Humanity's struggle to master the natural elements is as old as man himself. Yet many dedicate their lives to fi nding ways to improve mankind's relationship with earth, fire, wind and water.
In the case of water, this powerful element which is used by man to sustain life has gone beyond survival and been put to use for a variety of other purposes, becoming an essential component of recreational activities and sports.
Surrounded by sea water, Cuba is an ideal water sports venue. To confirm the validity of this statement, it need only be pointed out that throughout its history the island has had several World Champions and Olympic competitors in a long list of water related sports.
The most outstanding sporting results were won in canoeing, a practice in which every athlete kneels in the bottom of the boat and uses a single paddle to propel themselves across finish line. Cuban canoe athletes Ibrahim Rojas and Ledy Frank Balceiro excel in this area of competition and have been recognized several times as World Champions and runner-ups in the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games.
A similar event to canoeing is kayaking, a sport that is gaining momentum and quite a fan following in Cuba. Athletes of these two sports use the La Coronela Reservoir high-performance training area, which is located on the outskirts of Havana for practices and competitions.
This large freshwater pond is also home to those that train for rowing events and regatta; rowing being a sport which has won many medals for Cuba in the Pan American Games.
Yachting, which has also earned Cuba some world and continental titles, has its main training areas in Cienfuegos and Matanzas with both of these cities' large bays as the main stages for most of the Cuban yacht races.
Beyond the aforementioned specialties included in the Cuban Olympic program, there are many other water sports that Cuban's participate in recreationally that cover a wide range of possibilities. Many boating related activities are found in coastal areas of Cuba, mainly along beachfront tourist areas.
One of the more prominent facilities is the capital's Marina Hemingway, a main water sports spot in Cuba that has a great scuba diving centre and two excellent offshore dive sites that are home to exquisite coral reefs.
Marina Hemingway is also known internationally for, among many things, organizing events, including regattas and fishing tournaments such as the one named after American novelist Ernest Hemingway that is held annually with foreign participation growing with each passing year.
There are many water sports clubs to choose from along the coast of Cuba. One of the more prominent clubs is just outside Club Atlántico in the middle of Playa Santa María del Mar to the east of Havana. There you can rent pedal boats, banana boats, kayaks, snorkeling gear, and catamarans on an hourly basis.
Surfing in Cuba is definitely worth a try with the best waves hitting the shore between November to April along the eastern coastal sections. Bringing your own board is recommended as rental options are limited and usually booked well in advance. The same goes for windsurfing equipment if you decided to give it a try although special gear is available at a few select water sport locations.