27 October, 2017 27 October, 2017

Twiggy at Nazare

While the world best “small-wave” surfers were battling it out this week in Peniche, Portugal for world titles, re-qualifications and important points and hard cash, another world best and our very own world champ, Grant ‘Twiggy” Baker and the rest of the BWT were descending upon Nazare in the hope that the Nazare Challenge would run. It didn’t. All that travel and lugging around rhino chasers for nothing. Soon after, a swell lit up the charts for Jaws, Maui, it lit those charts up so bright with big colourful purple blobs that the BWT team at the World Surf League were forced to give the Pe’ah Challenge the go-ahead. The whole BWT bubble wrapped them rhino chasers and jetted off to Hawaii. But before all this racing around the globe in search of monsters, Twiggy was putting in some practice at Nazare pre-event supposed to start. The moment Gabriel Medina was hoisted up above the large crowd of Brazilian, flag-wearing supporters in Peniche I ducked north in my speedy rental for my first glimpse of the mysterious Praia do Norte, Nazare, and caught up with Twiggy on the dangerous cliffs after his surf…

All images: AVG.


Alan van Gysen: So Twiggy, what are you doing in Nazare?

Twiggy: (Haha), I came to practice for the event here – (the WSL Nazare big wave world tour event, 15 Oct – 31 Dec). Last year I didn’t have the best event, and it’s a very challenging wave so I just decided to fly over and spend some time here getting to know the wave and hopefully learn how to surf it.


AvG: So what is the wave like?

Twiggy: It’s basically like a big beach break. Same as Dunes when it’s big, or Durban when it’s big…it’s actually very similar to Ocean Beach in San Fransisco. It’s just a huge version of those places. Big shifting peaks unloading onto sand.

“It’s basically like a big beach break. Same as Dunes when it’s big, or Durban when it’s big…” notes Twiggy on Nazare.


AvG: How do you approach a wave like this. I saw you looking back a lot; scanning the coastline for positioning markers?

Twiggy: Ya, I was just getting all my lineups figured out. Every day they change, (haha). So what you have to do is just paddle out there and watch a few sets and you figure out your bearings from there and then you just adjust those as the session unfolds. It’s all apart of the learning curve. And there are two peaks; one right below the cliff and one just next to it. I’ve definitely been intimidated by the former. But the last two days have been awesome and I’ve kinda figured it all out now.


AvG: Do you use a different board out at Nazare? The wave appears to move very quickly and flat before suddenly wedging and standing up…

Twiggy: Yes it’s a little different. I had a 100 litre, 11.0 made. I used to ride 11.0 footers a lot before going shorter, but here you definitely need a big board. Riding the 15-20ft waves today it felt really good and I feel like I have the right equipment for this wave now, and together with figuring the nuances of Nazare I’m a lot more prepared for the next event here.

Twiggy had a 100 litre, 11.0 made for the Nazare event. The kinda literidge that would make a normal man puke with fear.


AvG: You’re looking really fit and in shape if you don’t mind me saying, what have you been doing?

Twiggy: Ya I have a personal trainer back in Ballito, but I’ve also cut out all sugar and all bad foods. So ya…I’m pretty much in the best shape of my life; mentally, physically…with the little one I have a lot to work for in these events so…ya I’m just really focused now. 


AvG: Tell us a bit about being a dad. How has life changed since Billi?

Twiggy: It hasn’t changed really, I mean Kate is amazing and you know…I have stopped traveling as much, and am spending more time at home. I used to be on the road a lot, but now I just fly out for specific swells and do shorter trips. I’m just so lucky that when I am home I get to spend so much time with her because I don’t have a regular 09:00 – 17:00 job. So that time is invaluable. I’m very blessed.


AvG: Tells us a bit about the WSL big wave world tour. What is the story with just four events? And only Northern Hemisphere? 

Twiggy: Ya…I’m obviously fighting for more Southern Hemisphere events. I think it is only fair. I mean if they are going to have four Northern Hemisphere events then they need to have four Southern Hemisphere events. There are a lot of good big wave surfers in Australia, South Africa and South America who deserve a chance at the world tour and the events are the only way some of those locals and the regions to get onto the world tour. I think if WSL pushes it to be a Northern Hemisphere only thing then it isn’t a world tour, and we’ll probably never again see another South African world champ. I have to fight against that, but in the end unfortunately it isn’t my decision and we might just have to go with what the powers that be decide.

The famous Nazare lookout point.


AvG: So how does a guy like Matt Bromley or Josh Redman get onto the tour now if they wanted to without those regional qualifying events?

Twiggy: Ya look I think we all know that we shot ourselves in the foot there with the Dungeons event. I’m sure both Matt and Josh would be on the tour by now and have a career in big wave surfing had we not done that. I believe the locals were happy with the Rebel Session event they had recently so I don’t see any of them being open to revisiting anything with WSL for a world tour event. I hope I’m wrong but I also understand their thinking and there are two sides to every story and if that is the case then it’s cool. I definitely think there should at least be an event in Australia and South America as those are two big regions for big waves and a big pool of surfers.


AvG: What does the future of the big wave world tour look like? We’ve all heard the rumours of the inevitable shake up in the regular world tour coming up. Can we expect the same in the big wave world tour?

Twiggy: Yes and no. I mean they worked really hard to get Mavericks back on which is amazing. On one hand they are doing an amazing job – the prize money has increased for each event and that, but on the only hand they are wanting less events which is not ideal. I mean since I won the big wave world tour last year in December here at Nazare there hasn’t been one contest in the last 10 months. That just can’t happen again…but we’ll see.

Twiggy grabs the rail for extra stability.


AvG: Maybe some speciality events like Cape Fear?

Twiggy: Ya maybe something like that. Look there are actually a lot of other events happening outside of the WSL. There was an event in Chile this year that the locals put on, then of course there was the South African Rebel Session at Dungeons – also run by locals, then there is an event in Nelscott and another in Punto Galae – also by locals. I’ve been invited to all of those which is great, so ya…maybe there will be a separate, unofficial “tour” or local ground roots thing going on that will back up the WSL tour. I’m not sure. And then don’t forget the five womans events! Womans big wave surfing is suddenly exploding, so ya…it’s actually all quite positive. It’s just a bummer there aren’t enough Southern Hemisphere events. They just need to add two or three and we’ll have an epic, epic tour.


AvG: Thanks Twiggy, well I imagine you need to pack and get to Lisbon for that flight to Maui, good luck on the weekend and all the best. The waves look solid!

Twiggy: Thanks AVG, and all the best to Zigzag and the support back home.




Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *