Text by Marta Sáenz / Images courtesy of K. Acero
Kepa Acero is not only a surfer, he is a traveller, a explorer and he has inspired many people all over the world. When he was just a boy, people from his hometown in the Basque Country, Spain, could watch him competing against the best surfers in the world or surf almost everyday with his friends and brothers, Iker and Eneko, in Mundaka or Sopelana. Now Kepa, after retiring from competition, has started to live his dream life becoming a free surfer, exploring new cultures and people and of course, untouched surf spots. Every day, thousands of people follow his adventures through his blog www.kepaacero.com and watch how this man from a little town in the north of Spain live his dream live and share waves with people like Dane Gudauskas or Cyrus Sutton.
From an early age, you’ve been travelling to many places for surf contests, but the time came when you decided to abandon the competition and travel alone around the globe on a search for new surf spots and whilst meeting new people and cultures. When you look back, what has this decision meant for you?
I started travelling alone 6 years ago and I’m still enjoying this stage in my life. It’s going so fast that I didn’t even have enough time to assimilate what’s going on. What’s most important is that I’m doing what I really love and that in the end, it’s not only about the waves, but about feeling fulfilled. When you believe in something, take the chance and see that it all works out well.
After all, it’s all about living life, living your own life…
Yes, for me the message is clear there. It’s not about taking your surfboard, your backpack and going travelling, but about following your dreams and doing what you really love in life.
That is also what you express with your work. Your films are a source of inspiration to many people. This must be very rewarding to you.
Definitely! When I uploaded my first video to the Internet in Africa and saw that thousands of people watched it, I decided to continue documenting my next steps in the journey. Many friends, as well as people that I didn’t know before started sending me messages of support. When someone says to me that my films and trips are an inspiration to them, I feel great. It’s an amazing feeling.
During your trips you’ve met new people and experienced different cultures. Which culture has impacted you the most?
Every place has its own beauty, but Africa has its own magic. It has many unexplored areas and in many places you can feel like some kind of astronaut. That makes the journey completely pure. There are many regions in Africa with no tourists; therefore it’s a great experience for the traveller but also for the locals because you can create a healthy relationship with them.
What is the best advice you can give to someone who wants to jump into a solo trip?
In my case, buying the ticket and realising that I would be all-alone in my first journey was a very hard thing. Therefore, the best advice and at the same the most difficult one, is to face the fears and go ahead. There is a moment where you have to take a leap of faith, but it’s totally worth it. From the moment you buy the ticket, you’re full of fear, but when you’re out there, you’re living your dream. It’s that simple and complex at the same time, but in the end it’s the best thing that you could ever experience, fears included. The adventure actually starts before leaving your home.
Who are the people that inspire you the most?
Thoreau is the writer that has inspired me the most and also the surfers from the 60s and 70s generation like Wayne Lynch, Nat Young… all of them marked a milestone in the surf culture. When I was young, my friends and I perceived surf as a counterculture, as something out of the standard profiles of our society.
We know that Mundaka is your favourite surfspot, but if you had to choose a different one which one would it be?
I think Namibia. Skeleton Coast is an amazing surf spot and with no doubt, one of my favourites.
At the beginning of the year, you were surfing the north coast of Peru with Cyrus Sutton trying different kind of surfboards: longboard, alaia, shortboard, twinfin… with what kind of surfboard do you identify yourself the most?
I really like them all, up to the point that I’ve taken five surfboards in the car! Each surfboard is for a different kind of wave; it depends on the sea and the tides. It’s difficult to study all of this, although it’s very interesting because when you get to know every wave situation, you’ll learn in which situation goes the best surfboard. Every surfboard is a different instrument to create music with the waves.
Right from the beginning, the Pukas surfboard company has supported you in your professional career and at the same time you have contributed to develop new surfboard models for the brand. How do you see the evolution of surfboards that is currently taking place? Do you consider that there is a turning point nowadays with the designs of the surfboards like what happened years ago with the shortboard revolution?
As in everything, there are also trends with the surfboards. There’s been a time called in the USA the “dark age” of surfing, where everyone used the same type of surfboard, very narrow, with a lot of rocker, and these kinds of boards are for competition. Therefore most of the people couldn’t make the same use or have the same performance as a professional surfer. These days, most of the surfers that are not in professional competition want a simple surfboard to flow with the waves. They want to enjoy the surfing and nothing else. They say, “well, I will never surf like Rob Machado…”
To conclude, can you tell us something about your future projects?
It has been quite a long year. I’ve just returned from Gabon (Africa) and also been to Ireland. Now I want to be home and enjoy the good swells that the Basque coast receives especially in October, November and December. From there, I will start over, but I don’t plan my trips too much in advance, instead of that, most of the times I plan them as I go.