vandals that destroy the city with their boards. Nowadays, there are no skate shops in Cuba, and the access to the gear or facilities to practice this sport is very limited. In addition, Cuba doesn´t count with any organization to drive the local community to the international scene and bring this sport to the next level.
But this complex situation doesn´t avoid the existence of a local community of skaters and longboarders that fights to find a place for their passion into the urban culture of their countries. Crews like Cuba-Skate or Amigos Skate Cuba, are the leaders of that movement. With the years, the locals have created their own system that allows the events organization, the access to skate and longboard gear obtained through foreign donations, and the generation of digital content that gives to the riders access to the international visibility.
But, ¿What is the role of Riding Adventures in this story?
To answer to that question, we need to come back to July 2017th, the month when we planned our yearly skate-trip. By doing web research, looking for potential countries to visit, we found a video explaining the current situation of the Cuban skateboarders. As soon as we finished that video, we knew the purpose of our next trip, help the Cuban riders in their mission of consolidating skate and longboard as a base of their urban culture.
Many times, we do not think on how lucky we are for having access to anything we need, and even more if we have the means to get it. In the past years, all the Riding Adventures riders had access to sponsorships and collaborations with several brands, which allowed us to have any kind of skate gear (boards, trucks, wheels, clothing…). When those things happen, you get a lot of free stuff that you don´t even use, but that could be use by other people who has not the same means. After this thoughts, we decided to organize a gear collection, to bring all the collected stuff to Cuba and give it to the locals. We decided to post a video on our social media profiles, asking our audience to send us all the long-skate material that they do not use, and the response could not be better. In a couple months, we collected more than 12.00€ in long and skate gear.
Once we got the stuff, we contacted the Cuban skaters to inform them about the Project and our visit. We decided to organize a route with them thought different places. An amazing experience to film while we were giving all the material away, what brings us back to October 19th.
Everything was ready, the plane tickets, the luggage, a tough budget for food and accommodation but above all this, a bunch for motivation for skating in a new place. The riders of this adventures, Rafa Ordovás, Daniel Sam, Blin, Charli Disfruta, Sergio Evans, Toti patineta, Mogli, Chano Sebastian, Jay Alexis, Jota and myself.
After and 8 hours long flights, and complicated visit to the Cuban customs where our drone was retained and an expensive taxi drive, we finally reached the capital of Cuba, La Habana.
During the 1st days at the main city, we focused more on meeting the local scene and get use to the humid and warm conditions. Johany and Charly were our local ambassadors, and showed us all the skate spots of their neighborhood, El Vedado. Since the first moment, the connection between both crews was incredible. By just sharing a common passion point, skateboarding, it seemed that we were friends since always. Every week, we received in our apartment kids from other neighborhoods who came to meet us and also, see if they could get a board or a pair of trucks.
To make sure that everyone could have access to the collected gear, we organized a skate contest to bring all the skaters together and have some fun. More than 100 skaters came to “Paseo del prado”, a nice spot for dancing and freestyle located between the “Capitolio” and the boardwalk “El Malecón”. The energy felt that day, were one of the most amazing things I lived in this trip. After the event, we gave most of the gear we brought to the locals, and once we were free of all that luggage, we decided to start a 5 days route to explore the interior of the island and visit Trinidad.
During those days, with no commitments to attend, the mood of the trip was more relaxed. With more time to chill, skate on the rural roads, explore all the spots in Trinidad and specially filming. Even is timings and budget were though, we found time to explore the town and the coastline. But time was passing, and we still a lot of thing to do at La Habana, so we decided to come back to the main city for the 5 last days of the trip.
For our return, the locals prepared a route to visit the most emblematic skate spots of the city. We saw Ciudad Libertad, probably the most special skatepark I have ever seen. A park built by the locals inside of an abandoned school, founded by donations of foreign people. We also organized an event at the hill of El Cristo, a road where all the Cuban riders train their downhill and freeride skills. During the prize ceremony at the end of the contest, moment when we gave all the skate gear we still had, we figured out who Riding Adventures became part of the Cuban skate family in a few days. I saw how powerful is the power of the skater community, and how it can unite people no matter who they are and where do they come from.
During the last years, longboarding gave me the opportunity to travel around the world with my friends and enjoy amazing experiences, but I never lived something similar to this trip. The key learning of this trip is that sharing a passion point like longboarding with others, will open you the door to a huge community with people from all over the other that will receive you with the doors open. Skateboarding is more than just a sport, it is a life style that will change your live drastically.
This feeling of belonging to something big, something intangible, is the best present that I take from this adventure.
The purpose of this movie is to transmit this feeling to you guys. And now, let´s enjoy Riding Adventures: A Longboard trip to Cuba. I hope you like it!
(Text Borja Allue – Rider & Filmmaker of Goat Longboards and Riding Adventures)