Get on Board: Cuba’s Underground Skating Community

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

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
, 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

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 |

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