Twiggy Baker on the best wave of his life
Writing in 'Surfing World' magazine a year or so ago, Sean Doherty lamented the death of big wave mythology. The article was motivated by a wave Mark Healey caught at big Puerto Escondido, which received five seconds in the spotlight before disappearing from our feeds. "And then, just like that, it was gone," wrote Seano, "scrolled off the screen and replaced by Matt Meola’s spindle 540, which in turn will be replaced by a Teahupoo wipeout or a surfing dog."
It was a good piece, made you ponder the effect of media ubiquity as opposed to the old coconut wireless where stories were embellished and romanticised, and I thought of it while reading Twiggy Baker describe his Apollo 11 wave caught at Jaws last month.
What if Twiggy's wave wasn't caught on film? Would we comprehend how heavy it really was...? Surely language would fall short. Even the local point bullshitter couldn't do justice to the size of it nor Twig's attempt.
Writing on Instagram, Twiggy called that heat "the best 45 minutes of his surfing life", and he only caught one wave! Now Twig has picked up the quill to capture his impressions of the wave of a lifetime. A wave that marked the intersection of courage, skill, board design, and nature at its most extraordinary.
One of those times when reality outstripped mythology.
Time was moving fast and we were a way into the heat. I had looked at a few waves and paddled hard trying to catch them but when I stared over the edge, they seemed unmakable: too big, too steep, too much wind. So I pulled back each time. With each failure the doubt was growing stronger. Am I capable? Is this possible?
Then as I come over the top of a massive wave I see it, an even bigger one, but with a little more north, not as extended a wall, a double-up for sure but it looks more doable than the rest I’ve looked at. So I put my head down and paddle hard, no room for hesitation, quickly get the 10’6" up to speed, kicking with my inside leg to get the nose angled just right and as I feel the wave pick up the tail I take four more of the strongest strokes of my life.
I’m in and time stands still.
Forty years of surfing distilled down to a five second burst (it's at 5:25 for those hitting repeat)
I delay the take off a split second to match the speed of the wave, then jump and drive over the front foot in one action. "Get that fucking rail in and make sure it stays in!" screams my brain. The acceleration is like nothing Ive felt before - instant and jarring, Then my heart jumps into my throat as I see it: the bottom of the wave is turning into the lip and there’s a step halfway down.
I push on the rail by moving my back foot forward and further over the rail and drive harder on the front foot trying to keep the forward half of the inside rail in the water. "If the rail comes out or the board turns flat, you are dead", is my only thought.
Time stands still.
Some air but not too much, so the rail stays engaged, then grabs for a split second in the hook at the bottom and I use the face of the wave to steady myself and lean hard on my back foot moving my weight as far back as possible and wait for the back fin to catch. In the same moment I look up and study my fate for the first time. Can I make it under the lip? No, yes, no, try….
The fin engages and the board takes off, just as it was designed to do, I stay as low and far back as possible and drive on that inside rail as though my life depends on it, one bump, the rail releases again and the lip parts my hair as I squeeze under.
Time stands still.
I’m a little low in the barrel but with a good angle up the face so I let the wave do the work and draw me up as high as necessary before switching rails and aiming for the exit. It’s wide open. I got this. I feel the foam ball touch my fins and increase my speed. I got this. I feel the spit as strong as I’ve ever felt pick me up and throw me ten foot forward. I land, still on my board, the spit starts to clear, I can make out a boat. I’ve made it! A second foam ball gets under the board and pushes me up, rather than forward. I’m not ready for that kind of directional change and it sends me over my outside rail and onto my back just as the spit clears completely and I can see again.
I have fallen but I have made it far enough and my time continues to move forward.
// GRANT 'TWIGGY' BAKER