A Comprehensive Guide To Travelling Alone With Kepa Acero
“I never travel solo to be by myself; I travel solo to find new people.”
Travel is a means of freedom. Freedom from the norm, from your local watering holes, breaks, and familiar faces. However, it’s not until you spend time crossing borders alone that you’re truly able to indulge in and learn from your social anxieties.
When we asked Kepa who's got the best imagery of him, he laughed and said, "Because I travel by myself so often, I have a lot selfies."
Welcome back to Red Eye: Reef x Stab’s series on the tricks of the leap. Where we pry open the mind of the well-travelled and transcribe it in black font, pixels, pretty pictures and moving images on this here page. This time, we hear some sincere advice from our favourite solo-traveller, Sir Kepa Acero. We catch the man at his home in San Sebastian, fresh off a quick two-hour drive and strike to Hossegor. “I just got back,” he tells Stab. “It was so fun, somehow even though they didn’t run, it was looking better than the rest of the contest.”
Mr Acero, as much as he enjoys company while travelling to surf, prefers to go it alone. The man once told us a story about nearly drowning in quicksand, while roaming remote Alaska for nearly a month, with a board bag, a GoPro and utmost solitude. “I’ve been travelling alone for seven years now,” he says. “After 15 years of travelling for myself and on the QS, always with a crew I had never done it solo. So I went to Africa, Indo and Australia alone and found out it was a really special human experience. I’ve been stuck to it ever since.”
"When you go solo, you’re forced to find people, make friends and become part of the community.”
“I have nothing against travelling with people,” he says. “I was just getting tired of going to a hotel and surfing the same beach with everyone else. Especially when travelling with the QS. It’s still super fun when you go with friends. But when your travel with a group you have protection, you’re with your tribe. When you go solo, you’re forced to find people, make friends and become part of the community.”
“When travelling with friends,” continues Mr Acero, “the ideal group is two-three people max. Sometimes I travel with more but that’s the ideal team. You can make decisions fast with a smaller group. And if you find a good wave, paddling out with one other guy is usually fine. It’s when you paddle out with four or five that it creates problems. And, that’s completely understandable in my opinion.”
You always surf better when no one's around.
Kepa keeps a not-so-strict schedule of six months on the road, four months at home, or five months out, five at home, the remaining two months are irrelevant. “It’s been like that for the past seven years,” he says. And when you’re constantly moving, the trick is to pack light. “Honestly, I don’t prepare much. I just take my backpack, a tent and three surfboards in a bag. The way I travel I sometimes have to take trains or hitchhike, so the less weight you have to carry the better.”
“I also bring a lot of music,” he continues. “But the best thing to do, and my favourite is to find the local music because it will introduce you to the way of thinking in that area. If you’re solo, a good book is always a good friend. I’d recommend Jack London; he’s a good travel friend, and if you’re going solo you’ll find yourself in the same situations as him many times.”
"Sometimes you’ll feel lonely and struggle, but if you see it optimistically, you have to pass through those situations by yourself anyway. Not only in travel but in life."
We ask Kepa the hardest part about going it alone. “There’s nothing bad,” he responds. “It’s true, sometimes you’ll feel lonely and struggle, but if you see it optimistically, you have to pass through those situations by yourself anyway. Not only in travel but in life. When you’re struggling that’s great because it makes it that much better when everything goes right afterwards.”
“If I could go anywhere right now, it’d be Africa,” he says. “It takes a lot of work to find waves but, because of the social, economical, political situation there, there aren’t a lot of people exploring the coastline. Namibia’s my favourite destination. I love that wave so much; I’ve never seen anything like it in my whole life. I’ve surfed my fair share of world class waves, but after you surf that one, there’s nothing better.”
We must admit, we're big fans of Mr Acero's philosophy.
“The best thing for travelling solo is to be humble and introduce yourself to the community,” says Kepa. "Once you’re part of the community you start to become part of the country. I never travel solo to be by myself. I travel solo to find new people.”