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SA’s Baker back to Hawaii to take on monster waves
- Updated: February 9, 2016
Durban’s Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker has jetted off to Hawaii as the only South African to take part in the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau, a World Surf League Specialty Event, on Wednesday, at the world-renowned Waimea Bay.
This will be the ninth time this prestigious event has run in its storied, 31-year history. The best big wave surfers will take on the 20-foot-plus (Hawaiian) swell as organisers anticipate a solid day of surf that will meet the event’s strict wave face height requirement of 40 feet, with favourable light winds in the morning, turning light trades by afternoon.
Baker received the call up on Sunday. An invitee for the past eight years, he is the only South African to have competed in the event, back in 2009, and is again the only one from SA in this year’s elite 28-man invitational field.
The 42-year-old who recently became a father for the first time, returned to the country three weeks ago to rehabilitate a nagging back injury after charging the massive El Nino swells in California, Mexico and Hawaii during December and January where he competed in the Big Wave Tour event at Jaws on the island of Maui.
However, the lure of joining the world’s best exponents in the most prestigious big wave event on the planet was strong enough for Baker to pack his bags and boards and head back halfway around the world to compete at Waimea Bay.
‘It has taken us six years to pull the trigger, but this is the first swell we have seen that is truly lining up as an Eddie swell,’ said Event Director Glen Moncata.
Moncata and the organising team continue to confer with event patriarch George Downing, who has made the call on every event since its inception. ‘As George has famously said, ‘The Bay Calls the Day’ and that will be Wednesday,’ added Moncata.
The Eddie will be contested by 28 invitees, including BWT current rankings’ leader and 2009 Eddie winner Greg Long (USA); Clyde Aikau (HAW), Eddie’s brother and winner of the second Eddie event; and 11-time World Champion and 2001/2002 Eddie winner Kelly Slater (USA).
Baker will be up against Slater and experienced Hawaiian Dave Wassel in both his heats, along with four other competitors.
The format sees everyone in the field compete twice with their best four rides from the two heats totalled to determine the winner. This makes the event difficult to run as it is imperative that the wave faces remain in the 13-metre plus range throughout the day so competitors in all the heats, from the first to the last, have an equal opportunity to impress the judges.
This WSL Specialty Big-Wave event is named after native Hawaiian, champion big wave surfer and life-saving Waimea Bay lifeguard, Eddie Aikau. The event honours Aikau’s legendary courage.
Picture of Baker courtesy of Nick Ricca