Pe'ahi Challenge

Twig Baker Gets Personal

Craig Jarvis

As the reigning Big Wave Tour (BWT) Champion, Grant "Twig" Baker has had a roller coaster few years. Sponsor changes, getting engaged to his long-time girlfriend, contest victories and a World Title -- all the way through to his current run of competitive bad luck -- Baker has seen it all. So how does it feel to be a Big Wave World Champ and how has his life changed? Baker talked shop from Hawaii, where he's waiting for swell and the possible start of the Pe'ahi Challenge, and also the Quiksilver Eddie in Memory of Eddie Aikau.

Baker at Jaws
If the Pe'ahi Challenge does run, Baker is ready. He submitted this gem for Billabong Ride of the Year in the 2015 XXL Big Wave Awards.

Craig Jarvis: Where are you at and what are you up to?
Grant Baker: I'm in Hawaii, and the waves have been pumping for days. Nothing massive, just in the six to ten-foot region, but we have been surfing so much and it has been amazing. There have been waves at Sunset and waves at Haleiwa. I've been surfing Rocky Rights and Alligators, and just getting waves every day. We're all hoping to run another event in Hawaii. Everyone involved with the BWT is amping for the Jaws event, obviously. Either way I'm hoping to get some big waves.

CJ: It has been three pretty big years for you. One could probably describe it as the clichéd roller coaster ride.
Grant Baker: It has been. They have been pretty disruptive I guess you could say, but in a totally positive way. My World Title was incredible and it opened up fantastic opportunities for me. Last year was probably one of the best years of my life. Now if I look at where I'm at, I'm surfing, I'm working and I'm totally stoked, so it's a pretty good place to be.

Pico Alto, Peru As reigning Champ, Baker has shared his knowledge and constant stoke, according to BWT VP Gary Linden. In this shot, Baker shows off his knowledge of how to drop in at Pico Alto, Peru. - WSL / BWWT

CJ: The last few events on the BWT didn't seem to go as well for you as the events during the last season. You had some bad luck in Peru, followed by a dearth of rides in Spain. What's going on?
GB: You're right. In Peru I broke my ankle in the event, and I guess Spain was a bit of a disaster for me. It doesn't always go to plan, but that's the nature of it, you know? You're only as good as your last event and therefore I'm the worst guy on tour right now. (chuckles)

CJ: There is some new blood coming through. The young guys are charging. Nic Lamb (USA) is winning events. Makuakai Rothman (HAW) is leading the rankings.
GB: Oh yes. The young guns are coming. There is going to be a huge shift in the hierarchy on the Big Wave Tour. The kids are coming on strong and fit and there's bound to be a big shuffle. The kids are also coming into the game as better and more accomplished surfers, as well as possibly even being a bit crazier than us.

Grant Twiggy Baker paddles out for The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau 2014 opening ceremony. Baker has been instrumental in the development of the new BWT, said Commissioner Pete Mel. Here, Baker shows his aloha at the Eddie opener. - WSL / Kelly Cestari

CJ: Better surfers in what way?
GB: Well, there are CT [Championship Tour] and QS [Qualifying Series] surfers in the mix now. There are surfers like Pat Gudauaskas (USA), Albee Layer (HAW) and Nic Lamb who are all very talented surfers in their own rights, not just charging the big stuff. They are much better surfers than many of the big wave guys ever were.

CJ: What's next for Twig and the sport of big wave surfing?
GB: Well, there are two very clear options. To either surf the known spots like Maverick's, Jaws and Dungeons, and push the competitive side of the sport even further. Or go out there and search for new waves, new big wave locations, and become a big wave freesurfer. It's pretty incredible that there are options like that.

Need more big waves? Catch some of the year's best sessions with the XXL Awards. Plus, see how Twiggy preps for events and what he said about being nominated for an ESPY.