Surfing is currently illegal in Cuba, but a group of local surfers are fighting to change that and have the sport officially recognised.
When the cold war ended in the early 90s the Soviet Union’s financial support for Cuba dried up, leaving some in the country facing starvation. As a result many Cuban citizens attempted to escape from the island by sea on any craft they could get their hands on from floating tyres to leaking rafts. In order to halt this exodus, the Cuban government effectively banned people from the coastline.
Accordingly when a small group of locals first began experimenting with home made surf craft, officials saw them in the water and assumed they were making a break for it. Until recently, Cuban’s have faced detention, or the risk of having their hard-to-come-by boards confiscated, just for paddling out. Now, the local surf community want to make a stand and have the government lift the ban and recognise surfing as a sport.
Their fight has become particularly important in the last two years after surfing’s inclusion in the 2020 olympics
For years the 100 or so local surfers have wanted to form a surf clubs and organise competitions at home, with a view to eventually forming a national team to take to the ISA’s, but without official recognition of surfing as a sport, none of this is possible, because in Cuba, unless activities are explicitly stated as legal, they fall under an enforceable category of “not legal”.
Their fight has become particularly important in the last two years after surfing’s inclusion in the 2020 olympics was announced, presenting the Cuban surf community with the opportunity to make a legitimate case to their government.
“Even if we don’t win, even if we don’t pass the first round,” Cuban surf pioneer Frank Gonzalez tells film maker Corey MCclean “if we’re there, I could breathe in peace, and say that we accomplished our goal.”
One of the island’s most passionate female surfers, Yaya Guerrero, has taken up the fight, inviting a group of filmmakers to the country to make a film to present to the Cuban government. Yaya also wants your help. She feels that if the global surf community get behind their efforts, it will help legitimise them when it comes to showing the government what an important step this could be for Cuba. Sign the petition and show your support here.
Learn more about the campaign to legalise surfing in Cuba, visit surflibre.org, or follow @surflibre on Instagram.