Two big wave world titles in 3 years is kind of a big deal. This is the stuff that fuels legends and urban myths, the achievements, engraved on trophies, that cement one’s reputation as one of the best big wave surfers in the world, period. It’s made all the more incredible when you consider how hard it is for South Africans, with our shitty currency and geographic dislocation from the world’s major surfing centres (and economies)… In short there is no question of Grant “Twiggy” Baker’s surfing pedigree. But let’s go easy on the butter now, while we at the Zag line up South Africa’s most recent world champion with a few questions:
Zigzag: How does it feel to win the Big Wave World Championship twice? As good as the first time? Better? Meh?
Twiggy: (Laughs) Meh? It feels great, the last two months waiting to see if Todos would run while trying to stay mentally and physically prepared was difficult and its a huge relief to cross the finish line.
Will you be defending your title, or calling it a day? What does the future hold for Grant Baker?
I’m going to compete for as long as they will have me in the events, I’m feeling fit and healthy and I enjoy the experience of competing occasionally and getting to surf waves like Mavericks and Jaws with only six guys in the water is a blessing.
With the season kind of ending with a whimper, how will you be celebrating this win?
I’m celebrating now by chasing a swell to Europe and scoring great waves with a few of my Basque friends. I’m fortunate to have a group of people to help me at my stops around the world and I would like to thank them for looking after me and giving me the opportunity to live an amazing life.
Tell us about your competitive partnership / friendship with Greg Long. How important has that been in lining up everything that you’ve achieved in surfing big waves?
Greg and I spent the last week of the waiting period snowboarding in Mammoth together and talking about the past, present and future of surfing and how we see ourselves fitting into it. Our careers have been similar in many ways and we have competed against each other in some exciting events and I don’t believe either of us could have achieved the levels that we have without the support and guidance from each other.
What can be done to improve the Big Wave World Tour in future?
The tour is in a great place at the moment. I believe the best, most prepared and committed surfers are getting a chance to show their skills and the waves on tour have been of a high standard the past few years. I would like to see a few more events added like Dungeons, Mavericks and Fiji and a judging shift towards rewarding performance over size but besides this, I think the WSL has done a fantastic job since taking over.
Is your equipment at it’s peak, or is there still some room to improve
Man I’m so lucky with my equipment. Being able to team up with shapers like Bushman, Christiansen,Von, Lorenz, Klimax and Keggie and to put their collective knowledge into my designs is amazing and I believe my boards are a big reason why I have, and continue to do well.
Do you think South Africans are achieving as much in surfing as they once did. Is there a drop-off in competitive success stories from the motherland?
Jordy at number 2 in the world, Bianca surfing amazingly well and the boys on the WQS blowing minds, I think we are in pretty good shape right now.
As a double world champ, what advice would you give to South African surfers struggling to step up and define themselves on the world stage.
You need to be surfing the waves where the events are being held so my advise would be to not worry about spending much time at home for a good few years. Rather spend the extra time at the locations and especially the major ones where you can qualify. For the WQS guys thats 3 months in Hawaii minimum surfing Sunset and Haleiwa and for the Big Wave guys thats 5 months in the Northern Hemisphere between Europe, Hawaii and California.
At your age, how do you look after your body and make sure you can still compete with the world’s best and ride these huge waves?
I have a training schedule on the road now and when I’m at home I work with a trainer in Durban. It used to be easy and I could just surf but these days if i want to keep going I have to think about staying in decent shape.
How long can you do it for? And what will you do next? (Kind of like my second question, but feel free to add-on)
I’m not sure and right now will just take it one year at a time, physically I’m feeling better then in a few years and mentally I’m enjoying the events and the lifestyle in-between so I can’t see myself giving up any time soon and if I’m going to be involved I’m going to give it my all and keep trying to win events.
What do you think is your biggest achievement or contribution to the world?
(Laughs)…world peace? I have no idea bru, Im pretty self centred and have basically surfed my life away so not much contribution here. (laughs)
We never spoke about you being a father (and a husband). That’s the big difference between this world title and the one before. I know you said it’s made you more ambitious – hungry mouths to feed etc. But it can also make you more careful and selective and less inclined to put yourself at risk. Which is not a good vibe for winning big wave surfing competitions.
Having a family has given me the security and confidence I need to move forward with my surfing. I do feel the protective, self preservation urges but I’ve thought it all through and come to the conclusion that if I can give Kate and Billi a good life while fulfilling my desires in surfing then it’s the best possible situation for us all.
Where are you now. What swells are you chasing? Where will you surf?
(Laughs) You know me better then that. I try my best these days, to not kiss and tell.