Article

A Man Named Twiggy

How South Africa's Grant "Twiggy" Baker became a Mavericks master

| posted on January 28, 2014
Grant Baker, making deadly look playful, as per usual. Photo: Gilley

Grant Baker, making deadly look playful, as per usual. Photo: Gilley

A few months ago, I read that Grant Baker, the big-wave rider from South Africa, lost his principal sponsor. This was disappointing for several reasons: First, it seemed that Baker had certainly lived up to his contractual obligations (risking death on a consistent basis, for example); and second, without the support of a main sponsor, it would be more difficult for Baker to chase the biggest swells around the globe, and we may see less of his signature bravado.

You’ve gotta admire any dude who is comfortable with a nickname like “Twiggy”, especially when he can put on a clinic at pumping Mavericks. And perhaps now, after winning the Mavericks Invitational for the second time, a new sponsor will come knocking. But my thinking is that Twiggy should’ve had a lifetime sponsorship in the wake of his first jarring win at Mavericks in 2006. To this day, I’m not sure people realize how ground-breaking that performance was, and I’d like to take this opportunity to point it out, claim it, and hail it.

As most people know, when Mavs is truly big and bowling, there’s a strong chance of nasty wipeouts. One of the main reasons for this is that the wave is so steep and concave at the apex of the peak that air-drops are unavoidable. If that wasn’t daunting enough, the wind blowing up the face makes the drop even more menacing. Usually this wind has an insidious habit of getting under boards and tweaking them sideways, bucking riders off before they even have a chance to stomp the drop. This is especially evident to me in the still sequences I’ve shot at Mavericks over the years. If you really study them, the drop—especially on offshore days at lower tide—seems like an insurmountable obstacle.

Insurmountable until Twiggy hit the Mavericks bowl, that is.

On the morning of the contest in 2006, from the press cattle-boat in the channel, I watched Twiggy cheat nature. Using a variety of tools and methods, he figured out how to take off super deep on the hugest sets and make the drop with panache. In order to do this, he used a slightly unusual board—one that was smaller and heavier than the standard Mavs elephant gun—a magical olive green 9’0”. Like a smaller board at big Teahupoo, this craft seemed to fit into the scooped apex of the peak better and the weight of it seemed to resist the side-tweaking effect of the up-the-face wind.

Twiggy also did it by borrowing a longboard technique from surfing’s past. On a couple of 20-footers, near the very center of giant, murderous peaks, Twiggy faded. He actually paddled toward the left as he went for the right. This helped to counteract the dubious wind, and ended up putting him in perfect alignment for the drop.

But really, when it comes down to it, Twiggy won the 2006 Mavericks contest with the use of an entirely different set of tools: a pair of giant brass balls.

So regardless of sponsorship, lets hope that when the next massive swell hits we can continue to watch Grant “Twiggy” Baker: the surfer with the nickname of a teenage girl and a penchant for outfoxing deadly waves.

Photo: Ellis

Grant “Twiggy” Baker and a brass trophy to match. Photo: Ellis

  • Etienne Beneke

    An ode to a worthy champion and true Saffa! It is time Twig gets a global sponsor contract which will see him living his dream at all major big wave breaks. Well done Grant. South Africa is proud and stoked for you!

  • Arturosierra

    So happy for Twiggy after losing his main sponsor, and then putting it all on the line to go and win Mavs, is a hell of an achievement. Congrats! We are a proud bunch of Saffas!

  • Bobi Cameron

    I think that Grant “Twiggy” Baker said it all right
    after winning it not about the sponsorship but being able to ride the big waves
    of Maverick’s. It was a humbling thing to hear from very humble man.

  • Bobi Cameron

    I think that Grant “Twiggy” Baker said it all right
    after winning it not about the sponsorship but being able to ride the big waves
    of Maverick’s. It was a humbling thing to hear from very humble man.

  • Ekanamura

    Congrats to twiggy on a spectacular performance! You really have to give credit to all those riders from the legend Dorian down to the young up and comers that are taking on the Goliath wave that is MAvericks. One of the best big wave comps I’ve seen in a while. And what I enjoyed about it the most was watching twiggy catching one wave after another out there just having fun, but at the same time displaying an extreme amount of skill all while risking his life. All of those guys are tremendous athletes in a sport that I feel is greatly under appreciated, and people like twiggy and the performance he put on helps put surfing on a bigger map. Great job twiggy! Keep having fun! And we’ll continue to have fun watching you!

  • GBD

    I believe his nickname comes from the South African slang term for pot: “Giggle-twig”…

  • HellsYeahs

    It’s too bad big wave surfers don’t get world respect. Not that they care. Fuckoff …

  • Surfmag.co.za

    Twiggy is the ultimate humbility. Yep as a South Afircan surfing Magazine we had to do an interview, and beofre he said goodbyes, he actually asked us to shout out his family’s charity which takes young people off the streets and give them guidance and support to enable them to become leaders… how humble is that?