A diary about longboarding in Havana 

10271277_676432622392749_2940295548546743643_o

A diary about longboarding in Havana 

November 13, 2015 Cuba

Día uno – the Arrival

Arrival. We climb out of the plane. The heat welcomes us creeping up our legs. We walk across the runway and the jeans seem to have shrunk a size. Havana. Cuba. Where are we? Our minds still hover somewhere over the Atlantic. Passport control. Nada de declarar – nothing to declare. Stamp. Bienvenido. The sunrays of our first Cuban sunset bathe the baggage arrival hall in orange light. The bags arrive, no problem with customs. One look says it all: imaginary high five as we walk out the airport doors. People everywhere. We walk straight into a cardboard sign „Camino Libre“. Two Cubans and a camera. Joel and his brother. A warm welcome.
The car awaits, a classic, older than the two of us put together. Friday night, banks closed. Back into the airport. In front of the money exchange a long line of Condor passengers also in need of some Cuban Convertible Peso – in short CUC – before their all-inclusive experience. Disculpa senor, is there another place to change money? No, but let me see what I can do for you girls… He skips the queue, 130 CUC and off we go. Ciao pale-faced all-inclusives. We sink into the old leather seats. The car swallows heaps of gasoline and pushes itself stuttering and sooting towards Havana. The air hangs heavy with exhaust fumes. Trying to breath. The guys in front, Joel camera in hand. Documentary about extreme sports in Cuba. Plaza de la Revolución, hola comandante Che. Calle G, turning into calle 21, arrival at Mercede’s casa particular. She explains, it’s hard to follow, to think, 4 keys, 4 doors to happiness: a bed. Go out, dinner, mojito? No chance. Staring at the fan on the ceiling, rotating steadily, city noises… what will this city hold for us in the morning?

Día 2 – Discovering Havana by Longboard 

We are in Cuba. Hasn’t quite sunk in yet. Our new Cuban casa particular mum Mercedes makes us a terrific breakfast and a coffee that can wake the dead. And ‚fruta bomba’… you shouldn’t say ‚papaya’ in Cuba, we learn that a few anecdotes later… We assemble the boards. wefunk’s finest and some trucks and wheels from the donations boxes. German protection pads are pulled over pale knees, TSG helmets put on blonde hair and off we are, down calle 21. Mercedes sees us off, laughing, shaking her head and not without first having provided us with the best way to the Malecón and a thousand pieces of maternal advice.

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

Grinning from one ear to the other, we head down the road to the Malecón… and the sea. Everyone looks at us and we look at everyone and everything. The cars rattle past us, honking, sooting. Every building is different, a picture of Che, an „hasta la victoria siempre“ fading away on the face of a building. So not just a cliché. Keeping one eye on the pot holes, one on the traffic. The heart sees the rest. Finally the sea: we are really here! We climb onto the wall that runs along the Malecón and start skating. 1m wide, on the left the sea, on the right crumbling sidewalk, a 4-lane-road, vintage cars. The police whistle: Get off the wall… and up again… Havana Vieja. Beads of sweat mixed with sunscreen run from the helmet over red cheeks.

Everything is an attraction and we are for everyone else. We escape into a restaurant. Bingo! And out again, the heat greets us. We shoulder the decks and move through the crowded, dirty streets. Capitolio, Parque de la Fraternidad, shade! A little kid pees on the walkway right in front of us and is thoroughly pleased with himself. He wobbles over on legs that just learned how to walk and wants to skate. Ok little guy, aggárate y VAMOS! After a few rounds we drop him off with his parents, grab our decks, bye little oasis!

Cars, busses, carriages and all types of transport push past us, we are trying not to go under. Finally, a little alley, refuge into the right direction: Vedado. Calle Salud, dilapidated charm, just like the movies… We dodge waste, look for pot holes in the road, wave old people sitting in front of their run-down houses and try to stop at the cross roads on this chessboard, preferably before a car runs us over. A gang of kids. Laughing, running along side us… Oh Havana, you and your vibrant streets…

Back in Vedado, sweaty and tired after 4 hours of skating. We see the first skaters! We cross the street. Que bola?! Calle G, we arrived the heart of Havana’s skate culture. Skating from one spot to the next down Avenida de los Presidentes, the group grows. Faces seen on photos now en vivo and full of stories. An empty fountain with a rondel, surrounded by a marble bench. Round and round we go, skating, sliding, grinding, messing around… sharing boards, getting to know each other until the sun suddenly sets. Sí claro, we’ll see you later at the fiesta in Playa!

Day 3, a break from the urban hustle and bustle.

Playa Megano, surfing, laughing, a barefooted walk home. Into the night with the surf – skate crew, Mojito and Ron Collins for peso Cubano prices. Making plans for the next day: longboarding, baby!

The middDCIM100GOPROay sun is high in the sky, it’s hot. The Havana Longboard Crew picks us up, Mamerto, Roberto and Carlos. Skateboards are hard to get hold of in Cuba, Longboards virtually impossible. There are maybe 6 in all of Havana, the guys tell us. Well then, now that number has more than doubled, we say grinning and show them the donations from Alemania. We search for bolts and screws, mix and match the donations until each one of us has a board under their feet. GoPro on and off we are. Cruising through the wide avenues of Havana, weaving through traffic where necessary. Joooo, heads up, truck from behind! By now a well-known mixture of laughter and sweat accompanies us through the day. Cubans, children, trucks, old cars and run-down houses glide past us, salsa rhythms are carried into the street from every second house. Nuevo Vedado, downhill spot a lo cubano. 35 degrees. All boards are thoroughly tested. Sliding all afternoon. Slide gloves? “No hay” there aren’t any! Boys, your skills are dope! Back to Vedado in the last light of the day con nuevos amigos. What a day!

Día 4 – Longboarding with the crew in Havana 

Day 3, a break from the urban hustle and bustle. Playa Megano, surfing, laughing, a barefooted walk home. Into the night with the surf – skate crew, Mojito and Ron Collins for peso Cubano prices. Making plans for the next day: longboarding, baby!10271277_676432622392749_2940295548546743643_o

The midday sun is high in the sky, it’s hot. The Havana Longboard Crew picks us up, Mamerto, Roberto and Carlos. Skateboards are hard to get hold of in Cuba, Longboards virtually impossible. There are maybe 6 in all of Havana, the guys tell us. Well then, now th
at number has more than doubled, we say grinning and show them the donations from Alemania.

We search for bolts and screws, mix and match the donations until each one of us has a board under their feet. GoPro on and off we are. Cruising through the wide avenues of Havana, weaving through traffic where necessary. Joooo, heads up, truck from behind! By now a well-known mixture of laughter and sweat accompanies us through the day. Cubans, children, trucks, old cars and run-down houses glide past us, salsa rhythms are carried into the street from every second house. Nuevo Vedado, downhill spot a lo cubano. 35 degrees. All boards are thoroughly tested. Sliding all afternoon. Slide gloves? “No hay” there aren’t any! Boys, your skills are dope! Back to Vedado in the last light of the day con nuevos amigos. What a day!Bildschirmfoto 2014-02-22 um 22.46.30

 

About the author

Isabel: