Grant Baker: chasing giants in South Africa

Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker rode what he says was the biggest wave he has ever ridden in Cape Town on Saturday when he and fellow Billabong team rider Greg Long towed each other into waves estimated to be over 70 feet (22 meters) in height.

The 35-year-old from Umhlanga, near Durban, and Long, 25, from San Clemente, California, started the day towing into waves at Dungeons, the notorious open ocean reef outside Hout Bay, where Baker won the 10th-anniversary edition of the Red Bull Big Wave Africa paddle-in event two weeks ago.

After three hours of epic rides and as the low tide approached, the duo rode their Honda personal watercraft (PWC) out to the indicator reef known as Tafelberg, a kilometer outside of Dungeons, where the huge waves usually just peak and crumble as the reef is eight meters below the surface.

However, the 16-second swell period and the Southerly direction of the massive swell on Saturday, combined with the low tide and glassy conditions, were creating enormous waves that were breaking top to bottom in an awesome display of ocean power.

“The waves were definitely the biggest I’ve ever seen in South Africa and possibly the biggest anywhere,” Baker said.

“Greg towed me into one giant wave that was so big I was terrified and started hyperventilating.”

“Later, when we saw the photos taken by Craig Kolesky with a large lens from Chapman’s Peak, we realized that those were possibly the biggest waves ever recorded, on a par with the rides we had at Cortes Bank in January, which were measured at well over 70 feet.”

Baker and Long, along with the team of Mike Parsons and Brad Gerlach, challenged the seamount known as the Cortes Bank, 160 kilometers off the coast of California, in an epic adventure into what has been described as the biggest waves ever seen and surfed.

Both Baker and Mike Parsons were nominated for the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards, the Oscars of big-wave surfing, for rides that day.

Parsons won the prestigious award for a wave measured at 70 feet plus, even though the judges could not see the bottom of the wave!

After spending an hour and a half at Tafelberg and each riding several waves, Baker and Long returned to Dungeons for more rides as the tide came back in.

They ended their day seven kilometers across the bay at Sunset Reef, near Kommetjie, where they rode more huge waves as the swell started to diminish.

Sunday dawned with slightly smaller waves and no wind, so the intrepid duo joined the Who’s Who of local and international big wave chargers at Sunset.

Leaving their jetski and 1.9-meter tow boards on the shore and waxing up their three-meter long big wave surfboards, they paddled into perfect waves with 30+ foot faces (10+ meters) in a session that lasted for six hours.

“We will definitely be keeping our eye on Tafelberg for future sessions,” Baker said. “That wave can get a lot bigger!”

Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker (Durban) at Tafelberg Reef in Cape Town on the biggest wave ever surfed in South Africa, and possibly the biggest anywhere!

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