Local Surfers Are Rallying to Legalize Surfing in Cuba
TUESDAY JUNE 6, 2017
In Cuba, there is a small, tight-knit community of diehard local surfers
who are determined to represent their country in the 2020 Olympics,
despite a laundry list of obstacles working against them. The most
significant of these obstacles? Surfing is technically illegal in their
Surfing has been unintentionally controversial with the Cuban government
since it’s inception. When the Cold War came to an end in the early 90s,
all economic support for Cuba from the Soviet Union evaporated. Still,
on the dark side of the US embargo, this left the population starving
and fearing for their future. A mass exodus began via all forms of
watercraft – ranging from car tires to leaky tin rafts – prompting the
Cuban government to effectively ban people from the coastline.
In this same time frame, several guys began developing their own strain
of surfing while testing out homemade board designs. When the government
saw young men paddling out into the water on foam boards, they assumed
they were making a break for Florida. In a country that maintained a
longstanding ban on rock n’ roll and dished out year-long prison
sentences for eating beef, legalizing surfing was never a consideration.
So, the constant threat of being detained or surfers having their
coveted boards confiscated came to define the sport until the past
couple of years.
Few know Cuba even has waves, including many Cubans themselves. The 100
or so Cubans who do surf, though, want to share the stoke by coercing
their government to recognize a sport that’s technically been illegal
for so long.
As the US/Cuba relationship has slowly thawed out politically, tensions
have eased between surfers and law enforcement. Things are vastly
improved compared to how they were 10 years ago, but the government’s
failure to recognize surfing as a legitimate sport still presents a huge
barrier for the sport’s evolution on the island.
For years, Cuban surfers have sought to organize an official club and
association to collectively further the sport. They want to hold
competitions at home as well as travel to competitions abroad if
invited. They want to have the legal ability to advocate for ocean
protection around their island and build a national team to develop
future surfers. Until surfing is recognized as a sport, none of this can
happen in Cuba.
With the acceptance of surfing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics comes a huge
opportunity for Cuban surfers to make a legitimate case to their
government. “Even if we don’t win, even if we don’t pass the first
round,” says Frank Gonzalez, one of the pioneers of the Cuban surf
scene, “if we’re there, I could breathe in peace, and say that we
accomplished our goal.”
For Yaya Guerrero, one of the only female surfers in the country,
legitimizing surf has become her primary focus. She’s made it a mission
to assemble the full story of Cuban surf, along with evidence of the
sport’s growth, into a presentation for the government.
The week following New Years 2016, myself and a small group of
filmmakers packed our bags with ten weeks worth of clothing and headed
to Cuba to work with Frank and Yaya on a film. As the country started to
change more and more rapidly, legitimizing the sport seemed more and
more in reach, and our conversations shifted toward how we could
collaborate to make it succeed.
A year and a half later, Yaya and her group have asked for global
support in the endeavor. They feel confident that, in light of all of
the recent changes, if they can demonstrate that the world of surfing is
behind them they will finally reach their goal.
If you think that it’s time for Cubans to be able to surf at home and
with the rest of the world, please add your name to this petition and
share with your friends – it could make a huge difference for their
future in the sport! Let Cuba #surflibre.
To learn more about the effort to legalize surfing in Cuba, visit
surflibre.org, or follow @surflibre on Instagram.
Source: Local Surfers Hope to Legalize Cuban Surfing | The Inertia –