Cuba surfers ride the waves on donated boards

Fri Aug 22, 2008 8:55am EDT
 
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By Esteban Israel

HAVANA (Reuters) - Not long ago, Cuban surfers made surfboards by molding insulation foam from refrigerators with a cheese grater.

Now they ride the waves on second-hand surfboards donated by surfers in other countries, whose solidarity is keeping afloat one of the least known tribes in the surfing universe.

"Cuba is one of the last places not surfed in the world. It's probably like Bali was in the late 1960s," said Bob Samin, a 49-year-old Australian engineer who promotes surfing on the island.

Surfing, which does not have the official support other sports receive in Cuba, survives thanks to the tenacity of a handful of fanatics who learned the sport by imitating what they saw in foreign magazines.

Without money and with little contact with the outside world, the 100 or so surfers in Cuba shared the few boards they had, developing the cooperative ethos that once reigned among surfers elsewhere but now has been replaced by competition, said Samin.

"In the rest of the world, surfing has lost its soul, it has become very competitive. Everybody is so hyper, here is different," said Samin, who works on an oil platform in the Indian Ocean and travels every five weeks to Cuba.

He has been the driving force behind the international effort to get boards for Cubans, setting up a web page, HavanaSurf (www.havanasurf-cuba.com/), through which most donations have been arranged.

So far this year, Cubans have received 20 boards and another 40 are expected in coming months.   Continued...

 
<p>A body boarder stands on the shore at a beach in Havana August 18, 2008. Not long ago, Cuban surfers made surfboards by molding insulation foam from refrigerators with a cheese grater. Now they ride the waves on second-hand surfboards donated by surfers in other countries, whose solidarity is keeping afloat one of the least known tribes in the surfing universe. REUTERS/Claudia Daut</p>