13 June, 2012 13 June, 2012

BAPTISM OF FIRE: Twiggy takes us behind his life-changing Cloudbreak session

It’s only a few days after the most dramatic session ever witnessed live online, and the Internet is still feeling the reverberations all the way from Fiji. Most of the pro tour and big wave aficionados have moved on, but the swell continues to pulse down the magical reef at Cloudbreak. We managed to button down Twiggy, in-between sessions of ten foot perfection, and get his take on a day that has set the benchmark for hi-performance big wave surfing.

Zigzag: How did you find yourself in Fiji for that swell?
Twiggy: Well, I took a big chance coming over to Fiji as it used up my entire year’s travel budget in one trip. But after what I saw last year at Cloudbreak and because it’s my life’s passion to surf the biggest barrels I can find, I just couldn’t bare to miss an opportunity to surf it. It was cheaper to fly the long way around via Dubai, which took 36 hours in the air and 48 hours in total…but I just surfed Cloudbreak for three more days at six to ten foot with hardly anyone out. I would have paid any amount of time and money to have had that experience. It’s hands down the best big wave in the world and I know I say this way too often, but I just had the best waves of my life (laughs).

ZZ: You’ve never surfed Cloudbreak before this trip. Did you get a few sessions in before it got monstrous, or was it the full ‘baptism of fire’ first session?
Twiggy: It was a full-on baptism of fire. I don’t think I had gone left for a few months before this (laughs). Luckily it was smaller in the morning and grew all day and I had a really good, long 15-foot barrel at first light, so that settled me for the rest of the day.

ZZ: How would you describe the wave / setup? Is it like anything you’ve ever ridden before?
Twiggy: It’s very similar to how Bawa in Indonesia was before the great tsunami, except it’s a left. It’s an open ocean reef in the middle of the sea and even though it looks perfect, it’s very challenging to surf, hard to line up and every wave behaves differently. It’s basically a giant version of all the left hand coral reefs around the world. Anyone who has been to surf in Indo or our other Indian Ocean Islands can understand, just take an eight foot wave and triple it in size…

ZZ: How would you describe the action and the atmosphere in the water that day?
Twiggy: The atmosphere was one of reserved excitement and intense concentration. There was an overall sense of stoke for anyone who caught and made one of the set waves. I’ve never heard more or louder hoots coming from the channel in a session before. The camaraderie between the big wave guys is something really special. When it was your turn everyone knew it and no one would hustle, rather just shout you in and cheer you on.

ZZ: What’s your take on the controversial decision not to keep running the Volcom Fiji Pro that day?
Twiggy: In defense of the rest of the WCT guys, we are used to these types of waves and the equipment required to ride them. It’s almost impossible to suddenly jump on a 9’0 board and surf a 15 to 20-foot wave. They are all totally prepared physically and there is no question about their ability, but when the waves get like this, it’s all about your mind and mentally it’s such a hard thing to do because the consequences are so severe. The fact that it was webcast live and that the best big wave guys in the world where there to finally show off what we can do in waves of consequence was amazing for us and the sport. The WCT is one thing and those guys are incredible at what they do, but I think now more people understand how good the top big wave guys really are at what they do and that they are on a very similar level, skill wise, as anyone on the WCT tour. A top WCT World Title contender said to me afterwards “Who really is the best surfer in the world, Kelly Slater or Mark Healy”? I think that says a lot about what went down this past week.

ZZ: What were you riding out there, and what was it like getting into those waves?
Twiggy: I was on a thick, wide Twig Model 8’0″ that I designed for big barreling waves like Puerto, Bayview and some of the new waves we have found up the West Coast. It went insane and even though most of the guys where on 9’0″ to 11’0″‘s, I felt super comfortable and felt that I probably would have not made my three best barrels if I had a bigger board because of how technical they were. I would like to thank Simon Fish for my boards this year, he is an amazing shaper and I am really stoked to be riding his boards.

ZZ: Walk us through that incredible tube we’ve all seen video of now (see below). Would you rate it as the wave of your life?
Twiggy: I had had a few good rides and two bad wipeouts because of the devil wind blowing but at around 3pm the wind clocked a little more offshore and I decided to push up the reef a bit and see if I could try and make one from behind the first section and through the main bowl. Every hour or so these mammoth sets would come roaring down the reef and Greg (Long) and I talked about trying one out just to see if it was makeable. As soon as we paddled up there that wave came through! Just a full double-up 18-foot swell with not a drop of water out of place and I had to go. The takeoff was late but I managed to set my rail and get off the bottom before the main bowl. At the same time I could see if I was going to make it I had to pull up really high on the face to avoid the shock wave and be able to gather speed to run down and out through the bowl.  At one point I was so high on the face I thought I would loose it but then it just started funneling down the reef and took me along for the ride. I held on for dear life and felt it spit and then slow down and the next thing I know, I could relax and take in the view of the biggest, most perfect barrel you could ever imagine. Wave of my life? No question….

ZZ: Zag once kidded with you about not being able to go left. Clearly you can. We’ve also seen you in action at Skeleton Bay the past year – have you consciously been working on your backhand tuberiding?
Twiggy: I have been surfing more lefts of late but to tell you the truth, I wasn’t as confident out there as if it had been on a right hander. But sessions like these are all about patience and perseverance and trusting your judgment and experience. I would say that at a skill level my backhand is only about 50% compared to my forehand, just because of my lack of experience in lefts compared to rights, so I really waited and chose my waves carefully all day. What Zag said did get a fire going though, (laughs) and I’m thankful for the push in the right direction!

ZZ: What was the most incredible wave you saw ridden this day?
Twiggy: Every wave I saw was amazing to watch, I mean how often do you see guys paddling into 20 foot barrels? It was a sensory overload but if I had to choose one I would say Jenson, my friend from Hawaii who works as a boatman on Tavarua. He got a triple barrel that was technically amazing.

ZZ: You’re sitting in the South Pacific right now. Are we going to see a Teahupoo / Twiggy rendezvous anytime soon?
Twiggy: Shit I wish, but no swell heading this way and South Africa is about to get bombarded by waves, so I’m heading home to see out the rest of the winter in the best place on earth.
(If you haven’t seen it yet, watch Twiggy’s wave of his life below. Hell, if you have seen it, watch it again! And stand by for the offical Oakley One Wave Wonder entry.)

Twiggy Baker, massive Cloudbreak tube from Zag Tv on Vimeo.

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