Grant Twiggy Baker is not the sort of big wave surfer you’d expect to see enduring multiple horrendous wipeouts. Being confident in his abilities, always with finely tuned equipment underfoot and with an approach that is more calculated than reckless, he is typically not the guy to come flying out of the sky and suffer the wipeout of the day. Well, the 2016 Eddie turned that on its head.
Twig had four solid crashes that day but two in particular were memorable, in amongst one of the most memorable days of big wave surfing. We spoke to him shortly after the contest, while he was still getting his breath back, pretty much.
Hey Twig. Well done on an amazing performance. How are you feeling?
Hey howzit. What a day. All good. It was the most incredible day, radical vibe. Unbelievably I’m not that hurt right now. I’ve got a bit of a sore shoulder that will probably be a bit worse tomorrow, and my ankle is paining a bit, but otherwise I’m all right. The funny thing is that I’ve had this back problem for a while now, and the big wipeout seems to have fixed that.
It was seriously big. They’re saying it was 25 to 30 ft Hawaiian.How was it at first light?
It was pretty intense. It was noisey. There were a couple of closeout sets. There was no doubt we were going to run and I was standing with Greg and Healey, and it was like, ‘here we go.’
Have you ever surfed out there when those closeout sets, those dark ones, start looming?
It was seriously big. They’re saying it was 25 to 30 ft Hawaiian. I’ve surfed out there when there have been a few big ones feathering, but not when they’re coming through all the time. Every wave is different though. A big wave at Waimea is different to a big wave at Jaws. You’d find that if you were to compare Jamie O’s big set wave with Aaron’s recent biggest wave at Jaws that they would be within a few feet of each other.
How was that first wipeout?
I had my head down, but I actually had to change my line for Kelly, I had to shift towards the peak, and that kind of set me up. No hard feelings, when it gets this big and serious, people have to choose their line and go, and he probably couldn’t see me or where I was coming from, and was totally committed. He got a good wave out of it. I’m just stoked I didn’t kill The Champ. Imagine if I had landed on his head? I did the same to Jamie Mitchell later, chose a line and kind of messed with his line, but that’s how it goes. It’s hard to tell what the guy behind is doing.
If I had gone with my board it could have been a career-ending wipeout.
Did it hurt?
It held me down and gave me a good working, but no real physical damage. I was very lucky.
Then you went skydiving. Can you remember the actual moment when you realised that you weren’t going to stick it and that you had to jump? One instant you’re paddling and the next split-second the wave is concave and snarling and you’re trying to fly without a wingsuit.
Pure instinct. I don’t remember making the decision. I grew up in Durban, and when it’s on, every takeoff in Durban is steep. I made the right decision. That was clear when I watched the footage afterwards. If I had gone with my board it could have been a career-ending wipeout.
Was that the biggest or longest wipeout of your life?
I had a similar one at Mavericks a few years ago, but this was bigger. From my angle it was hard to see just how high I was, but it took a long time to get to the bottom. I tried to land like a cat, using my hands and feet to break the water and soften the fall.
Then you popped up, had a few smiles, exchanged some niceties to guys who were cheering you on in the channel, and headed out for another one. WTF?
I wanted to do well.
It’s not really your game to wipeout so hard.
Well, it’s the Eddie; so firstly, you have to charge hard, with all you’ve got. Secondly, I was hunting the double-ups. I had watched the surf carefully, and thought that the bigger ones, the roll-in waves, weren’t the big score waves. It was all about the double-ups. I knew that if I got the right double-ups I
It’s the Eddie; so firstly, you have to charge hard, with all you’ve got. could win the contest. I just didn’t realised how hard it was to get into them.
We saw you paddle for one double-up, miss it, and then face a closeout set. No one wants that to happen to him or her in a lifetime.
The thing was those closeout sets were fat and rolling. We could get under them or around them. It’s not like getting caught inside a Waimea barrel.
John John was the man.
He is so naturally gifted. He is naturally better than anyone in the water. He’s awesome to watch. Two high 80-point rides and it was done.
His performance was incredible as well. He was just wild out there. He’s the same age as my mom – 66. I can’t imagine my mom doing something similar. It was so gnarly. Clyde’s achievement is at least an equal feat as John John winning.
What now? You going to have a bit of a party? Are there some parties going on?
I’m sure there are some parties on the go tonight, but bru, not for me. I’m finished. I’m having a quiet dinner at a friend’s house and then a good night’s sleep.