Filmmaker Feature: Kepa Acero

After traveling the world on the WQS grind, Kepa Acero was not finding what he needed. Rather than focusing on contests and being caught up in one thing in life, he decided he needed to explore his other interests in the world. With very little knowledge behind the lens, Kepa purchased a few cameras, got an around the world ticket, and set off to document the people, cultures and waves he was visiting.

Kepa’s recent film “THE NORTHERN ROUTE” won the Jury Prize at the 2011 Amstel Surf Film Festibal for best local short. In the film, Kepa rides his bike over 670 miles along the “Way of Saint James” documenting the other travelers, waves, and culture he comes across along his journey.

Can you tell us about the trip that you took for your short “Northern Route”? How long did it take? Where did you go?

The Way of Saint James is a traditional road that people have been walking for thousands of years, all around Europe, crossing the Iberian peninsula, all the way to Santiago City in Galicia, and then to Finisterre (the most western part of mainland, where at old times, they used to believe that was the end of the world, “Finish-Terre”).

The northern Way of Saint James crosses all of the Spanish state from one side to the other along the coast…676 miles. I thought it would be a great experience to do it by bicycle, to get in touch with the the “pilgrims,” the different cultures along the way, with nature and waves.

I have wanted to make this trip for many years with my friend and photographer Iker Basterretxea “Roke”. We planned to also do it with Niega, the editor of “3sesenta magazine,” but he left to Australia, so we said, “Ok, let’s do it…” Grabbed the bicycle and that was it, easy and simple.

It took us 25 days to cross from the French border to Finisterre, nearly 1000 kilometers around the coast. It is full of mountains, and that was the first time I have ridden a bike in the last 15 years…so yeah, that was pretty hard. The first day I was looking like a grandma on my bike…I was so destroyed that I thought, “Naaa, I am never going to finish this odyssey”…but at the end, we made it!

What was the inspiration behind it?

I believe that surfing is a way to be in a close relationship with nature, but also a way of life to be in a close relationship with people and cultures you find along the way. The waves keep me motivated, but in the end, you carry all these experiences inside yourself for ever. That is the important part for me in a surf trip, not only as a surfer, but also as a human being. Do it by the natural way, on the the bike, by land. You experience everything that is going on around you…straight contact with people, nature. It is a great feeling.

How were the waves?

It was hard to find the right waves with the right tide on the bicycle. You put all your hopes on a break, it takes you a long time and energy to get there, and once you get there the waves are shit. You cant go back another 20 miles. You have to surf there. I feel like back in the times when there was no cars, no trains, no nothing… you must have surfed shit waves a lot of the time, but it is great.

Anyway, we found a couple of nice left-handers deep in Asturias and Cantabria. It felt so good to find some good waves after all that effort.

Can you tell us about any challenges that you faced along the way? In other words, was there anything that happened that was unexpected?

The worst part was the bicycle. I wasn’t used to ride a bicycle so my balls where destroyed!!! It is pretty funny to watch on the video now but…

It was great to meet all the pilgrims along the trip. We all slept in the refuges in The Way, sometimes 30 people in one room. I got to know many of these people at dinner time and everyone had a reason to do The Way of Saint James: religious, mystic, or simply just walkers…or crazy surfers like us…

There was a very interesting man I met, who used to be a millionaire. One day he decided to give all his fortune to an orphanage, burned his passport and all goods, and started walking all around the world…around America to India. I found him in a dirty shelter-refuge somewhere in the way…it reminded me a bit of the story of Chris McCandless in the book “Into the Wild”.

How did you get started in filmmaking? Tell us about your other projects, “5 OLAS 5 CONTINENTES” and “THE FINAL FRONTIER”?

Actually, my first experience filmaking was last year, with the “5 waves, 5 continets” project. I used to compete a lot on the WQS and all that. I was traveling around the world and that was always nice. But competing, I felt that you had to focus on that beach, on your heat. Your world is limited to those 20 minutes. I was traveling around the world but not knowing what was going on around me. I had many other interests, worries, philosophical preoccupations. I wanted to know what was going on in these countries…mostly my interest were people, cultures and nature, including there waves, of course.

One day last year, I decided to buy an around the world ticket. I bought some cameras and I traveled by myself to Africa, Indo, Australia and Chile. My goal was to surf five unknown, world class waves around the world. I didn’t know anything about filmmaking. I didn’t know much about the places I was going to. It was just me, my surfboards and my cameras…

As soon as I went to Namibia, I slept in the desert by myself and I was filming with my camera in the shorebreak by myself with my camera and my tripod, editing the videos in my car in the middle of the desert. That was a great experience, very deep. Below is a autofilmed, autoedited video in the desert. I was the car to charge my batteries and long distance internet connection to upload it…

I met many people around the world and made some good, local friends who I taught how to use the cameras. They began filming me. In Indo, I found some perfects spots were I surfed by myself, missing my brothers to surf with…

That is why my films are technically no good. I don’t know how to use the cameras. The people that I met didn’t know how to do it either. But the experiences and relationships with waves, nature and people are real. There is no artificial details. Even a lot of the music is done by my friend Unai Azkune and me, recorded on the computer at home. It is all real and full of sensations and feelings.

I try not to get too technical, but rather to put my feelings on the screen. All the feelings takes surfing to another level, takes the sport activity to a spiritual experience. All this experience is inside you now, you can’t see it but it is with you. These experiences change the way you see the world, the people…you see a lot of poor people, a lot of injustice too.. and you find a lot of contradictions in our lifestyle back home.

What’s next for Kepa Acero?

My next trip is going to be to Alaska and Patagonia. My goal is to go on search and find places that have never been surfed yet. I take the influence of the 70′ surfers, where they just to go with the surfboard and the backpack, and do it by myself, with my cameras again. I don’t have much information, but that is the adventure…by land, shooting and finding new places, new people…

I am going to buy my ticket tomorrow, then there is no way back.

I am going in August to Alaska, spend there 45 days…then to Peru, spend there one month… and as the days get longer in the southern hemisphere, I will go down to Patagonia and try to find new waves there…

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