27 June, 2016 27 June, 2016

Getting There: Behind Twiggy’s Big Win

Grant “Twiggy” Baker charged to a momentous victory on Sunday 26 June, in the first event of the Big Wave World Tour in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. The brutal but beautiful waves peaked at over 20 foot on the first day, making it one of the most challenging and exciting big wave comps ever held. Twiggy’s win instantly became one for the record books.

Surfing amongst some of the best big wave surfers in the world, the Durbanite was almost untouchable on the finals day. Twig scored a perfect ten for an epic, double-spitting tube, to be hocked out onto the shoulder giving him an unassailable 27.5 out of 30. This was a moment that took the surf world by storm and has been on the salty lips of surfers around the country ever since.

Zigzag caught up with Twiggy after the swell to talk going into battle – and winning. If you’re wondering why he won – watch the video below. If you’re wondering how – keep reading…

ZIGZAG: How did you feel on arrival and how were things back stage? Did you get a surf in before the event?

TWIGGY: I have felt pretty good all week, it’s a hell of a flight over here but I got in five days early and had a few days to warm-up on a nice size swell and acclimatise so it was all good. Physically I haven’t felt better in a long time and most of my niggling injuries have gone away so I was ready to go.

Tell us about the waves during the event? It looked terrifying on the webcast, especially the first day – what was it like in real life?

Puerto is an intimidating wave when watched from the beach but once you get out there and find a bit of rhythm it’s not as bad as it looks. My tactics when coming here are to always be the first surfer in the water each morning and paddle out in the almost dark so you don’t sit and watch it too long and get freaked out.

Heat 1 Round 1, Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Image © WSL / Tony Heff

Heat 1 Round 1, Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Image © WSL / Tony Heff

You had an especially intense moment after coming out that one huge barrel and then getting axed in the death zone during your first heat. Can you tell us what happened?

Sometimes in contests you are pushed into going on waves that you wouldn’t normally catch in a free surf and that was one such wave. It looked like I could get a quick barrel and then use the doggy door but I got clipped by the lip and it put me on my heels and into a bad situation. That wave hit me hard and I was surprised to not come up with some kind of injury. It’s the luck of the draw really, I took a bunch of heavy hits without anything serious happening on this swell but that’s not always going to be the case.

Grant Twiggy-Baker-came-in-second-in-his Round-One-heat-at-Puerto-Escondido-behind-Will-Skudin

Grant Twiggy Baker came in second in his Round One heat at Puerto Escondido behind Will Skudin. Image © Lucano Hinkle / WSL

It looked like you were swinging into six foot bowls at New Pier the way you maneuvered that big board, what were you riding?

My boards are feeling so dialled at the moment. I get to work with all these amazing shapers from around the world under my Twig Surfboards brand these days and with guys like Jeff Bushman, Rudolph Klimax, Axel Lorentz and Danny Hess making me boards and then being able to come home and use all that knowledge to update my files and get in the shaping bay with Daniel Keggie at Hurricane, it feels like they are performing at a different level.

Did being excluded from the Mavericks event motivate you? How?

[Laughs] For sure! Everything is a motivator for me and the whole Mavericks debacle definitely put a bee in my bonnet.

Will Skudin congratulates Grant Baker on his Semifinal 1 win in Mexico. Image © Tony Heff / WSL

Will Skudin congratulates Grant Baker on his Semifinal 1 win in Mexico. Was Mavericks a motivator? Maybe. Image © Tony Heff / WSL

Following on from that, what is the difference between insanity and courage? Some people watching you in that heat might confuse the two…

I like to think of what we do as a calculated insanity. It definitely boarders on being a little insane but at the same time we work hard, train hard and surf hard so that when days like these come around we are as mentally and physically prepared as we can possibly be for what can go wrong. This coupled with the standards of safety both in the water and on the beach make the contest days the ones when you can cut loose and go for it.


A massive wave on the morning of Day 1 of the 2016 Puerto Escondido Challenge. Image © Lucano Hinkle / WSL

You surfed that historic day in Fiji a few years back as well. How would you compare that with what went down during this comp?

Every session is different, as is every wave and Puerto is about as challenging a big wave that you can get. The feeling of getting a few waves like I did in a contest while so many people are watching and supporting is like no other and yesterday was a special day for me in many ways. I have lost two very close friends in Puerto over the past few years and the way a few things lined up over the past week made me think that something spiritual was at play over here. Fiji was great but this was on another level.

Paddling into waves like that could be compared to going into battle. What is your armour?

Haha, funny you ask because when we get ready for a heat these days it’s quite a process what with the special boards, specifically designed big wave leashes and fins, inflation vests under my Isurus wetsuits and then the contest jersey. It sure feels a bit like getting into some armour!


Twiggy in the semi-final heat. Image © Tony Heff / WSL

Believing you can do something is half the challenge to achieving anything and it’s clear you’ve got that part dialled. Any advice you can share with other surfers out there wanting to push themselves in waves of consequence?

Believing in your ability is one thing but it’s the physical preparation that is most important, as this is what pushes your mental capacity. I had a terrible time last year with a back injury and learnt a lot from that with regards to training, diet and how to be surf fit and ready for those next level days each year. This is relevant to every surfer who wants to start pushing themselves even at their local beach. Set some goals, do some training, get the right equipment and get out there!


Twig in Puerto. Easy game. Image © Seth de Roulet

What’s next for Twig? Going home to the family or chasing some rogue swell around our globe?

There’s another nice swell for Mexico this week that I’m going to stay for and make sure that one of the other events in Chile or Peru doesn’t look like running in the two weeks after that, before committing to heading home. It’s a long way and I would hate to land in Durban and have to fly back the next week. But definitely looking forward to getting home and travelling around South Africa with my new family and scoring our epic winter waves while celebrating with all my friends around the coast.

And did you upgrade your flight home?

Haha, I wish, we’re not quite on the WCT level yet but it seems like we are slowly getting there…

Grant Baker wins the WSL 2016 Puerto Escondido Challenge. Image © Tony Heff / WSL

Grant Baker wins the WSL 2016 Puerto Escondido Challenge. Image © Tony Heff / WSL

*Lead Image: Grant Baker wins the WSL 2016 Puerto Escondido Challenge © WSL / Lucano Hinkle

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