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Havana Surf Cuba has been involved with Cuban Surf riders since 1999. The work that has been done by Bob Samin and many others has benefited many people and continues to be effective.
We first started havanasurf in 1999 as a way to create interest in the Cuban surfer’s plight and to raise donations of boards and surf equipment.
This was a difficult period for surfers as anything that floated was viewed suspiciously by the Cuban authorities and police would regularly make surfers leave the water or confiscation of boards by the coast guard and questioning was common.
We have broken down many barriers from travelling with surfboards to being recognised as a group but are still not accepted as Cuban sport.
Previously our meetings would be a clandestine affair as foreigners were not allowed in a Cuban home as the Cuban home owner could face a stiff penalty and gatherings at local surf spots in groups would be viewed suspiciously.
In this period permission was needed for Cubans to travel and travelling with surfboards was a definite “no no”.
With the formation of our small group and the help of the havanasurf website site we were able to side step many of the barriers form bringing boards into Cuba, to moving them across the country to where we could surf other breaks.
The site provided foreign surfers with information on surf breaks and seasons but more important in made a place for Cuban surfers to meet and exchange experiences and with the generosity of the foreign surfers leaving their boards behind or boards that we had bought and people had “hand carried” into the country for us the Cuban surfers we were able to receive a slow trickle of boards every year.
Now travel with surfboards is accepted and journalists and photographers can cover the surf scene freely as previously permission was needed and the content screened as Cuba was very and still is protective of its image abroad.
With our group we formed a “waiting list” so the boards would not be sold just for money and who would receive the next incoming board. Normally the better surfer would get the new board and he would then in turn hand down his board to the next younger surfer on the waiting list. With the Cuban salary of between $12-$25 per month and where hard is just a normal day there is no luxury to have a surfboard let alone get one into the country.
We have expanded our group to other parts of Cuba and the boards are equally shared with these surfers. We have also transported boards to the eastern province and the waiting list is growing every day.
In 1999 we commenced lobbing the Cuban department of sport (INDER) for the recognition as “surfing as a sport” and the commencement of a teaching program and the recognition of our group. This has been a slow process to date with small gains every year with the acceptance by INDER (department of sport) of a Cuban surfing manual and recognition of an accredited surf coach for our group.
Cuba recognizes SURFING under the banner of (Grupo Gestor para el Desarrollo de los Deportes Extremos ( extreme sports ) which in turn is controlled by (INDER ) .Surfing is also recognized by the the Direccion de Recreacion Nacional ( Department of recreation ) as “ people who face the sea” but surfing still does not have an official title from (INDER) department of sport but our group is tolerated and are well aware of our existence .
In 2005 we made the first shipment of surfboards to Cuba via the department of sport (INDER) and after 1 year incarnation in Cuban customs the boards were cleared and donated to the Cuban surfers.
In 2010 the pan American surfing association held the first ever sanctioned surf contest in Cuba with a Cuban surfer gaining third place in the open division and this broke down one more barrier for Cuban surfing .
Over the years the board numbers have increased from just a few per year to an estimated 15 to 20 per year that we spread out across the country, but allowing there are at least 300 surfers and with breakages and the difficulty in obtaining repair material we are far short of our goal .
With our comprehensive surf manual we have laid a solid foundation for surf instruction, etiquette, surf awareness and surf rescue and with your donations our aim is to keep the flow of boards and equipment into Cuba.