LOS ANGELES, CA/USA (Tuesday, February 28, 2017) – With the conclusion of the 2016/2017 World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour (BWT) today, Grant “Twiggy” Baker (ZAF) and Paige Alms (HAW) have claimed the WSL BWT men’s and women’s titles.
Today’s achievement marks Baker’s second BWT title clinching, after securing his first in 2013. Baker took on all three events that ran on this year’s men’s BWT, kicking off his yearlong lead with an emphatic victory at the Puerto Escondido Challenge. The South African then continued to carry the momentum to a strong showing at the Pe’ahi Challenge, where he captured the 3rd place trophy. Baker solidified his position atop the rankings after a Semifinal finish at the inaugural Nazaré Challenge.
“To be the Big Wave Tour Champion means the world to me,” Baker said. “I put in a lot of time and effort into this year and it is amazing that it has paid off. I got married two years ago and had a daughter last year, so my priorities to surf big waves have definitely changed to give them the best possible future. They drive me to catch bigger waves. This year, everything came together in the contests. I did what I had to do competitively and it feels good. I am super stoked.”
Baker started his incredible career in 2003 with a Finals appearance at his first ever big wave event at Dungeons in South Africa. Since then, the South African has continued to push the limits of big wave surfing with numerous event wins at venues ranging from Maverick’s in California to Punta de Lobos in Chile to Punta Galea in the Basque Country of Spain. Additionally, Baker’s remarkable career is brimming with accolades from the Big Wave Awards, and today’s victory further cements his place in surfing history.
“The progression of big wave surfing in the past few years has been exponential,” continued Baker. “The competition side is pushing the performance level of the sport. What this title means for me is that we are getting something going for the future. We are building something for the kids that are coming up now. The Championship means a lot and it is a great feeling to have that pressure off and to win.”
Baker completed his season with 25,018 points on the year-end rankings, edging out the 20-year old Brazilian charger, Pedro Calado (BRA), by 3,075 points. Two-time BWT Champion Greg Long (USA) came in third place with a total of 22,921 points.
On November 11, 2016, the first ever women’s WSL Big Wave Tour competition was held at the Pe’ahi Challenge. The historic event witnessed incredible performances as 12 individuals took to the water to compete for both the event win and the maiden Women’s Big Wave Champion Title.
Alms made history on the world stage when she won the Pe’ahi Challenge to become the first ever Big Wave Women’s Champion.
“Being the first Big Wave Women’s Champion at Pe’ahi is an amazing feeling,” said Alms. “I am stoked to be able to put that notch on my belt. I am happy to be an ambassador for the sport and for women in surfing. That was a win for women’s surfing and a win for the Maui community. It wasn’t just a win for me.”
Alms started charging big waves at the age of 15. Not unlike most female big wave surfers, Alms’ career has been self-supported through juggling multiple jobs to fund her travel and training. Her commitment, hard work and passion is not only evidenced through her accolades, but predominantly through her undoubted elevation of big wave surfing.
“Every session we have for big wave surfing for men or women [means] the sport is being progressed,” continued Alms. “For female big wave surfing, the more opportunities that we have like that in an empty line up, the more you’re going to see the best big wave women doing the best big wave surfing. I am really looking forward to seeing what the WSL has in store for next year. This is just the beginning and this was one contest. I think we are going to look back in ten years and say, ‘remember that time?’ I think the possibilities are endless.”
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2016/17 Men’s WSL Big Wave Tour Top 5:
1 – Grant Baker (ZAF) 25,018 points
2 – Pedro Calado (BRA) 21,943
3 – Greg Long (USA) 21,921 points
4 – Carlos Burle (BRA) 18,175
5 – Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 15,690
2016/17 Women’s WSL Big Wave Tour Top 5:
1 – Paige Alms (HAW) 12,500 points
2 – Justine Dupont (FRA) 10,416 points
3 – Felicity Palmateer (AUS) 8,680 points
4 – Emily Erickson (HAW) 6,029 points
4 – Keala Kennelly (HAW) 6,029 points
4 – Laura Enever (AUS) 6,029 points