I first connected with Amigo Skate Cuba founder Rene Lecour in 2018. Inspired by his charity group’s work
bringing smuggling skateboards to kids in Cuba, I reached out. Then, as anyone who knows the guy will tell you the same, his passion for getting kids on skateboards hooked me. His skater-turned-philanthropist image can be intimidating at first glance. Yet, it’s quick to see that Lecour is just a big kid, in a 54 year old’s body, spreading love through skateboarding.
For over ten years Rene’s been taking apart skateboards, putting the parts into a dozen different pieces of luggage and then rebuilding once inside Cuba. He gives the boards free to kids who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to ride. In many cases he simply supplies parts; when a board breaks in Cuba – a country without a supply of skate gear – it doesn’t just mean the end of the day for a kid. It could mean the end of the sport. Through it all though, his real mission is to foster connection between the US and Cuba; to create a community through skating, art and music.
To the Cuban government, skateboarding is often seen as an act of rebellion. And, given the political divide between our countries, it’s often tough for Lecour to get support for his efforts on either side. This isolates the charity’s fundraising and equipment sourcing initiatives. So, they do it themselves: members of the group in the States collect donations and refurbish and rebuild used boards, wheels and other gear. They distribute them on the island where they see need.
Despite the trials and tribulations of running a skateboarding charity for Cuba, Lecour’s work isn’t in vain; it’s having an impact. In fact, they’ve not only delivered seven tons of skateboarding equipment to Cuba but they’ve launched Havana’s first skateboard school, hosted events at local orphanages, held safety classes, built skateparks and are currently working on a collaborative art project with the Havana Children’s Home.
Lecour and his Amigo Skate Cuba do good. They do lots of good.
In fact, when you watch the documentary about Amigo Skate by director Vanesa Wilkey-Escobar, appropriately called Amigo Skate, Cuba, you could almost picture these kids being anywhere. There’s one big difference though; the images of the Venice Beach looking skateboarders ripping down Havana streets exist only because of the work that groups like Amigo and others do.
Now, Rene wants to take his show on the road and be the first to skate 1,500 miles across the entire country of Cuba. He wants to continue to create awareness (and money) for the charity, spreading the love in places beyond Havana with skateboarding, art and music. Everything he does will be documented on the @amigoskatecuba instagram account.
Lecour knows it’s going to be a tremendous physical challenge. Not to mention there may be a few cracks or pebbles on the roads as he goes (figuratively and especially literally). Yet, I think it’s a brilliant, fun idea to bridge cultures and use the beloved sport to cut through political divides. In fact, if I could skate halfway down my driveway without breaking my elbow, I’d offer to be right there next to him.
Related Post: Havana Libre Is a Beautiful Film About Surfing in Cuba
On that note, if you don’t think you’d break your elbow (or both) and want to receive more information about the trek, have an interest i, donating gear (new or used) or just contributing a monetary donation – whatever the amount – to the fund for their upcoming project, please reach out to Rene.
(Photos: Amigo Skate, Cuba documentary | Indican Pictures | Vanesa Wilkey-Escobar)