Don’t let it slip through your fingers: How Twiggy Baker is investing in his future
The money has improved and the Big Wave Tour is on an upwards curve. Still, while the prize money is up, so are the costs of travel, accommodation, equipment, vehicle hire, and all the associated spend that comes with the sport. For Grant 'Twiggy' Baker, it’s not about earning money, it’s about holding on to it.
Twig, the 2013 Big Wave World Tour Champ and current ratings leader, has enjoyed some great earnings, even more so when considering that he's converting US$ to ZAR. He’s not rich from it, yet Twig has made all the right moves with the money he's made.
Craig Jarvis recently caught up with Twig for a few investment tips.
Swellnet: Twig. Long time. Where have you been?
Twiggy Baker: Hey dude. I’ve been in Hawaii for a while. I've had Kate and Billi [Twig's wife and daughter] with me the past two months, but they've headed home now. It’s been all about family the past couple of weeks.
So what are the businesses you have, and what do they offer?
I'm lucky to be in partnership with some talented people who take care of the day to day operations of my various businesses, so I have the time to concentrate on surfing events and corporate surf guiding, that has become lucrative lately. Ryan Butcher from Hurricane looks after TWIG surfboards and accessories, Reg MacDonald from The Firm operates Aces 'n Spades bar and The Village Idiot restaurant, and my sister Kate Baverstock from LIV looks after my TWIG clothing range. I'm also involved in the distribution of Vissla, Isurus Wetsuits and E-shark Force in South Africa, which are pretty low key right now but I plan to grow once my surfing career is finished. Lastly I have small shares in BOS Ice Tea and Poison City Brewing, two cool South African drink brands.
Have you financed these businesses off the BWT? I heard you sunk your entire winnings from Puerto into one of the businesses. Have you done this before?
I was lucky enough to work a normal job for fifteen years before I won my first professional event at Mavericks in 2006, and during this time I was able to make some money, which I invested carefully. This along with earning dollars occasionally during events and XXL awards allowed me to be able to invest in certain people who I knew would be successful. Reg MacDonald was one of these people and he has taken our initial idea with Aces 'n Spades - a rock ‘n roll bar - and run with it big time.
Twig, sinking the profits
Tell us about your latest business, the one you have pulled off with Jordy.
These new venues are our most ambitious undertaking yet. With Reg heading up operations and Jordy as a partner, we have taken over a massive space in downtown Cape Town, formerly known as Assembly, and transformed it into three unique venues: SurfaRosa will be an alternative/surf/punk bar; Harrington's, an upmarket cocktail lounge; and District, a state of the art dance club. All three are in the same building with different entrances and a total capacity of around 1200 people. The goal is to create public gathering spaces that help cultivate the inner city neighbourhood through creativity, like-minded conversation and interaction.
It seems you've used your money wisely. Got any advice for surfers out there who are possibly earning money and maybe spending it a bit freely?
Invest in property from your very first pay cheque and pay off your first property as quickly as possible, then move onto something better using that as capital, and repeat. Owning a good residential property is the key to personal freedom because if you ever get into trouble you can always rent it and go surfing.
Also don't get caught up in the credit bullshit; this is how the man keeps us in slavery. Only buy what you can afford when you have the money for it and pay cash. And never fly business class or have an expensive dependency like drugs, women, or gambling. Rather, invest that money.
Times are tough out there. You must see how hard it is to make some bread as, say, a surf journalist or something. Does it make you appreciate the future you've created for yourself and your family?
To be honest, my actual surfing career has never paid for itself. Each year of the last ten that I've been competing, even with my amazing sponsors giving me as much as they can afford, I still have to take money from other areas of my life to keep surfing. This is finally changing this year with the WSL and XXL prize purses increasing and I hope in a few years, guys will eventually be able to make a living from surfing big waves.
It will probably be too late for me but I'll look back with pride that I was a part of something that created a pathway for the next generation to have the best job in the world - paid to go surf!
It was a famous South African named Gary Player who said, 'The harder you work, the luckier you get.’
My father Vincent was a professional golfer and good friends with Gary Player, and that was the quote he always told me when I was growing up. Big wave surfing as a sport probably has one of the highest luck factors involved, but in the end it always seems like the hardest working guys come out on top. It’s no secret that Greg Long and Shane Dorian seem to win almost everything, but I don't know two more prepared surfers on the most important days.
(Opening photo, Twiggy at Durban by Patterson)