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TheStreet Open House

Havana Skaters Defy Scarcity To Keep On Rolling

HAVANA (AP) â¿¿ In a story Aug. 6 about skateboarding in Cuba, The Associated Press misstated the metric conversion for 50 pounds. It is about 23 kilograms, not 110 kilograms.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Havana skaters defy scarcity to keep on rolling

Skateboard subculture thrives in Havana, where replacing a broken board is a constant concern

By PETER ORSI

Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) â¿¿ Some call Che Pando the godfather of Havana's skateboarding scene, and the 40-year-old tattoo artist can still recall how tough things were in the 1980s when he and a handful of other pioneers first started shredding in public squares.

Like listening to rock music in the 1960s, interest in such a uniquely American import marked the young skaters as socially suspicious, and sometimes for rough treatment by police and arrest, though their experiences were perhaps not all that different from confrontations between U.S. skaters and civic authorities concerned about the destruction of public property.

"One time we were a big group of kids skating on the smooth floor in front of the Havana Libre," Pando said. "The hotel security and the cops came running out."

"It was difficult because we were misunderstood by most people," added Pando, who was named after revolutionary commander Ernesto "Che" Guevara. "They used to kick us out everywhere."

Attitudes have largely done a 180 ollie, to borrow the term for a popular aerial maneuver, and today a small but thriving urban tribe of pierced youths prowls Havana's streets, looking to have fun and, just maybe, land the perfect trick.

Familiarity has come through high-profile visits by professional skateboarders and brands such as Red Bull; a brief partnership with a local cigarette company that helped build a skate ramp, and a series of semi-sanctioned or at least tolerated trick competitions. A program documenting skaters' lives even aired on state television, the official arbiter of all things acceptable.

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