Kepa Acero has spent many more years traveling solo than most people. He’s dedicated his life to the pursuit of not only waves but of that connection one can only get with strangers when there are only strangers to connect with. He has found both many times and he continues to do so, especially in West Africa, where empty waves are around every corner, but every corner is not easy to find.
But over his years of traveling, Kepa has run into a problem: his conscience. “Many times on my trips, I find myself teaching people how to surf, and I see how they get hooked,” Acero says. “At the same time, I feel sorry because they can’t continue. There’s no chance they’re going to get any surfboards.”
So, along with Eva Diez, he came up with an idea. They would campaign on social media to collect as many donated surfboards as possible, then send them all to Africa, a place that has given him so much. “This way,” he says, “we’re not only taking something from this place and people, but also leaving something that gives us so much.”
And that’s exactly what he did. Returning to Africa again on a hunch and a whim, he traveled to a setup that looked — from space, anyway — to be promising. This time, he had a container full of surfboards for the community that lives near that perfect point. One can only guess at the waves they’ve seen wrap around that point un-surfed, but with any luck, their eyes have been opened to new possibilities — and thanks to an idea and the generosity of surfers who donated their surfboards, they won’t go un-surfed for long. Those donated surfboards didn’t show up in time for Kepa and Eva to be there to see the smiles on the faces of the community, but they showed up a few days after they left. And if the photos are any indicator, those smiles shone just as brightly on paper as they did in real life.
In the end, Kepa didn’t find the waves he had traveled so far in hopes of finding. “It was looking exactly like a dream,” he says. “But if I was an ant, I would have made the barrels of my life. And it hurts, but uncertainty is the true essence of adventure. Maybe, after all, it’s not all about the waves.”