Kepa Acero has never been the best surfer in the Basque Country.
He’s not even the best surfer in his family.
Has no known frontside fin chuck, and has probably never done proper air by today’s standards.
But the little fucker sure can tube ride.
And he just might be the greatest living surf adventurer on the planet.
Following, if not in the footsteps, then in the principles of surf explorers like Peter Troy, Kevin Naughton, Craig Peterson and Mike Boyum, Kepa has been trekking the globe, surfing the edges of the earth, exploring the remotest coasts of Indonesia, Africa and India. And while his films of his travels have found a huge online audience, make no mistake, Kepa isn’t traveling for the adulation, or the exposure. He is traveling for the adventure and for the experience. He is traveling for himself, and for the people he meets for the lessons and perspective it brings.
The younger brother of one Spain’s most successful pro surfer Eneko Acero, Kepa grew up in the Basque country of Spain, surfing the waves in and around Mundaka. After seeing the travels, waves, girls and experiences Eneko was scoring, early on he decided to emulate his success. “I remember thinking, I want some of that,” he recalls. Blessed with natural talent and freaky wave knowledge he quickly had some junior success, became the European Junior Champion, gained sponsors and hit the WQS. After three or four years though, Kepa worked out that his more cruisy style and love of high quality barrels wasn’t quite suited to the grind of the WQS.
Luckily though he was given another lifeline, his sponsor Reef backing him as a freesurfer. And while that could be considered a dream gig for any surfer, and Kepa rightfully acknowledges it was some incredible times, it was still a formulaic existence. “Each trip had always four or five surfers, plus a photographer and a filmer,” he says, “so it left little scope for spontaneity or real interaction with the local people. Sure I was traveling around and surfing great waves, but I felt I was just skimming the surface of what real travel could be.”
His response was a brave one. He decided set out to explore some of the world’s most remote and hollowest waves and to do it alone. His sponsors, perhaps understandably, didn’t see the economic value in this hair brained solo approach, but undeterred Kepa just saved his money, bought his fares and went anyway. His first stop was Namibia. Like most in the surfing world he had seen the lefts ridden by Cory Lopez riding the wave at Skeleton Coast and vowed to surf it. “When I bought that ticket I was really nervous, really scared, I was like, “Fuck, I’m really going to Namibia. I had no idea what was ahead and I had never travelled alone before.”
Having no knowledge of the wave or how to get there, Kepa turned to Facebook and found some surfers in the general area, befriended them online and asked if he could come and stay. They agreed and after the long haul, they showed him around before he cut out alone exploring the desert coast and surfing the now famous left, and others, usually on his own.
He also started making a few clips of his surfing and travels. “I had made one video before, a minute of footage of my dog going for a walk,” he laughs. “But my friend who is cameraman advised me not to learn any more than the basics. Just talk to the camera and that way I wouldn’t be able to manipulate the story or bend the truth.”
After picking up a tripod so he could document some of his surfing when in the water, he then had time to make a few basics clips. “I had days and days in the desert living in a car, so I started to edited some clips put them up on Facebook and Twitter and that’s how it started. People were interested and it was good to have a connection with people, seeing how isolated I was. Plus telling a simple story as it happens was a really powerful idea.”