Senior Editor
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The Inertia

Kepa Acero is an incredibly interesting man. He is, to be sure, one of the greatest surf explorers who’s ever lived, and that’s not hyperbole. He spends his life doing what many people dream of doing. He travels mostly alone, but where ever he goes, he has friends. Kepa is quiet and unassuming, friendly and intelligent. He travels for more than waves–he travels for traveling. Sure, the waves are good, but the best part of traveling is the experiences that happen on the periphery of surfing. But sometimes things go wrong.

Kepa broke his neck at Mundaka on January 2nd. He was a whisper away from death. And in perfectly Kepa fashion, he learned something beautiful from the experience. Here are his thoughts, five months after surgery:

“When I paddled for that wave, I never thought that could happen. I remembering being sent flying to the bottom and suddenly feeling a strong blow to the head. I do not remember much more. It was like when you turn off the television. My head went out.

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Seconds later, I woke up under the water. I tried to give several strokes to reach the surface and breathe, but I realized that my arms and legs did not respond. I literally thought I was going to drown. I cannot believe how close I was to death.

I broke two cervicals and suffered a cervical displacement as well as a broken back. It’s a miracle that I’m not in a wheelchair. Ever since the moment I found out I could walk again, I have been giving thanks to life every single day.

Sustaining an injury like this is difficult. But at the same time, it was the most beautiful and enriching experience I have ever lived. Being in the hospital and having friends and family visit you is unique. You feel like you’re about to die, but you’re surrounded by people who believe the world is better when you’re here. Humanly it is a fascinating experience and you learn to value friendship and value every moment.

It’s only been 5 months since I had surgery and I’m back to surfing nearly 100%. I’m planning to go to Africa soon and keep doing solo expeditions. I’m happy knowing that I will return to Mundaka and soon I will be paddling into the same wave with which I had the accident. I dream of getting into that tube again.”

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