Chased by Cops – Skating in Cuba

The sun is burning, the air stands still and the streets are dry. Yalien (44) will meet me tomorow at the end of the Malecon around 5. Of course Cuban time, plus a not defined amount of waiting time!

Once the heat of the day fades away, the streets of Habana become a great place to skate. Even though many roads are broken, the locals know their best spots with plane floors. Hard marmour covers the ground of a long straight park alley called “Paseo del Prado”.

This place lays in the middle of Habana and the cops are present at all times.

My friend lends me one of his three boards. He is kinda proud because it is not easy to get skateboards in Cuba and there is no shop for repair parts. The few boards are brought in by professionals who organise skate events in Cuba as a part of their world tour, Cuban travellers or sometimes boards are sent from outside friends. Lately some builders started building skateboards in a shack. They dont have the heavy press equipment yet, to push their boards quality to the next level though. Yalien knows a lot about the small skater scene in Cuba and skates for many years himself.

We start practicing some tricks on the cracked pavement. More and more, old and young, girls and boys come and join us. Suddenly I hear a whistling noise from the other side of the road. My friends stop their boards and talk to each other in a quiet voice.

It´s a Cop. By whistleing at us as if we were wild street dogs and waving wild hand gestures he states his point clearly. It´s obviously not ok for us to be here! We have to leave..

After some short words, the whole gang gets going. A group of 15 skaters rolls through the side streets, trying to get out of the control cops eyes. We stop in a nice place right at the waterside. It doesn´t take 10 minutes until the first police men arrive. All of them are connected via radio and they know how to play this game.

I ask Yalien: “What are they gonna do if they catch us?”

“Skating is a half legal activity in Cuba. Police men tell you to stop skating every time they see you! Most of the time they wont do more but sometimes they take away a board”, is his answer. For world skate competitions being regularly held here, it is kind of contradictory that skating in general is not allowed for Cubans. But what should I say, it´s just another “unreasonability” which does not want to be understood.

We move on until we reach a save spot in Vedado, far away from system supporter slaves, on the other end of the city. A huge open space, with some steps and stairs to jump around is our destination. Finally we had escaped todays control game and we skate until the sun sets..

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