Twiggy Baker chases giant waves in Northern Hemisphere
The Durban based award and event-winning professional big wave rider is already a front-runner in two categories of the US $130 000 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards, the ‘Oscars’ of big wave riding, which close for nominations on March 20 followed by the glittering award ceremony in California on April 17 where the 2008/9 gladiators of big wave riding will be crowned.
Baker’s ride at Tafelberg Reef, near Hout Bay in Cape Town, in August last year where he was towed into a wave touted as the biggest ever surfed in Africa and estimated to be around 22 metres (70 foot) in height, makes him one of the favourites for the $15 000 (approx. R150 000) Billabong XXL Biggest Wave Award.
Baker is also considered a likely nominee for the $15 000 Monster Paddle category along with fellow South African James Taylor for a wave they shared in the semifinals of the Red Bull Big Wave Africa contest at Dungeons, Cape Town, in July. Baker subsequently paddled into several enormous waves in November at Maverick's, near San Francisco, California, further advancing his reputation in that discipline (see image below).
Having won the Red Bull BWA event last year, the Mavericks Surf Contest in 2006 and reached the final of the Association of Professional Towsurfers (APT) event in Chile last October, Baker is currently on the select invitation lists for the 2009 Mavericks event, the Mormaii Pe’ahi World Cup ATP event at Jaws on Maui and the prestigious Quiksilver Eddie Aikau contest at Waimea Bay, all of which are on standby waiting for the right conditions to run.
Since attending the opening ceremonies of these events, Baker and tow-in partner, fellow Billabong team-rider and perennial XXL finalist Greg Long of San Clemente, California have kept themselves in shape by paddling and towing into waves from Oregon to Mexico on the West coast of the mainland and in Hawaii.
When the swell charts indicated small surf in the Pacific Ocean but big waves in the North Atlantic a couple of weeks back, the pair gave up their lengthy vigil at Mavericks and flew to Ireland. Connecting with locals Fergal Smith and Tom Lowe the group was treated to what Long described as, "Crazy barrels...kinda like cold water Teahupoo," in reference to the deadly Tahitian break that has produced the winning rides in the Billabong XXL Monster Barrel category in past years.
“It was an amazing trip and we scoured the coastline from north to south and found the most incredible slabs in amongst the wind and weather,” said Baker of Ireland in his blog at www.wavescape.co.za/twiggy/twig-blog-10-the-right-call.html. “To say it was a successful mission is an understatement and I'm pretty sure the fruits of our call will be seen in the pages of magazines around the world.”
Although there are still over five weeks for more shocking swell events to occur before the event period concludes with the Vernal Equinox on March 20, 2009, the world's big wave elite are already making plans to attend the gala Billabong XXL Awards ceremony this April 17 at the Grove Theater in Anaheim, California. While the 2000 seats at the Grove are invitation only, the entire evening's activities, from Red Carpet arrivals to the final award, will be broadcast during a live webcast at www.BillabongXXL.com.
The Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards are presented by Monster Energy Drinks. Verizon Wireless is the official communications provider, Surfline.com is the official surf forecast and Honda the official watercraft of the XXL. Additional support for the event comes from Air Tahiti Nui and Surfing Magazine.
More information on Grant Baker can be found at www.Billabong.com -> South Africa -> Team -> Surf -> Freesurfers
More on the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards, including archives since 2001, all the categories and images and / or video footage of all the rides submitted for 2009 visit www.BillabongXXL.com
Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker was a standout during this epic swell at Mavericks shortly after he arrived in California in November last year.
Photo: Frank Quirarte/BillabongXXL.com
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Contact: Peter Nicholson
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