This week, Misha Copeland and a small crew of friends headed to Havana on what will be one of the final flights from the USA to Cuba under a person-to-person aid visa. The Trump Administration’s sanctions on Americans travelling to Cuba for person-to-person or educational purposes have gone into effect. The rules restrict travel between the two countries. Airlines are still honoring flights bought prior to June 5th, but the new US sanctions aren’t the only threat to the Cuban Skate Scene.
Most people don’t know that it’s officially illegal to skateboard in Cuba. In the past, cops have mostly turned a blind eye, only harassing and arresting skaters periodically. Recently however, the police have started to crack down. New surveillance cameras were added at popular spaces like the Prado; a well known spot that features perfect marble ground, flat gaps and ledges. There are no skate shops in Cuba, no factory to manufacture boards either. The scene has been almost totally fueled by outsiders bringing in boards and the locals running with it, progressing every day.
On this visit the crew is bringing a few 100lb bags filled with complete set-ups, shoes, and other goods that will go to the local skaters in various parts of Cuba. Misha first got involved with trips like these through his co-worker, and Brooklyn skate photog Chris Miller (not the Chris Miller writing this article, or the vert legend). They work with the Amigo Skate Organization. Amigo and Cuba Skate are two groups helping to aid Cuban skateboarders over the years. These groups also have brought many first-timers down, introducing them to the country and building partnerships across borders. Excursions like this keep the skate scene afloat, and only time will tell how these new sanctions affect skaters in a country where skateboarding truly is a crime.