Grant ‘Twig’ Baker Heads Big Wave Tour Rankings after Fifth Place Finish in Jaws Challenge
Grant ‘Twig’ Baker (South Africa, Durban) drops down the face of a gigantic wave on his way to fifth place in the Jaws Challenge at Pe’ahi, Hawaii – Credit: WSL / Morris
South African Grant ‘Twig’ Baker has consolidated his lead at the top of the 2018 / 2019 World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour (BWT) rankings after finishing fifth in the Jaws Challenge at Pe’ahi on Maui in Hawaii.
Baker, who collected 11,000 points for winning the Nazare Challenge in Portugal last week, the first of this season’s three BWT events, earned another 5,305 points at Jaws and now leads Billy Kemper (HAW) by 2,960 points with just one event left on the schedule, the Mavericks Challenge in California, which Baker has won twice in the past.
Competing in gigantic 10 to 16 metre (30 to 50 foot) surf at the big wave venue famous for producing huge hollow waves, Baker rode one of the biggest waves of the event in his Round 1 heat on Monday, earning 7.63 out of 10 from the judges, which was enough to see him finish second in the heat and progress to the semi-finals.
The fast rising swell and bumpy wave faces that caused multiple horrendous wipe-outs prompted BWT Commissioner Mike Parsons (USA) to put the event on hold after Baker’s heat due to the dangerous conditions for both the surfers and safety crew, and then call the event off for the day.
Returning on Tuesday, Baker again finished second in his semi-final heat to qualify for the final, which guaranteed that he would retain his rankings lead. In strong winds that made catching and riding the towering 10 metre plus waves, local Maui surfers dominated the 60 minute final.
Billy Kemper added a third Jaws title to those he won in 2015 and 2016 with a phenomenal display of wave selection, fitness and pure guts, pulling into gaping tubes big enough to house a double-decker bus and suffering several crunching wipe-outs.
Fellow Maui residents Kai Lenny and Tyler Larronde also used their superior knowledge of the life-threatening conditions to grab second and fourth places with Hawaiians Albee Layer and Koa Rothman finishing third and sixth, and Baker, the only non-Hawaiian in the final, ending in fifth place.
Kemper is one of the most dedicated big wave athletes on the BWT and trains seven days a week both in and out of the water. His focus includes nutrition, heart health, mental training and physical aptitude.
“Yesterday was probably the most radical day of surfing competition and I’m glad I got to kick that day off and got to end this event,” Kemper said. “I put everything into this year and I was second guessing if I’d be able to surf again by the end of the year. My team got me back here and this is for us. I didn’t do this on my own. My beautiful wife, my children, I love you guys so much.”
Kemper joins Keala Kennelly (HAW) as 2018 event champions after Kennelly’s first-ever BWT win yesterday (Monday) in incredible 30-to-50 foot conditions. The women charged fearlessly and tackled death-defying drops and horrific wipe-outs to take centre stage and crown Kennelly after a sensational showdown. The 40-year-old’s bravery led the charge as she and fellow competitors pushed the envelope for big wave surfing. The Hawaii-competitor didn’t back down in either her semi-final or final heats, keeping Andrea Moller (BRA), Emily Erickson (HAW), and reigning BWT World Champion Paige Alms (HAW) at bay.
See full results, images, video clips and more at www.worldsurfleague.com
Men’s Jaws Challenge at Pe’ahi, Hawaii
1 – Billy Kemper (HAW) 23.84
2 – Kai Lenny (HAW) 23.56
3 – Albee Layer (HAW) 17.40
4 – Tyler Larronde (HAW) 16.06
5 – Grant Baker (ZAF) 8.10
6 – Koa Rothman (HAW) 2.19
Semifinal Results: (Top 3 advance to Final)
SF 1: Albee Layer (HAW) 22.43, Grant Baker (ZAF) 19.77, Billy Kemper (HAW) 18.70, Lucas Chianca (BRA) 16.31, Nathan Florence (HAW) 9.64, Russell Bierke (AUS) 8.39
SF 2: Kai Lenny (HAW) 26.17, Koa Rothman (HAW) 21.31, Tyler Larronde (HAW) 17.43, Greg Long (USA) 15.66, Aaron Gold (HAW) 8.61, Ian Walsh (HAW) 5.07
Round 1 Results: (Top 3 advance to Final)
Heat 1: Billy Kemper (HAW) 19.01, Grant Baker (ZAF) 15.26, Russell Bierke (AUS) 10.87, Mark Healy (HAW) 10.14, Alex Botelho (PRT) 6.24, Ryan Hipwood (AUS) 4.20
Heat 2: Nathan Florence (HAW) 17.27, Albee Layer (HAW) 17.23, Lucas Chianca (BRA) 14.83, Naxto Gonzalez (EUK) 11.53, Shane Dorian (HAW) 9.76, Jojo Roper (USA) 0.00
Heat 3: Koa Rothman (HAW) 14.19, Kai Lenny (HAW) 14.07, Aaron Gold (HAW) 10.97, Trevor Carlson (HAW) 8.84, Will Skudin (USA) 7.66, Tom Lowe (GBR) 6.56
Heat 4: Tyler Larronde (HAW) 13.96, Greg Long (USA) 13.34, Ian Walsh (HAW) 12.54, Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 9.80, Francisco Porcella (ITA) 8.86, Joao de Macedo (PRT) 4.06
Women’s Jaws Challenge at Pe’ahi, Hawaii
1 – Keala Kennelly (HAW) 8.67
2 – Andre Muller (BRA) 7.97
3 – Emily Erickson (HAW) 7.86
4 – Paige Alms (HAW) 4.01
5 – Justine Dupont (FRA) 0.00
6 – Bianca Valenti (USA) 0.00
Semifinal Results: (Top 3 advance to Final)
SF 1: Justine Dupont (FRA) 12.50, Paige Alms (HAW) 8.66, Andrea Muller (BRA) 2.00, Jamilah Star (HAW) 0.00, Raquel Hackert (BRA) 0.00
SF 2: Emily Erickson (HAW) 8.00, Bianca Valenti (USA) 5.80, Keala Kennelly (HAW) 4.23, Isabella Leonhardt (MEX) 0.00, Silvia Nabuco (BRA) 0.00
Big Wave Tour (BWT) Rankings (After Jaws Challenge)
- Grant Baker (South Africa) 16,305
- Billy Kemper (Hawaii) 13,345
- Kai Lenny (Hawaii) 12,543
- Lucas Chianca (Brazil) 12,543
- Natxo Gonzalez (Basque Country) 8,596