Acero in Africa

The ever-wandering Kepa Acero is going on a trek along the west coast of Africa

When a relentless, nomadic pursuit of new waves defines your lifestyle, you get lineups like this all to yourself. Photo: Acero

Most surfers find comfort in the daily ritual of checking their homebreak, pulling into the same parking spot day after day in hopes that the elements will have aligned and perfection will be waiting for them at the place they’re most comfortable. For many surfers, there’s nothing better than scoring in your own backyard. And then there is Kepa Acero. A surfer who hasn’t stopped moving in years. A constant traveler, a vagabond among lineups around the world. His program is unique: self-documented adventures to remote coastlines in search of waves and experiences no one has had before. With some sort of ingrained conquistador passion, the Spaniard’s treks, selfies, and high-pitched squeals of joy have become a source of escapism for surfers around the world, his videos a brief respite from those routines we’re locked into. In August, Acero will take on the continent of Africa, traversing its entire west coast over the course of three months, discovering waves he claims have to be out there. He’s doing it because for him that’s the dream, and also so that we don’t have to.

What’s the itinerary? How long do you plan to stay at each spot?
Well, I’m still planning the whole trip. It’s definitely not easy to travel solo through Africa. My plan is to fly to South Africa, buy an old 4×4, and drive up the entire west coast. My plan is to go in August to surf the south of Africa when the big swells are in the southern hemisphere, then to go up the coast and catch the northern countries in October and November, when the northern hemisphere gets the best swell. I’ll drive all the way from South Africa and through Namibia, Angola, every country up to Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, then jump to Spain and Portugal, finishing right at home. It’s a wave-hunting plan across the African west coast. On the way, of course I’ll enjoy this vital experience with the local people. That’s my plan.

How many countries will you hit? Which are you looking forward to most?
Around 22 countries. I’m pretty into Angola, Congo, Senegal, Mauritania, and Cape Verde. I think there has to be great potential there, some of the places where I know there are some amazing empty lineups.

What kind of storms will you need for good surf?
I’ve been to Angola and Namibia before, on the coast in the southern hemisphere, and you get huge south swells in August. The swell rolls along the coastline, creating mostly lefthand points. Then I’ve also been to Morocco and Cape Verde in the northern hemisphere, where you get these swells around October and November rolling along the coast and creating righthand pointbreaks. The difference this time is that I want to cross Africa and take the time to see the people and the culture, and to take all that experience back home. I love having a fascinating human experience.

Where did the idea from this trip come from?
Before I went to Angola I was very attracted to Africa, but I was so scared. But after spending an extended period of time in Angola by myself, I feel ready to cross Africa. It’s all about that sensation. That’s when I thought I really wanted to do this.

What specific challenges does this route pose?
I think the hardest part is going to be the social situation in some of the poorest countries. Some are in very difficult places of conflict, while I am just a white man with surfboards and cameras looking for waves. So it’ll be challenging, you know? Some of the countries are difficult to travel through, and I have a love/hate relationship with Africa because of it. Everything is hard, I always want to quit when I am there, but I always miss it when I am not. I love the country and the culture, and that’s the exciting aspect of it. I can’t wait to get there.

What do you have to be cautious about? Any precautions going in?
It’s pretty basic, not too many precautions. The most important thing is to have an old, humble car and a humble look. You don’t want to provoke anyone, you just have to be curious with the life people have, that’s is the most important precaution, to be humble and always ask before acting.

What’re you looking for along the way? Any mysto spots you have your eye on?
Africa has for me the most interesting coastline in the world. Due to the historic social-political and cultural conflicts, there’s still a lot of coastline to explore. Last year, I spent a long time in Angola and I saw there was a lot of potential. I’ve been checking Google Earth for years, the winds, and the depths…there has to be good waves. Now someone just has to go and find them! That’s the only way, and that’s the beauty of it. There has to be good waves.

His previous travels through Africa, and the discovery of waves like these, inspired Acero to take another tour.
Kepa Acero, far and away one of the most unique characters in surfing.
A shot of Acero with a host family from his last trip through Africa.