Baker scoops Big Wave ‘Oscars’

20 April 2009

South African surfer Grant “Twiggy” Baker won two categories in the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards at a ceremony in California on Friday night.

He received the Billabong XXL Biggest Wave award for a ride on a wave measured at 20 metres (61-feet) at Tafelberg Reef near Hout Bay in Cape Town in August 2008. Baker also collected the Surfline Best Overall Performance award for his dedication in pursuing huge surf and competing in big wave events all over the world during the past 12 months.

In addition, he was also nominated for the Monster Paddle Award, while his tow partner, Californian Greg Long, who towed Baker into the wave at Tafelberg, won the premier Billabong XXL Ride of the Year award and US$50 000 (around R450 000) for his incredible tube ride on a 10-metre wave at nearby Dungeons during the Red Bull Big Wave Africa event in July 2008.

Ride of the Year

Of all the entries in the Ride of the Year Category, Long’s was the only wave ridden without the assistance of a PWC (jet-ski). Paddling into a monster Dungeons peak and banking off the bottom into a huge tube ride, Long walked a fine line between glory and the punishing of a lifetime, before being spat out into the channel.

“I am glad to have won this as a paddle in wave and without a PWC, because most recognized big wave surfers will tell you this is the most difficult of the two,” said Long. “To catch a wave on your own power is an unbelievable feeling.”

Baker earned $15 000 (around R140 000), a Honda Aquatrax personal watercraft, and an HSA (high surf accessory) sled for his XXL Biggest Wave, and a further $5 000 for the Overall Performance award.

Cape Town-based photographers Alan van Gysen and Brenton Geach and video company Fixerfilm/Hutchmotion shared $4 000 for providing the images that determined the XXL Biggest Wave winner, and Fixerfilm/Red Bull BWA scooped the $5 000 for the video footage for Long’s Ride of the Year.

‘It is an amazing feeling’

Speaking after picking up his two awards, Baker said: “When you look at my eyes right now, you can see that I am pretty pumped. Yeah, it is an amazing feeling, not just to myself, but also to my family back home in South Africa.”

Baker’s tow-in assisted ride, which took the Biggest Wave Award at 61 feet, is claimed to be the biggest wave ever tackled in South Africa.

“The whole experience is not just satisfying for me personally but to see South Africa up there, to see Dungeons up there, seeing James Taylor up there, overall to put South Africa on the map is most satisfying for me,” Baker said.

The Best Overall Performance Award came from his outstanding rides during big wave swell events in South Africa, California, Chile, Europe and Mexico over the past year.

‘An honour’

“It is an honour to win Best Overall Performance and to be the first South African to do it,” he said.

The annual Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards recognise the biggest and most powerful waves ridden over the past 12 months, as judged by a global panel of 250 surf industry members, former pros and big wave specialists. They are commonly referred to as the Academy Awards of surfing.

Over 2 000 people packed the Grove Theatre in Anaheim to witness mind-blowing rides from Chile, Europe, South Africa, Australia, Mexico, California and French Polynesia.


WINNER $50 000: Greg Long (USA) at Dungeons, South Africa on July 26, 2008
($5,000 Video by Fixerfilm/RedBull BWA)

SECOND $5 000: Ryan Hipwood (Australia) at Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania on October 11, 2008
(Video by Tim Bonython)

THIRD $1 500: James Holmer-Cross (Australia) at Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania on October 11, 2008
(Video by Dave Otto)

FOURTH $1 500: Garrett McNamara (Hawaii) at Teahupoo, Tahiti on April 8, 2008
(Video by Simon Saffigna)

FIFTH $1 500: Brian Conley (USA) at Boca Grande, Mexico on October 22, 2008
(Video by Brian Conley)

(Surfer prize $15 000 and a Honda Aquatrax watercraft with HSA sled – Photo/video prize $4,000)

Grant Baker (South Africa) at Tafelberg Reef, South Africa on August 9, 2008
(Photo by Brenton Geach. Video by Fixerfilm/Hutchmotion)

(Surfer prize $15 000 – Photo/video prize $4,000)

Derek Dunfee (USA) at Maverick’s, California on November 30, 2008
(Photos by Fred Pompermayer)

(Surfer prize $5 000 – Photography prize $2 000)

Mark Healey (Hawaii) at Yeti, Oregon on September 24, 2008
(Photo by Jason Murray)

(Surfer prize $5 000)

Grant Baker (South Africa)

(Surfer prize $5 000)

Maya Gabeira (Brazil)

SAinfo reporter

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