A skater takes flight at the "23 y G" skate spot as a group looks on. The spot, little more than a few park benches and series of small curbs, has become a gathering spot for skaters in Havana. Skaters here call themselves members of the "23 y G," a nod to the intersection of 23 and G avenues where the park sits. For more, read "The Unlikely Story of Cuban Skateboarding."
Robert Gomez drops in at 23 and G. The self-proclaimed videographer of the group, Gomez has been putting together a skate video for over a year, but has struggled to find proper technology in Cuba, where electronics are at a premium. "I think in my case it's difficult to make a movie because it's hard to get filming equipment here," says Gomez, a student at Universidad de Habana. "I want to progress and get a new camera, but I don't know how I'm going to get one. They don't sell them here [in Cuba]."
In Cuba, skating has been around for over 30 years, but has just emerged on the national radar recently. With popular Cuban media embracing the sport as well as government-controlled product lines, it appears that skateboarding has finally been accepted on a national level. Here a cola can displays a skateboarder shouting, "I am pure adrenaline."
Ruben Ladron kickflips his way down the Prado, the iconic pedestrian boulevard connecting Havana Harbor to the Parque Central and the Capitol Building in Havana. Ladron, who is currently fulfilling military obligations and skating when he has time off, has been part of the Cuban skate world for four years. "I began skating, more or less, after watching the '23 y G' skate videos, " says Ladron. "Ever since those, I've always wanted to skate."
Around the city, small pieces of wall graffiti like this one show increased influence of skating on Havana and surrounding areas. Pictured here the word "SK8", short for "skate", appears below an inline skating tag.
Footwear illustrates the true disparity between Cuban skaters and the rest of the skate world. Shoes with gaping holes, such as the ones pictured here, are commonplace. With the only access to new gear through a trickle of donations such inconveniences are accepted as par for the course, and skaters will use the shoes until they rip through entirely.
A pair of Cuban skaters waiting their turn to skate, sporting old Converses and cracked skate decks. The board in the foreground is partially held together with a bumper sticker from the Canadian skate company "Adrift" and has mismatching wheels. The two skaters, Yasel (foreground) and Enrique (background) are new to the sport and are bottom of the food-chain when donations come in. Yasel only received one piece of equipment the last time a shipment was dropped off: a new wheel.
New and old Cuba collide when a skater brings a trumpet to the skate spot. None of the skaters can play the instrument but there is a very tangible respect for the instrument and music in general. Despite the modern direction of Cuba's skateboarders, they are still heavily rooted in the traditions of the island, a unique glimpse into today's Cuba.
The sun sets over the Vedado borough in Havana, home of the "23 y G" skate spot and many of the area's skaters.