25 June, 2016 25 June, 2016

Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker Advances to Semi-Finals in Mexico

PUERTO ESCONDIDO, Oaxaca/Mexico (Friday, June 24, 2016) – South Africa’s Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker started his campaign for the 2016/17 World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour (BWT) title with a solid second place finish in his Round 1 heat of the Puerto Escondido Challenge in Mexico on Friday.


Held in monstrous 10 metre (30-foot-plus) unruly waves and challenging beach break conditions, the 2013 BWT champion from Durban showcased his big wave skills, finding several huge hollow tubes, and demonstrating his commitment and bravado by taking several bone-crushing wipe-outs.


Will Skudin (USA) claimed the heat win with a 22.07 heat total over Baker by only 0.74 points. Rogercin Ramirez (MEX), event wildcard and local favorite, opened Heat 2 with a huge barrel, pulling off a technical exit to earn an authoritative 9.00, which brought the large hometown crowd to their feet.


Ramirez held the lead against the field, but with 15 fifteen minutes left in the 75 minute heat, Skudin and Baker fought back to secure the first and second positions. Skudin, Baker and Ramirez advanced to the Semifinals while BWT heavyweights Billy Kemper (HAW) and Damien Hobgood (USA), along with local wildcard Coco Nogales (MEX) were knocked out of the competition.


“It was hard to find those corners out there,” Skudin said. “It was big and heavy, and I just put my head down and kept on going. I was hoping that eventually I’d lock one down and make a good barrel. Unfortunately, I didn’t make a really good barrel, but I made it through the heat.”


Reigning BWT Champion Greg Long (USA) led the field with back-to-back solid scores in Round 1 Heat 1 and was the first surfer to secure his place in the Semifinals. Long set the pace for the opening heat of the event by picking off multiple right-hand barrels to earn a 20.01 heat score (out of a possible 30).


Albee Layer (HAW) secured a 12.83 heat score and the second position. Kai Lenny (HAW) and Gabriel Villaran (PER) battled for third place, but it was Lenny who showcased full commitment as he pulled into a deep barrel and edged out Villaran by only 3.10 points.


“The waves are really good right now and there are a lot of corners if you know where to sit,” Long said. “I actually deliberately rode a much bigger board than I ever do out here. There is a lot more volume so I could cover the ground that I needed to. It is something new for me, but in a heat if you can’t catch a wave, nothing else matters. My strategy was to keep moving around wherever it was clean and I locked in four waves.”


2014/15 BWT Champion Makuakai Rothman (HAW) charged through Heat 3, with Pedro Calado (BRA) and BWT veteran Carlos Burle (BRA) close behind. Rothman, last year’s BWT runner-up, locked in a near-perfect 9.50 and a solid 7.80 back-up score. Calado fired with an excellent 9.07 and 6.93 to earn the second position. With only 0.29 points between Burle and event wildcard Angelo Lozano (MEX), Burle’s 23.56 heat total was enough to advance to the Semifinals.


“This is my second time to Mexico and the waves are really fun,” said Rothman. “I was just in the right place at the right time. I am not thinking about the end result. I am just thinking about my first wave tomorrow morning and hopefully I am in the right spot. The local boys charge.”


Jamie Mitchell (AUS) netted the highest single-wave score of Round 1, a perfect 10.00, with an extremely technical barrel ride in Heat 4. Mitchell’s final heat tally, a near-perfect 29.03, was the highest of the day, earning him the heat win and a place in the Semifinals. The bout also saw high-scoring rides from local wildcard Jimel Corzo (MEX) and Rusty Long (USA), who will also progressed to the Semifinals.


“I think we were all worried about the fourth heat with the wind coming up, but I think we scored the best conditions of the day,” Mitchell said. “The tide was dropping, the winds stayed glassy and the swell was peaking. I found an early right hander and nearly made it out, which put me into a good rhythm. I found that left and didn’t think I was going to make it, but somehow I pulled out of that. It was an historic day. Incredible surf and incredible barrels.”


Event officials will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. local time (about 3pm SA time) for a possible 7:30 a.m. start.


For more information, log onto WorldSurfLeague.com where the Puerto Escondido Challenge will be webcast LIVE.


The event is also being carried by the WSL’s LIVE broadcast partners Fox Sports Australia, CBS Sports in the United States, ESPN Brasil, Globosat, Edgesport, Sky NZ, Sport TV, Canal + Deportes, Channel Nine, MCS, Starhub, and Oceanic Time Warner Cable 250 & 1250 in Hawaii.


Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker charges an unruly 10 metre wave on his way to the semifinals of the Puerto Escondido Challenge in Mexico on Friday. ©WSL / Hinkle


Puerto Escondido Challenge Round 1 Results:

Heat 1: Greg Long (USA) 20.01, Albee Layer (HAW) 12.83, Kai Lenny (HAW) 12.66, Gabriel Villaran (PER) 9.56, Jose Ramirez (MEX) 8.77, Koa Rothman (HAW) 6.46

Heat 2: Will Skudin (USA) 22.07, Grant Baker (ZAF) 21.33, Rogercin Ramirez (MEX) 20.73, Billy Kemper (HAW) 18.87, Damien Hobgood (USA) 18.23, Coco Nogales (MEX) 11.01

Heat 3: Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 26.80, Pedro Calado (BRA) 25.07, Carlos Burle (BRA) 23.56, Angelo Lozano (MEX) 23.27, Trevor Carlson (HAW) 16.93, Tom Lowe (GRB) 12.74

Heat 4: Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 29.03, Jimel Corzo (MEX) 24.43, Rusty Long (USA) 23.84, Cristian Merello (CHL) 21.34, Nic Lamb (USA) 14.13, Oscar Moncada (MEX) 7.00


Puerto Escondido Challenge Semifinal Match-Ups:

Semifinal 1:  Greg Long (USA), Albee Layer (HAW), Kai Lenny (HAW), Will Skudin (USA), Grant Baker (ZAF), Rogercin Ramirez (MEX)

Semifinal 2: Makuakai Rothman (HAW), Pedro Calado (BRA), Carlos Burle (BRA), Jamie Mitchell (AUS), Jimel Corzo (MEX), Rusty Long (USA)


2016/2017 WSL Big Wave Tour Schedule:

Southern Hemisphere: April 27 – August 31, 2016

Puerto Escondido Challenge: Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Quiksilver Punta de Lobos Challenge: Punta de Lobos, Chile

Billabong Pico Alto Challenge: Pico Alto, Peru

Northern Hemisphere: October 15, 2016  – February 28, 2017

Pe’ahi Challenge: Haiku, Hawaii

Todos Santos Challenge: Todos Santos, Mexico

Nazaré Challenge: Nazaré, Portugal

**Lead image ©WSL

Leave a reply

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