Get on Board: Cuba’s Underground Skating Community

A stack of skateboards bound by a thick layer of clear packing tape lays across my legs as our taxi colectivo putters over the ragged, pockmarked streets into Vedado in western Havana.

For a week I'm travelling in Cuba with Comuna Travel, an experiential travel company that facilitates meaningful connections between global communities and those conscious of their travel footprint. Today, we visit the home of 'Tío Pepe', whose workshop serves as the headquarters for Cuba Skate, a US-based non-profit using skateboarding as a way of building bridges beyond the island to skate communities abroad.

The local government views skateboarding as a public nuisance, which has kept the sport culturally underground in Cuba. It's a view that this organisation is working to shift through outreach projects, by improving community spaces and skate infrastructure, and through youth mentorship.

There are no skate shops that sell boards or parts in Cuba, so everything is donated, shipped in or made by hand. Skaters here cherish their gear. When something breaks it could take months to repair, and so they share, often supporting each other and lending kit.

This skating community is symbolic of a larger shift at play in Cuba. Youths are hungry to connect with cultural communities abroad, skateboarding being one tool by which they are accessing global culture in a country that has stereotypically been characterised by the past.

The reality is far more vibrant and hopeful. This collection of images was taken while shadowing the work of Orlando Rosales for Cuba Skate. It ended in an impromptu skate competition on the historic Paseo del Prado.

@kaitlabbate |

Discover More
Cuba’s Best Under-The-Radar Beaches