Big Wave Legend Grant 'Twiggy' Baker on Fear and Family

Craig Jarvis

Baker's Big Wave Perfection
Grant Baker already has a win under his belt for 2016. He clinched the Puerto Escondido Challenge with huge rides including this Perfect 10 in the Final.

With the convergence of superstars at Jeffreys, we caught up with current Big Wave Tour ratings leader Grant Baker to find out what's going on in that mad head of his at this stage in his life. The South African charger is still buzzing after his impressive win at the Puerto Escondido challenge.

You are the current Big wave Tour leader and a past world champion, so you know what to do from this stage forward. What are your plans and preparations from here? How do you plan to maintain your lead on the rankings?
Grant Baker: I think to take each contest as it comes would be the smart thing to do moving forward. My plan is to be ready to surf each contest by doing some training in similar conditions so right now I'm focused on surfing two waves in South Africa that are similar to Punta De Lobos and Pico Alto. The idea is to surf these waves as much as possible and get familiar with the type of wave the events will be held at.

The Perennial Performer
In 2015 Twiggy was nominated for the Surfline Overall Performance prize at the Big Wave Awards. Video: Bruno Lemos.

Tell us a whole lot more about yourself, your family, your business interests etc.
GB: Well, I got married just over a year ago to my best friend and partner in life Kate and we were pregnant soon after. Our daughter Billi is now five months old and we couldn't be happier. That's her shouting for me in the background as we speak!

Baker's Double-Spit Puerto Pit
The South African caught his third bomb of the Semifinal with 2 minutes left to go.

I have a few business interests besides surfing and over the last few years have tried to get more involved in the companies I represent in an ambassador role. So at the moment I have various holdings in Vissla South Africa, Isurus Wetsuits, BOS Ice tea, Calisons and E-Shark Force as well as my two bars with my friend Reg McDonald, Aces 'N Spades and The Village Idiot, with a third exciting prospect in the pipeline as well.

The levels of safety at the events these days are unparalleled, so if there are days to charge hard and put everything on the line these are them.

How does your wife feel when you're heading off to meet the biggest waves in the world at, say, Jaws?
GB: That's a tough one these days with the new addition and it's obviously become a little harder. But my plan is to only travel internationally for the events for a week at a time and to stay home and travel around South Africa for waves with the family, so it's going to be a better situation moving forward. As for worrying about me, the levels of safety at the events these days are unparalleled, so if there are days to charge hard and put everything on the line these are them. Kate knows this and trusts my judgment and the safety in place.

The Price of Admission
Grant Baker goes over the falls at Waimea Bay as Heat 2 comes to a close.

What is, unequivocally, the most scared you've ever been surfing big waves?
GB: There's been few times when I've been totally overwhelmed by a surf session. The one when Greg (Long) drowned at Cortez, the day last year when Puerto went 30 feet, and my first attempt at Jaws were all days when I thought to myself that one mistake would be life ending and that scared me. For the most part, though, when I'm in the moment the fear seems to drain away, and it's more about leading up to the day and afterwards, when watching the footage, that I find myself getting nervous.

Do you have a specific health routine, with a diet, and a training regime, or do you just surf and try to maintain a balance?
GB: I started with a personal trainer this year to rectify a back injury I had last year and the results were great, so I have stuck with him and can feel the improvements every day. This combined with a good diet, swim training, spearfishing, downwind SUPing and surfing as much as possible seems to do the trick.

Grant Baker at Jaws Baker is one of the most nomadic big-wave chargers on the planet, and he's proven himself at every stop. - WSL / Nick Ricca

How long do you reckon you can keep the competitive fires going? Do you see yourself competing for a few more years? Up until you're 50?
GB: My goal this year and for the future is to try and stay in the WSL Top 10 for as long as possible and if that happens, however unlikely, until I'm 50 that would be great. Realistically if I can get another three-year deal from my three main sponsors, Vissla, Isurus and BOS, when my contracts are up next year, that would be the timeline I would look at.

Grant Baker at Jaws The big question every big-wave rider faces is how long they can keep pushing it. For now, Baker feels he's got a few more years in him. - WSL / Marc Chambers

What comprises a good day for Twig?
GB: I just had one yesterday. Wake up before dawn and feed and change Billi then go surfing at my local spot on the North Coast of Durban, with the family joining me mid-morning. After hanging out on the beach, I head out for a dive off the same surf spot and get some crayfish and a snoek for lunch back at home. Some emails and work in the afternoon, with a training session in the evening and early to bed with a movie. Repeat.