It has been a busy past few days for the big wave crew in Cape Town, with a couple of historic sessions at both Dungeons and Sunset Reef. Barriers were broken and tubes were ridden, and pushing the limits on both these fronts was Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker, who was charging on his blue 11’0″ gun that gave him the confidence to conquer just about anything. We were frothing to hear his thoughts on the swell, so gave him a call and threw a few questions his way.
ZIGZAG: Howzit Twig, impressive stuff. AVG claims that he saw you pull into one of the biggest barrels of the day at Dungeons on Monday – having literally just packed away his camera. How was that one, and do you know if anyone managed to get a pic of it?
TWIGGY: There were quite a few barrels ridden on Monday at Dungeons, which was great to see as it means the level is being raised out there. I got a nice one that doubled up on take-off and then spun down the reef allowing me to pull in and ride the barrel for some time before being spat out the doggy door. I’m not sure if anyone got a photo, but sometimes that’s cool, because more often then not what you remember is way better then what the footage shows. (Laughs)
Some guys were claiming Tuesday’s session at Sunset to be possibly the biggest it has ever been tackled without a jetski assist. Bet you were loving every inch of your 11’0″ Spider?
Look, it was a tow day for sure and I should probably have towed because it was very unsafe to paddle. But I had Jeremy Johnson right there on the ski rescuing me from sets and assisting me to fight the current and stay in position. So for that reason I believed it was do-able. My new 11’0″ from Spider worked a treat the day before at Dungeons, so the confidence I had in it was carried through and also gave me the belief that it was possible to catch a few waves.
Fill us in on which spot is gnarlier, Sunset or Dungeons?
That’s a tough one as both have there pros and cons, but I think most of the boys would say that if you make a mistake at Sunset the hold downs are some of the worst in the world. The whole reef pushes in on itself, and the white water just gets heavier and meaner as you move in, so there’s no letting you up.
Photographer Ant Fox was also mentioning what a great job Jem Johnson was doing whipping you guys in, and was always alert and ready to rush in and help on the rescue ski. How much credit do big wave surfers owe to the support team/s?
Jeremy was amazing on both days, but out at Sunset we just clicked and he was basically right there for the whole session – helping me stay in position and picking me up as soon as there was any danger. He has a minor injury that kept him out of the water, and instead of sulking and staying home he was out there putting it all on the line to help me, so I owe him a good few beers at Ace’s N Spades the next few weeks!
You’ve been chasing monster swells around the world for years. How does this week’s swell compare with some of your other memorable sessions?
We just had a run of two weeks with the most amazing waves and conditions in the Western Cape, which culminated with the two days at the big wave reefs – that is a rare thing anywhere in the world. South Africa has in my opinion the best waves on the planet and this was just another example of this. With regards to the Sunset session, I have only had five or six paddle sessions in my life in the 25ft+ range, and this one was right up there in every way.
You spoke at length with STAB about losing your sponsor, and you honestly have nothing left to prove, really, but how much of a motivation was it for you to go even bigger than usual knowing that you’re now doing it for yourself?
It has been a huge motivation and it’s giving me something to prove for sure. I was told that what I had done the past few years wasn’t good enough to keep my job, and so I have put my mind into being better and proving to those who made the call that they were wrong. It’s amazing what a bit of a reality check will do for you and I have every intention of trying to win every event I can in the next six months – not just for myself but for South African surfing. With Bianca, Jordy, Slade and Beyrick doing so well internationally, this could be a big year for Saffa surfing!
Tell us three things that stand out in your memory of Monday and Tuesday’s swell.
1 – The camaraderie and spirit out in the water at Dungeons.
2 – How hard the younger guys are charging, and how good the future looks for South African big wave surfing.
3 – How insane it was to watch the tow teams at Sunset from just meters away rushing bomb after bomb of perfect 50-60ft waves. It seriously looked like HT’s on steroids out there and the boys were charging! So thanks to Simon, Andrew, Mike, Jake, Mickey and Jacque for letting me get in the way and try to catch a few.
Now that the swell is easing, what next? Are you just going to hang out at home waiting for those purple dots to appear on the charts, or do you have plans already in place to go hit up some other trips?
(Laughs) I’m in J-Bay now and I can hear the new south swell just starting to fill in. Otherwise I’m on standby for the BWWT contest in Peru through August, and my next trip overseas will be to California and Hawaii to compete in the events over there from November – March.
Did you speak much with Albee (Layer) about his session out at Dungeons? What does he think of our waves?
The boys had an amazing time over here and are all raging about our country. For me that’s what it’s all about – getting to share what we have and getting treated the same way when we travel. I just wish the guys had stayed a day later and got to sample some of Sunset.
Lessons get dealt out every time you big wave chargers tackle these massive swells. Did you learn anything new from Dungeons and Sunset?
I look at every session as a learning curve and a stepping stone to the next level of performance, and I guess life is just like that. Listen, look and learn, because you’re never as good as you think you are.
Any parting words, shout-outs, random thoughts?
I would like to thank BOS Ice Tea for giving me a chance to represent there amazing company and for there continued support of South African surfing. They sell a healthy product that I’m proud to be associated with and to encourage youngsters to drink. Oh and to RVCA for the clothes they gave me and Quiksilver for my new wetsuits. It’s good to know that people still think you have some value.