Words and photos by Jonathan Mehring
I travelled to Cuba last year to document the second annual Go Skateboarding Day in Havana and to get to know the local skateboard scene.
I stayed for almost two weeks and photographed the Havana locals as well as a short trip to Camaguey, where there is a fledgling skate scene emerging as well. The skaters I found were exceptionally passionate about their activity. They are as dedicated as any skateboarders I have met in the United States or any other country, but they are unique in their lack of access to the necessary hardware.
There is no skate shop in Cuba, so the locals must rely 100% on donations brought in by foreigners and charities like the Miami based Amigo Skate Cuba who organise trips for foreigners and donation drives to help support the skate scene at no cost to the locals. Not only this, but without proper internet access it is difficult to watch skate videos, a pastime essential to the progression in the sport. Internet access in Cuba is exceedingly expensive, highly censored, and unbearably slow, so the idea of streaming a new video is out of the question. Local skaters must wait for visitors to bring the latest videos in by flash drive or other physical device. Only the persistence of a diehard is enough to keep skating in a place like this.
For skateboarders everywhere, skating means freedom. It’s what you can do to let go, express yourself, and lose yourself in the moment. Because of this, as well as skating’s anti-establishment roots, the activity seems particularly significant in Cuba.