U.S.A. – Cuba – Windsurfing – A Friendship Being Renewed

U.S.A. – Cuba – Windsurfing – A Friendship Being Renewed

I blink and eight years have past. I had the good fortune of creating a friendship with Alex Morales. You might remember Alex, He was the fellow that received national news in the U.S.A. when he fled Cuba on a wind surfboard, a death defying feat. At the age of twenty one he was the best windsurfer in Cuba. He had met most all of the criteria and was the number one windsurfer in Cuba. The only thing he lacked was the approval of the government. He was not of the same political opinion as the Cuban regime.

Because of this reason his passport was denied and many obstacles were placed in front of him. He was the windsurfing champion of his country but he would not the champion of the political powers of Cuba. He was denied a coveted chance in the Olympics.

The phone rings and I get to reacquaint myself with Alex. His Cuban accent has remained as we visit at a rapid, rapid pace. I struggle to understand every valuable word. It has been twenty two years since Alex put his life at risk and windsurfed from Cuba to the United States along with two friends, Robert & Carlos. They survived so we get to hear their story, so many did not.

Alex suggests that thirty thousand remain unaccounted for in the crossing between Cuba and Florida. Mr. Morales was one of the lucky ones. Studying the tides, waves and water currents he found himself just off the coast of Florida many years ago and was rescued, refuge had been found.

Since that time Alex has worked in the electrical trades and as a general contractor in Miami. His entire family now lives in the United States. He has made quite a name for himself and has almost single handedly put windsurfing back on the beaches of Miami. Over the years he has put together perhaps thirty or more regattas and racing events. This can be a daunting challenge for many sailing committees let alone a single person. Certainly he had some help however once you get to know Alex you will understand that he is a driving force that can move wind and water and quite often.. sailors! Few people have done more for the windsurfing community in Florida as acknowledged by his “Windsurfer of the Year” award presented by United States Windsurfing.

Today Alex spends his time and passion building his own company. His windsurf boards http://www.tillo-international.com/ are a product of love and art. He recognizes that he is competing with other countries that have cheap labor and mass production. I can feel the resolve in his voice when he tells me “I study and learn everyday.” “I will make the best board ever and it is an on going process.” “I have been doing this since my days growing up in Cuba.” He also does the production work for Peter Ifju & IFJU FINS. Ifju Fins has found a place in the windsurfing industry and they are being represented by Alex Morales, a force to be reckoned with. Alex states unabashedly “I risk my life to be here, I want the U.S. to win Gold Metals in the Olympics” he continues, “Windsurfing was invented in the U.S.A and it is now all over the world” “Today the place it is least represented is in the U.S.A.” “I want more people to be as passionate as myself!” He is the essence of a competitive sailor and won’t relent.

Tonight I watched the news of normalizing relations with Cuba and I decide to broach the subject. Alex speaks freely of his distain for the Cuban government and He has grave doubts that this latest overture will produce anything meaningful. No love is lost on his native land. His entire family has fled and they view the current political situation as playing only into the hands of the politicians. The Cuban people are the pawns that will benefit so very marginally. Alex was the best windsurfer in his nation, only to be denied because he didn’t share a similar view in politics.

Alex and his wife Simona have a new born baby, Alexa. This child has only recently reached the beach, soon to be baptized in the waters off Florida, she will join a family of sailors.

She is as pretty and as beautiful as the hopes and aspirations of her mother and father.

Bill Keitel

UnVarnished Essays March 2016

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