Surfers Chase Freedom in Cuba

Havana Libre tells the story of Cuba’s underground surfers struggling to practice their sport.


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In the new documentary Havana Libre, filmmaker Corey McLean follows a community of Cuban surfers who refuse to abandon their sport despite police harassment, government bureaucracy, and being shut off from the international surfer community.

"If you want to feel something and understand Cuba, you just need to get to know these characters going about their lives, trying to pursue something that they love and seeing how difficult it is," says McLean. "Cuba has had this really difficult relationship with the water. The Cuban government essentially made the water off limits to all of its people unless expressly given permission for it. To try and develop a sport in that space is already really difficult. The fact that it's primarily a Western sport is also not particularly appealing to the government there. And so, together, those reasons basically forced surfing to be this underground sort of invisible sport."

Throughout the film, protagonists Frank Gonzales Guerra and Yaya Guerrero grapple with both their Communist government and the American embargo in an attempt to advance the sport they love.

"You see how much chaos politics can cause in day-to-day life," says McLean. "Everything is connected to politics. And so for them, surfing is really this ability to just release all of that. And so when they say they're constantly trying to escape politics, all they want to do is live in this peaceful lifestyle that they see people around the world being a part of. This film is sort of about how difficult that simple task is."

Havana Libre is now streaming on Amazon, Apple TV, and elsewhere.

Photo Credits: Ernesto Mastrascusa/EFE/Newscom; ABACAUSA.COM/Newscom; Axelle de Russe/Polaris/Newscom; Bayne Stanley/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Peter Bennett/Ambient Images/Newscom

Music Credits: "Darkness," by onyx-music via Artlist

Produced and edited by Meredith Bragg