It's official: South Africa's Grant "Twiggy" Baker has become the 2016/2017 Big Wave Tour (BWT) World Champion. With the season's close today, February 28, both Baker and Paige Alms, the women's World Champion, settle into their thrones. While Alms became the women's world champ after the first-ever (and only) women's Big Wave Tour event -- Maui's Pe'ahi Challenge -- Baker had to wait a little longer until the clock ran out.
"To be the Big Wave Tour Champion means the world to me," Baker said. "I put in a lot of time and effort this year and it is amazing that it has paid off."
This is Twig's second time winning the Big Wave Tour; his first was in 2013. This past season, competed in all three of the year's men's events, he kicked off his yearlong lead with a win at Mexico's Puerto Escondido Challenge. He carried that momentum to Maui where he came in third place at the Pe'ahi Challenge. Baker solidified his position as the rankings leader after a Semifinal finish at Portugal's Nazaré Challenge at the end of December.
Baker's big-wave career began in 2003 when he made the finals at his first-ever big-wave event -- the Red Bull Big Wave Africa at Dungeons, near Cape Town. Since then, he has continued to push the limits, with numerous event wins at venues ranging from Maverick's in California to Punta de Lobos in Chile to Punta Galea in Spain. Baker's mantle is also chock full of trophies from the Big Wave Awards, too.
Baker completed his season with 25,018 points on the year-end rankings, edging out 20-year old Brazilian charger, Pedro Calado, by just over 3000 points. Two-time BWT Champion Greg Long came in third place, followed by Carlos Burlé in fourth.
Joining Twig in today's coronation is Maui native Paige Alms, who made history in November when she won the Pe'ahi Challenge to become the first ever Big Wave Women's Champion.
"Being the first Big Wave Women's Champion at Pe'ahi is an amazing feeling," said Alms. "That was a win for women's surfing and a win for the Maui community. It wasn't just a win for me.
"Every session we have for big wave surfing for men or women [means] the sport is being progressed. For female big-wave surfing the more opportunities that we have like that in an empty lineup, the more you're going to see the best big wave women doing the best big wave surfing.
"I am really looking forward to seeing what the WSL has in store for next year. This is just the beginning and this was one contest. I think we are going to look back in ten years and say, ‘Remember that time?' I think the possibilities are endless."