Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker is a man on fire. Back-to-back wins on the Big Wave World Tour assure that he has a significant lead in the world title race. In-between winning events, Twig has also managed to fit in a number of heavy water sessions from France to Maui and beyond.
Having had time to reflect on his massive win at the Mavericks Big Wave Invitational on Friday, we had a few words with the champ to hear his thoughts on the victory and his focus going forward.
ZIGZAG: Congrats Twiggy. Jeepers, that was eye of the tiger stuff. How were you feeling when you checked that clean-up set roll through while you were in the commentary booth during the first heat? It looked like you were chomping at the bit to go out there and get a piece of it.
TWIGGY: Thanks guys! Ja, I like Mavericks when it’s big and heavy. It really separates the guys who want it and who are just out there because, you know. I could tell this swell was going to be raw with hard winds and that suited me perfectly. When I saw that cleanup set take Healy and Chrispy out I was nervous but excited at the same time. I kind of had a feeling it was my day from the start.
You made it look like a walk in the park on your perfect ten in your opening heat. You were in ‘the zone’ so to speak. It has been like that for a while now if you consider this is your second win in a row and you lead the BWWT standings. When did the switch flip and the intense focus kick-in?
I had ACL knee surgery about two years ago. It’s a major injury, and took me about 18 months to really get over it and get my confidence back. So the last six months have been about taking that confidence and turning it back into results. It’s tough in the big wave scene to keep momentum because of the sporadic nature of when the events run, but mentally, physically and emotionally I’m in the best place of my life right now and I guess that all helps?
Twiggy parks the bus during Round 1.
And the waves? It looked crazy from the safety of the webcast and that only tells a fraction of the actual story. How frightening was it out there?
Mavericks is such a heavy wave! Jaws, Dungeons and Cortez are right up there, but none of them have that slab takeoff that puts the fear into you like Mavericks. A mistake out there is going to hurt, if not kill you, and when it’s loading up on the bowl with no roll in and devil winds, like it was, it’s downright terrifying.
It looked like everyone was wearing their safety vests. We saw quite a few competitors put them to use. Did you need to pull the cord and inflate during your heats? Any heavy moments?
I had a lucky day out there and didn’t fall once, I actually had dry hair at the end of it, so no I didn’t need the vest – but after I had won and got back to the boat, some of the competitors thought it would be funny to inflate it then (laughs). Those vests are a great addition to what we are doing and they will help push the limits of big wave surfing even further.
It’s all about the take-off at Mavericks. More often than not, Twiggy was in the perfect spot.
The Big Wave World Tour title is pretty much yours to lose with only two events remaining. Do you thrive under pressure, or do you prefer to not think about it and just go charge.
I enjoy the pressure and I seem to become calm and focused at these events, so I guess I’m lucky in that regard. I love surfing big waves and the bigger the better for me, so I don’t get to nervous and try to channel my joy at being able to surf these amazing spots with a few guys out into a successful event. I had so much fun in Spain and at this event and I hope that shows in my surfing. There’s no doubt I really want this!
Tell us about your board. It seems like everyone is trying their own thing out there with regards to equipment. Some okes had three fins, others four or two. Some guns were shorter and stubby, while others were classic rhino chasers. We guess it depends on your preferred approach out there?
I believe my equipment is my main advantage over everyone else. I’ve been working on getting my boards perfected with the very best shapers from all around the world for a number of years now, and I honestly believe that no one else is riding equipment that is on the same level and this is what set me apart in this event. My 9’6″ TWIG Model wasn’t even registering the bump and fitted in the bowl like it was born to be there. I’m so grateful to all the shapers who work with me; Bushman, Spider, the guys at Pukas and especially Wayne Webster who shaped the contest board. Check it out on www.twigsurfboards.com
A heavy moment for Mark Healey and Chris Bertish during the opening heat.
While commentating during Heat 1 you claimed to be feeling the same as you did the day you took out the win at Punta Galea. How would you describe that feeling?
Calm and focussed, but at the same time really enjoying what was going on and loving being apart of these special events and testing myself against the best in the world. And also having a purpose to prove myself and the fact that South Africa has the best big wave surfers in the world – which we do and will continue to have forever.
And now? Are you anxious for Eddie to GO so you can keep up the momentum?
Jeez bru, the Eddie is driving me crazy! I’m in my prime right now, I know how to win and all I want with every fibre of my being is to get another chance at it. I need everyone to just will it to happen and I promise to take care of the rest (laughs).
Well done again, Twig. We look forward to the rest of the BWWT season. Any shout outs for the support back home?
Thanks Zag! What can I say, the reason I do this is for the support back home and to make everyone proud of me and our beautiful country. The numbers have come back and this event was the most watched and publicised surfing event of ALL time through all avenues of media, but that’s not why I do it. I do it for South Africa!
The 2014 Mavericks Big Wave Invitational Champ takes a bow(l).
Watch heat reviews of the event on – www.mavericksinvitational.com