CATCHING UP WITH ANTARCTIC EXPLORER KEPA ACERO
The Basque adventurer on his recent Drake passage crossing, Antarctic night shifts and what lies ahead now.
While Kepa Acero's recent voyage to Antarctica reaped little reward in the form of tangible waves, his trip to one of the most inhospitable places on earth remains an extremely memorable one. We caught up with the fun lovin' solo Basque free ripper to find out more on his latest exploit and what it taught him.
It’s been a month or so since you got back from your epic voyage to Antarctica, can you tell us a bit about how it went?
Well, we were on the sailboat for over a month searching for waves and the truth is that I didn’t catch one wave... The Antarctic is a very hard place. Most of the coastline remains unexplored, and not just by surfers but everyone. Down there in the Southern Ocean, sailboats stick to well-defined navigation lanes and rarely ever stray from these because there are few reliable nautical charts. Our captain Unai Basurko decided it was to risky to sail potential coastlines I’d identified because you just wouldn’t want to hit the bottom in the Antarctic, and on top of that there's the ever-changing sea ice conditions and huge icebergs you could run into any time. We loved the adventure of it all and saw that there was plenty of potential but in the end we didn’t have that much chance in finding any real waves.
Did your crew have a particular goal to carry out while they were down there?
The Pakea Bizkaia was actually working on an educational project for Basque kids about the importance of protecting the environment. They sailed all the way from Bilbao, documenting the trip the whole way: the countries they stopped at and the biodiversity they encountered. It was super interesting to sail with them. It was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I was so stoked my friend Unai Basurko asked me to go along.
Had you previously done much sailing or was it all new to you?
Absolutley none. It was my first experience on a sailboat. You could say I kinda jumped straight into the deep end starting off with the Drake Passage, one of the most dangerous and legendary sailing passages in the world. The first days I was walking around the boat pretty lost...
Did you find yourself pulling a whitey and vomming overboard at any point?
Luckily I was ok with that. The hardest part was keeping watch at night. We had to take turns every few hours. We’d watch for two hours, then sleep three, then be up again. Hanging out on the deck at 3am was kind of chilly!! And it’s not like it’s just for one night, we had to do it for the whole journey... Plus I am really talented at sleeping so I definitely found that difficult!
Overall, how was the weather during the trip? Were the waters as stormy as expected?
It was super cold. Obviously I knew it was going to be chilly, but I think it’s one of those things you can’t prepare yourself for before you go. You just have to live it. For the Drake Passage, we had 20 feet waves. Very stormy and snowing so bad. Then once you get to Antarctica, the wind drops and it’s just freezing with 24 hours of daylight. Of a total of around 35 days, we only had one sunny day.
And how did the old rod n’ tackle stand up to the freezing water temps?
Ha ha, the water temp was under 2 degrees. I never expected for it to be that cold. I had to wear two 5 mil wetsuits, one on top of the other. Double boots and gloves. I could hardly move but it gave me about 40 minutes to play with and then it would start to feel dangerous.
We heard the locals are pretty gnarly down there too…
Yeah it’s crazy. As soon as you reach the Antarctic you just start to see whales, killer whales, penguins... everything. It’s amazing to see so much wildlife in what is the coldest place on earth. But at the same time my deal was to go in the water which was pretty unsettling for sure. Yet every time I jumped in everything felt so magical, the backdrops, the colours, the wildlife. It was a real privilege.
And now that you’re back what’s in store for the rest of the year? Maybe some place warm no?
I am very focused on Africa... I was in Angola last year and I saw some amazing undiscovered potential on that side of the Atlantic...I would love to buy a old 4x4 and drift around for a bit on another new solo trip.