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Conquering giants: Extreme athletes battle at Mavericks Invitational surf contest
January 25, 2014, 05:00 AM By Samantha Weigel Daily Journal

Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
Mavericks Invitational fans celebrate at the festival when Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker was announced as the winner.


Twenty-four supreme daredevil surfers paddled into the chilling Half Moon Bay waters to face some of the world’s most perilous waves and contend for the coveted Mavericks Invitational title Friday.

South African Grant “Twiggy” Baker fought his way through three extreme heats and came out on top to win the contest and grab his second title in a row for this year’s Big Wave World Tour.

“It feels amazing. This is the apex of our lives as big wave surfers and to win a contest like that is absolutely incredible; you can’t describe it,” Baker said.

This was the second time Baker, 40, was crowned victorious at Mavericks having won the event in 2006. A crowd favorite local boy and last year’s Mavericks Invitational winner Santa Cruz’s Peter Mel, 44, returned for action and made it to the semi-finals.

“It felt like to me, from all of the forecasting I’ve done, that I was going to have to look at 25- to 30-foot waves. It didn’t quite hit that measure, but it was still good enough for an event. It was still scary, as it always is. But I had a great first heat and I had a good rhythm going; it just didn’t unfold for the semi-finals. But I still had a good time,” Mel said.

There was some tossing and turning Wednesday about whether wind conditions would allow for the one-day invite-only contest. But sure enough, at 8 a.m., dozens of boats and the contestants traveled about half a mile off the shore under hazy skies to tackle ripping swells and put on one of the nation’s most prominent big wave surf events.

“The waves were really heavy today you know. It’s kind of cross chop, crazy. It was obviously big, there were a couple 20 footers all day and just a really heavy set out there,” Baker said.

Baker scored two perfect waves that earned him first place in his first heat and in the finals.

Professionals Shawn Dollar and Mark Healey succumbed to major wipeouts earlier in the event, but the seasoned athletes knew the drill. While being pummeled under the water, the first thing they did was release their leash to ditch their board and then pulled their inflatable vests to help them pop back to the surface. No one was injured in the event.

“When you see a massive wave, you’re not running from it, you’re waiting for it,” Dollar said.

Jeff Clark was the first to ever conquer these dangerous waves decades ago and now helps organize the invitational.

“When it’s dangerous like it was in the finals today, well it’s always dangerous, but when the conditions get a little more extreme, it’s almost like you have to be a surgeon, you have to know every little nuance of that wave and then you have to take into consideration when you’re paddling that everything is against you and the only way you’re going to make it is by being able to see every drop of water … [see] everything as you’re going down that face and you end up free-falling and landing and trying to get control,” Clark said. “But it’s total commitment is what gives you the ability to make it.”

Thousands of surf enthusiasts attended the festival to watch the action live on an unfortunately poor-quality Jumbotron before the surfers made it back to shore for the awards ceremony.

Baker’s runners-up were Shane Dorian, Ryan Augenstein, Tyler Fox, Greg Long and Anthony Tashnick.

Unlike the 1960s classic “The Endless Summer,” big wave surfers travel around the globe chasing an endless winter. Most of the competitors know each other well and Mel wasn’t too surprised Baker took first place as the two compete frequently.

“Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker has been on a roll. He’s been having a really good time riding big waves lately. It started in Spain when he won the Big Wave World Tour there and I was in Maui with him and we surfed a couple waves. Then he turned it over here. He’s filled with confidence and it shows,” Mel said.

There were three generations of surfers out yesterday with the youngest being 23 year-old Colin Dwyer and the eldest veteran 45 year-old Grant Washburn. Everyone who surfs at the dominating Mavericks Invitational are the best of the best, Baker said

“Everyone gave me a run for my money. All 24 of the guys they deserve to be out there and any of them could win,” Baker said. “It was just my lucky day.”

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106



Tags: baker, waves, first, there, surfers, event,

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