When up and coming Liquid Force rider Mikey Marsh emailed me a few months ago and asked if Alliance wanted to be involved in a wakeboarding trip to Cuba, I asked the obvious question: How are we going to be able to ride in a place that has been off limits to Americans for 50 years? Mikey’s reply was that his brother, Billy, was stationed in the Coast Guard at Guantanamo Bay, the 45-square-mile military base that continues to pop up on the timeline of modern American history. Billy, he said, through his connections at the base and their father’s MasterCraft dealership in Massachussetts, would pitch a sort of “USO” style visit by some wakeboarders under the premise of entertaining the Marine, Navy, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard troops that are stationed at Gitmo.
It sounded far-fetched, but a few weeks later he wrote me back and said the Navy was already shipping a CSX down and the trip was in the works. The side story, of course, was that Mikey would get a chance to see his brother after eight months and share their common passion for riding in Billy’s new home – a place that despite all it’s efforts towards normalcy still hums with a very strong undercurrent of seriousness, acting as the holding pen for the world’s most notorious terrorists.
Soon we were on board a chartered 737 out of NAS JAX (that’s Naval Air Station Jacksonville, one of the many acronyms I would have to learn over the next few days) and headed for Gitmo. And for the next four days we got a chance to do something very few people have ever done, or might ever do again – wakeboard in Cuba. Actually, that may be a little exaggerated, the troops stationed there have the option of renting small runabouts for the day from the MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation, our gracious hosts) and riding in the vast and beautiful bay that give the base it’s namesake, but it may be a little while before a fully loaded CSX will prowl those waters again.
The trip was a quickly moving and tightly planned barrage of demos, meet-and-greets, parties and goodwill, and we were treated like officers and gentlemen. I’d like to thank all the people at MWR who helped make this trip possible – Craig, Jaron, Audrey, Jeff and everyone else who had a hand in it, sorry about all the tardiness, I think the whole “Oh-etc.-etc.” time thing threw us off.
Look for the entire story and lots more photos in an upcoming issue of Alliance, as well as a web video by Matt Staker to come soon and a segment on Pull. Over and out.