Kepa Acero has never been the best surfer in the Basque Country. He may not even be the best surfer in his family. But he just might be the greatest living surf adventurer on the planet. For the last 15 years, Kepa has been trekking the globe, surfing the edges of the earth, and exploring the remotest coasts of Indonesia, Africa, Alaska, Antarctica, Patagonia, and India.
And while the films of his travels found a huge online audience, Kepa isn’t travelling for the adulation or the exposure. He is travelling for the adventure. He is travelling for himself, for the people he meets, for the lessons and perspective it brings. On the eve of another exploratory trip looking for new waves in Africa, Kepa wrote of his passion for travel for Departuresboard.
Recently I had one day in Male, the capital of the Maldives. I walked around for hours and went to the street markets and I realised what I had been missing over the last few years; It was the idea or sensation of being in a completely different universe. The sounds, the smells, the language, it was all so alien, and they made me feel so alive.
When travel was cut during the pandemic, I spent countless days searching Google Earth. I’d say I’ve travelled around the world at least 20 times, virtually. But now, as I pack my bags and surfboards, it is happening for real. I’m heading for Africa. It is the place I missed the most when I couldn’t travel. I feel a fullness when I’m there. It makes me feel whole, but with a lightness of spirit. It seems contradictory, but that is what Africa can do to a person.
The first trip should last about a month and is starting in Liberia. The plan is to set up a base camp, and from there we will explore the coastline where we think there might be some incredible waves. I’ve been working with some new barometric pressure apps which has provided new, hopefully correct, information on the power of the waves there. Between searching on Google Earth and the new apps, we believe there may be something special where we are headed. However, you never know until you go. Anything is possible.
A few years ago, for example, we did a trip to Tiger Island, located on the border between Angola and Namibia. It took a month and a lot of energy to get there, and the wave was absolutely, and there is no other word for it, shit. It’s true that I have discovered some beautiful waves, and sometimes not, but you always learn from your mistakes even if it’s a failure.
Every time I take on these explorations it involves so much positive energy because if it didn’t, you would never make it. You strive to feel the energy of a new place and an unsurfed wave because every world-class wave is very different. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t, but the human experience means it is always worth it.
Sometimes I think I am on some grand adventure, or that my story is unique. Then you see what some people are capable of and the capacity for adventure that humans have. It can make me feel like a tourist, just scratching the surface of what is possible.
I think that over the last few years I forgot that feeling and lost my energy for the moment. I’m sure I wasn’t alone. Even though I was exploring Google Earth, my adventurous spirit was somehow dampened. It was like a muscle I hadn’t been exercising. Yet as soon as I knew I was traveling again it was reactivated. It felt like a fuse was lit.
I love my home in the Basque Country. I love the people and the waves, but as soon as I return, I can feel the itch. I make sure that everyone close to me is fine and reassure myself that home is a great place to live. And then it’s time to leave. To chase adventure and chase my dreams.
Words by: Ben Mondy