It can be hard to convince a Cuban official that the floatation device you’re carrying on the top of the car is not a means of escape, but a surfboard.
For decades, surfing in Cuba has been a novelty. There are only around 100 surfers on the island, 5 or so of which are female. Because surfing is not recognized as a sport, like baseball, there are no sponsorships, coaches or even surf shops on the island. Surfboards are either brought into the island from the outside or are creatively engineered, often out of the foam from refrigerator doors. Once the surf wax has been rubbed off the board, candle wax is dripped on the deck for grip – not exactly easy on the skin.
The Wave of Change
A group that is starting a wave of change and breaking down the barriers that prevent a relationship with the ocean is The Wahine Project. Based in Monterey, California, this 501(c)(3) non-profit is working to connect girls and young women to the ocean. Since 2010, they have served over 700 girls between the ages of 7 and 17 with programs in southern California, Mexico, Gaza, the Philippines, and now Cuba.
There is a pool of scientific evidence that shows when we spend time in, on, under, or near the ocean, chemical and physical changes occur in our brain. These changes make us calmer, more focused, creative and happy. The Wahine Project believes in cultivating these attributes by providing opportunities for females to connect to the ocean. In turn, positive community leaders are born.
The Wahine Project Cuba
The Wahine Project Cuba is just beginning to take shape. The first trip to Cuba, this January, brought surfboards and gear donations to local surfistas and want-to-be Wahines, where the team worked with the girls one-on-one. After a successful trip, the Wahine Project has scheduled its second outreach trip for September, exploring more opportunities for these Cubanitas to connect with the ocean.
One of the biggest challenges The Wahine Project Cuba faces is transportation to the beginner-friendly sandy surf beaches 45 minutes outside of Havana. Though there is surf in Havana, it can be treacherous as large waves crash onto the coral rock. Not to mention, many opportunities to explore the beautiful coral reefs off Cuba are expensive to get to for locals. With a “Wahine Wagon,” Cubanitas will have greater access to experiencing the benefits of being in the blue water.
To raise awareness of and funds for The Wahine Project Cuba, a series of “Mermaids & Martinis” events will take place July 11th and 12th in Fort Lauderdale. During the events, guests will have the chance to sip martinis and enjoy hors d’oeuvres on the oceanfront as they hear about the local marine environment from marine biologists (aka mermaids). Limited edition handmade posters will also be available for purchase with proceeds going towards transportation costs during the upcoming trip to Cuba in September.
To RSVP, send an email to Paola Espitia & Pay Aponte, The Florida + Cuba Liaisons: firstname.lastname@example.org
July 11th | 6pm to 8pm
$10 donation includes welcome martini and hors d’oeuvres
505 N Ft. Lauderdale Beach Blvd.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33304
July 12th | 4pm to 7pm
$10 donation includes raffle tickets to win staycation packages
Extended top shelf happy hour
Bamboo Beach Club + Tiki Bar
4040 Galt Ocean Dr.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33308
Follow The Wahine Project Cuba on Facebook and Instagram for future event announcements!
Paola Espitia is a marine biologist who focuses on inspiring a “Blue Minded Society” in which we live mindful of our actions on the health of the oceans. She is a Certified SCUBA Diver (aka mermaid) and knows a few tunes on the ukulele. For Blue Mind inspiration, follow her on Ola’pi Creative’s Instagram and learn more at olapicreative.com.