Not-so-dangerous day at Mundaka turns tragic for Kepa Acero
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 20 June, 2017 - This winter world traveller, artist, thinker, film maker and the Basque Country's favorite son Kepa Acero broke his neck while surfing at Mundaka, a wave that he grew up on. A closeout barrel sent him straight to the bottom where his head impacted with the sand. Unable to move his legs, he was fortunate enought to float to the surface where friends rescued him.
Quiksilver has just released a five-minute video chronicling Kepa's injury and recovery process.
When I paddled for that wave, I never thought that could happen.
We had been surfing Mundaka with much more dangerous conditions for weeks. January 2nd was a smaller day and it was very slow, but there were a few perfect waves.
I jumped in the water and waited about an hour until a wave of about four feet arrived. It was a bomb, a shaky wave, but not much different from the thousands of waves I've caught there in the last 25 years.
I got a lot of speed because the section was growing, entered the tube and suddenly the foam ball took the board off my feet as if it made me trip. I remembering being sent flying to the bottom and suddenly feeling a strong blow to the head. I do not remember much more. It was like when you turn off the television. My head went out.
Seconds later, I woke up under the water. I tried to give several strokes to reach the surface and breathe, but I realized that my arms and legs did not respond. I literally thought I was going to drown. Luckily, I was wearing a very thick suit and floated to the surface. I lost control again and lost my sight. I was blind and could barely move my body. I cannot believe how close I was to death.
Fortunately, a friend was very close and saw me floating. Iñigo, along with other friends like Gaizka, Eukeni, Natxo and Nando saved my life. They pushed me to the edge and called an ambulance. I gradually regained my sight and mobility. The moment I got ashore, I thought it was over. I was taken straight to the hospital.
When I arrived at the hospital, I was very sore but very quiet. I had an MRI and when the doctor entered the room, he had a somber face. I did not know how bad the news could be. He did some sensitivity tests on my arms and feet and fortunately, I could move decently well.
He then told me that I had two broken cervicals, a cervical displacement and a broken back. He told me it was a miracle I was not in a wheelchair. I burst into tears and ever since that moment, I have been giving thanks to life every single day. I had surgery a week later and luckily everything went well. It’s only been 5 months since I had surgery and I'm nearly back to 100% surfing. I am planning to go to Africa soon and keep doing solo expeditions.
Sustaining an injury like this is difficult. But at the same time, it was the most beautiful and enriching experience I have ever lived. Being in the hospital and having friends and family visit you is something unique. You feel like you’re about to die, but you’re surrounded by people who believe the world is better when you’re here. Humanly it is a fascinating experience and you learn to value friendship and value every moment.
I have always said that you have to enjoy life, but after having an experience like that, I say it more forcefully. As soon as I get better, I will not stop traveling and fulfilling my dreams.
For rehabilitation, I would advise anyone who suffers an injury like this to be passionate and have patience, to not lose hope. Enthusiasm is an engine in life. I have been happy to think that I will return to Mundaka and that soon I will be paddling into same wave with which I had the accident. I dream of getting into that tube again.