Surfing's favourite nomad Kepa Acero has spent quite some time in remote communities across Senegal – even organising board drives to bring sleds to the people of Africa so they can enjoy the ocean on their door step. Pre-COVID, Kepa and Dane Gudauskas took a flight back to Senegal, to visit Kepa's sort of spiritual home, and the following film shows some stunningly-shot vignettes into the trip.
Let's get this out of the way first though, have you ever eaten a rat? Most of us will put that in the firm no, never pile – but as Kepa explains in the below interview for MSW, we're just held back by certain cultural taboos. “These aren't like the river rats of Bilbao,” he says, after tucking into a jungle-caught rat with Dane in the below vid. It is aptly titled The Delicacy Before Us, a multi-faceted title card because the real story here, of course, is the community and waves on offer in a quiet corner of Africa's westernmost country.
Spot guide: Senegal
Kepa's spent more time in localised surfing communities than just about anyone. And he connects with places in a deeper way than the usual roaming wave ripper. “It is very connected to the surroundings and nature,” he said about this particular Senegalise community. “There is also a lot of beliefs going on, so you get involved in that atmosphere. It definitely feels like you are more connected.”
Hit play above for the incredibly well-shot movie and dig in below for more insight from Kepa on boards, people, travel and his feeling on Africa vs Europe.
How did this project come about?
I've been to Senegal a few times. First time I went solo, by car, from the Basque Country and arrived in this area, which is actually pretty fickle. I mean, you get waves every now and then, so I spent pretty much a lot of time there. I meet a girl, Mariana from the Basque Country, who was married and had family there.
I started planing bringing surfboards to this community to teach them surfing and let them enjoy their resources, their waves. We did that in 2018 with Eva Diez.
Last year, I wanted to bring my dear friend Dane Gudauskas who has been an inspiration on the board drives.
Then we went there last year and had this great experience. Our friend and filmmaker Igor Bellido came along too. The video's out now [above].
What did you love most about Senegal?
I do love many countries in Africa. In Senegal there is a lot of colours and people are really open. They love living in the present more than in the western countries -- we are always thinking of what's coming next.
Also they are really welcoming and open in their hearts, that also gets you thinking; 'would all of us be like that if they came to Europe?' There is a lot of subtle messages that you learn there.
The waves look fun too – an amazing country. Were there many people surfing?
There is a surf community in Senegal but the coastline in Africa is huge, you will find a lot of empty places around. If you want to surf by yourself, you have the entire coastline.
I don't want people to get too hung up on this because the edit is stunning, but I've got to ask; how would you describe eating a rat? It’s not that bad right…
[laughs] It's more of a cultural taboo from us, I think. At the beginning I was like 'no way', then you realise that it is something we all have to change in our mind. Of course, this is a wild animal, it's not the river rat like here in Bilbao. It ended up being pretty tasty. I would eat it again, especially when hungry after a long surf.
There seems a kind of remoteness and peace in the community you visited there, so very different to western life. Is that how it was?
It is totally different. Life is very quiet there in the jungle. The community takes its time for everything, no rush. There is no electricity the moonlight is peaceful and night time you hear the birds and animals. It is very connected to the surroundings and nature.
There is also a lot of beliefs going on, so you get involved in that atmosphere. It definitely feels like you are more connected.
And how was it travelling with Dane?
Dane is a flow master. He has got this magical natural talent of being all right in every situation. He is also very charismatic and easy going, so the local people loved him.
He also jumped to dance with them in a local tribe jam session, it's a pity that that wasn't filmed
He loves to experience. We used to sit in a tree in the afternoon after surfing, eating fresh oysters for hours. He also jumped to dance with them in a local tribe jam session, it's a pity that that wasn't filmed.
How did the trip come about?
I travelled to Africa a few times with Dane. We got along very well together. We also spoke on the phone a lot, so he told me that he really wanted to go back to Africa together. I told him, 'ok, let's go this month' and so we did.
Let's talk boards, what did you take?
I ride Pukas boards all the time and also I took a few Christenson twin fins. That black and white one in the video is a bullet, a Pukas x Christensen called Pegaso. Also I have been trying mid length twinnies a lot. There I had this 6´3 Lady Twin model by pukas, with channels shaped by Axel Lorenz.
I'm hoping that places like Africa have the opportunity to get some medicine too, so humanity can overcome this.
Mostly those two and also had the Christensen Lane Splitter, twin fin, the orange one.
I took a few thrusters but they do not hold the speed that well and the waves were so long that it felt better on speedy boards.
Any plans to go back?
This was right before the Corona. We had very little internet, so we did not know things were this bad... then I arrived in the Basque Country and found all this mess. I haven't travelled much since then, but I definitely want to keep exploring Africa.
I hope everything goes the right way now, we all are as healthy as possible, and hoping that places like Africa have the opportunity to get some medicine too, so humanity can overcome this.
Then, I want to go back to Africa and keep learning from this amazing community.