Mauritanian Desert Surfing with Kepa Acero

Most surfers have been to Morocco, a good percentage to Senegal but very few have dodged mines in Mauritania in search of a wave. The closest we get is scrolling over the arid orange shoreline on Google Earth. Kepa Acero in his journey down West Africa tried to turn mind surfing into reality and we asked him how it went

Kepa! Where are you right now? And have you found any good waves?

I've made it all the way to Senegal, having crossed the boarder with Mauritania, which is a real nightmare. It's been pretty hard to travel alone here. Mauritania has great potential for waves, I surfed an amazing outside reef, but you really need the west swell so I didn't have much chance to surf some potential waves, like this one on the video. Also the mines, and the military occupied territories make an important part of the coast unapproachable.

Mauritania has a reputation for being a minefield. We saw from the vid that a lot of the mines are marked, but what about the ones which are not marked? Does that worry you?

Well, yeah, there are many old mines around the desert, the first thing you have to do is to ask is where are the mine territories? If you want to explore into the mine territories you have to follow exactly the car rails in the sand, you can´t miss them, literally. Those mines are made for breaking a war tank into pieces. There are a lot. And most of them not marked. Even following the rails is pretty intimidating.

Those mines are made for breaking a war tank into pieces. There are a lot. And most of them not marked. Even following the rails is pretty intimidating.

Did you have pre planned places to sleep the night?

Not really…I go a bit deeper in the desert and sleep right there. Seems to be pretty safe to sleep in my Patrol once you get away from the cities, but I also have to say that I meet some Europeans travelling escorted by police.

In my Patrol have a little kitchen where I can cook some pasta and coffee. It´s so sick to wake up in the morning in middle of the desert. The landscape is beautiful here. A pretty intense experience.

Do you get lonely?

Sometimes I do, but I feel so blessed to be here, you know? You make a little fire at nighttime by yourself, read a book, there is not one light, so the sky is full of stars. I also talk to my GoPro like you see in the videos, and it helps a lot. You talk to someone so you don't feel like you are alone. Sometimes I turn my GoPro off and i then I realise I am alone and nothing moves in the desert but your mind. But at the end I always find people, when your travel solo you need to communicate so you always find a community everywhere.

So how's the French coming on? (His French is terrible)

My French is a complete disaster, I have to say. But it's so amazing to see yourself communicating with everyone, even if you don't know the language, using your hands, or drawing on paper. But I really think that there is a universal language which connects all of us, by movement and smiles. I really try to use that one.

How do you film yourself on a wave from the beach. Are you using a remote tracking device like Soloshot?

I use the Soloshot a lot, it's amazing. Some other times, I have this automatic focus HD Handycam, they really easy to use, so I teach some local people, fishermen… how to use it and they film my surf session. Sometimes it´s so shaky [laughs] but at the same time, what it's lost on technique is also so real. Here is a fishermen filming, that's it… which is pretty pure to me. I have a lot of fun doing the edits of the videos.

People had never seen a surfboard before, ever. They wondered what king of boat-canoes my surfboards were. It´s amazing. So also that's the beauty of the place. It really feels like you are exploring in a completely different universe.

What will you take away from this section of the trip?

Well, I found great people in Mauritania, like you see in the video. But I have to say that this country is really poor, and so you can understand that they need money. While local people are having a tough time in life, I am a white man, exploring for waves and having fun, and some people have been pretty aggressive trying to get the money from me. Which is fully understandable, but it's not easy. I found it really hard to travel, but that's the main reason why it kept the coastline away from surfers.

As I was going some through fishing villages, and the people had never seen a surfboard before, ever. They wondered what king of boat-canoes my surfboards were. It´s amazing. So also that's the beauty of the place. It really feels like you are exploring in a completely different universe.

Cheers


Ed Temperley

MSW editor. Instagram @edtemperley