Surf Stronger Checks in with Grant “Twig” Baker

Grant “Twig” Baker is one of the world’s top big wave surfers. Since he came onto the Big Wave scene — in spectacular fashion, winning the Maverick’s big wave contest in 2005 —  he has gone on to ride some of the planet’s largest waves and has won some of the most prestigious awards in surfing. He has won the Billabong XXL Ride of the Year, Big Wave Africa, South Africa’s Surfer of the Year and more. A fiercely proud South African, he ranks the South Africa Surfer of the Year as one of his crowning achievements in the sport. He  just recently got his official invite to  on of the most prestigious big wave events in the world — the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau contest held at Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Hawaii .

We were curious to chat with the South African charger to learn a bit about his surfing, travels, and how he stays in shape to surf the big stuff.

How and when did you first come to California and surf  Maverick’s? That is quite a trek from South Africa to here.

It started when I met Grant Washburn down in Cape Town for the Big Wave Africa event at Dungeons in July 2004 and he suggested that I would love Mavericks and that I should come over and surf with him that Winter.

I took up his offer and rocked up in November that year green behind the ears and just in time for the first major swell of the season; a whistle clean super consistent, perfect, warm sunny day with 20 foot sets.

Gary Linden lent me a 9′0″ in the car park and I paddled out on the North side behind Greg Long and Washy feeling very nervous and vulnerable after all the stories I had heard about the heaviest wave in the world. I had surfed big waves in Cape Town but nothing like this and I could taste the fear in the back of my throat, metallic and strong.

My idea was to sit wide and watch for most of the session and slowly learn to ride the wave but as fate would have it as we got out there this massive 20 wave set came through and everyone just stared getting these bombs. Wave after wave with the best big wave guys in the world just charging them and as I floated there watching in awe I was slowly dragged deeper and deeper into the bowl. Suddenly coming right at me was the biggest wave of the set , easily the biggest wave I had ever seen and I was in the perfect position to catch it and there wasn’t another surfer anywhere to be seen.

Everyone else was paddling back out and screaming at me to go but I was scared and hesitated for that split second before committing which put me in a bad position and very late. I had to come from behind the peak, free fall out of the lip on the little board, air dropped half way down before reconnecting, just escaped the falling lip and bottom turned around a huge wall of white water before riding the wave to Mushroom rock.

As luck would have it almost every main guy at Mavericks at that time was paddling out and saw my wave including Jeff Clark, Peter Mel and Randy Cone. From that wave I got on the alternate list for the Mavericks event the following year, they held a vote system for the alternates to get one surfer into the main event so I got everyone in South Africa to vote for me and see me into the event, which ran in flawless 20 foot surf. I ended up winning it and have been a sponsored big wave surfer traveling the globe ever since.

The variables on that wave were so fine. I was millimeters and milliseconds from falling and breaking my only board, being washed through the rocks and heading back to South Africa with my tail between my legs and I’m sure in a parallel universe that’s exactly what happened. But I chose this universe and it’s been good times and amazing waves ever since.

Twig proving it in some very large surf. (Photo: Nelly)

Fave recent surf experience?
Just hanging in Hawaii last winter, surfing and absorbing the culture.

Fave memory from your ‘12/’13 California surf mission?
That run at Ocean Beach in January was amazing, the afternoon before the Maverick’s contest ran was some of the best waves I have ever seen!

Fave post-surf grinds?
I like a fruit smoothy with some granola and a tall glass of cold water.

Fave evening libation when you are out on the town?
I don’t mind the odd Corona with a Don Julio in-between.

Fave place to travel for surf or other?
I like to travel around Africa, it’s raw, uncrowded and home!

Fave activity when not surfing?
Kiteboarding, SUP and watching soccer.

Fave training or workout for surfing?
Swimming laps in a pool, I have a free dive workout that gets me ready for any size swell.

Fave thing about coming to California and what is it that draws you to California?
The people, my friends and I love the city of San Francisco… So free and open minded.

Any tips or advice for surfers who want to visit South Africa?
Come for a long time because once you get here, you will never want to leave, then start in the Kruger National Park and drive the coast from Mozambique to Namibia.

What advice would you give a competent surfer who wants to step up their game and get into some bigger waves?
Get a good board from someone who shapes specifically for big waves, train hard in the off season and get out there and slowly make your way into the line-up. There’s no rush in waves of consequence, take your time.

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Power Stroke Cord + Surf Stronger DVD

Here is a super deal to help you save some money and try out a great new workout tool, The Power Stroke Cord. The Power Stroke Cord is a versatile, well made band tool that you can use for dozens of new exercises. It is versatile (use it in the gym, at home, in the park) and travels great. Check out this Surf Stronger fit tip for exercises you can do with it to improve paddling endurance. Or, check out this brand new fit tip for exercises that help build rotational strength.

And, for a limited time, every Power Stroke Cord ships with a Surf Stronger Vol 2 DVD. Surf Stronger Vol 2 features pro surfer Serena Brooke and includes dynamic warm up for surfing, a full length workout, and a quick core workout.

Score this deal today — only at the Surf Stronger store — save big, and take your surf fitness to the next level! Just $49.95 and offer good while supplies last.

Power Stroke Cord + Surf Stronger Volume 2 DVD

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Mary Osbourne – What’s Your Fave?

Mary Osbourne is an inspiration. As a professional surfer and Patagonia ambassador she travels the world in search of adventure, fun, and good uncrowded waves. But she balances her carefree, nomadic surf lifestyle with an entrepreneurial spirit, running surf camps as well as her salon, Solymar Tan in her home town of Ventura, Calif, and also takes the time to give back to those in need.

We recently spoke with the affable, true blue, California girl,  to talk about what stokes her fire, and keeps her healthy, happy, and surfing her best.

What’s your fave workout at the moment?
I do so many random workouts. I enjoy anything outdoors like running, surfing, biking, tennis — basically anything active outdoors.

When it’s cold or after I surf a lot, I really enjoy Bikram Yoga. I love to go when I’m cold or I need a really good stretch and cleanse.

Fave recent surf memory?
I have so many amazing memories. Recently, I did a trip I have always wanted to do — drive to the tip of Baja and back. For years I have been flying to San Jose del Cabo chasing south swells and warm water. I always fantasized about driving and camping along the East Cape of Baja. I finally found someone (my boyfriend, Brandon) to do this trip with me. We bought a Lance cab-over trailer, dialed it in, and off we went. We spent two and half weeks driving through Baja, camping out and scoring a great big south swell. It was the best trip in the world!

Mary enjoying some tip time, south of the border.

Fave surf road trip within a couple hours of home?
I love San Clemente and surfing “Old Mans.” Three hours to warm water and fun waves.

Describe your perfect surf day?
I love surfing anywhere warm with right hand point breaks. On a perfect day the sun would be shining, water warm, perfect mindless right hand point waves and a few of my closest friends out. Honestly, sometimes my most perfect days are in my backyard in Ventura at Solimar Beach. I am home, with friends and surfing the wave I first learned to surf on.

Laying it down.

Fave post surf meal?
I love Kale like no other. I am hooked on Kale salads mixed with Harvest grains from Trader Joes, avocado, cucumber, carrots, tomatoes. I splash some olive oil and sea salt on it and I am good to go. I am totally addicted to this meal. But if I am not going home to eat and I am in Ventura nothing beats Taqueria Tepatitlan (http://taqueriatepatitlan.com/).  I have a custom vegetarian taco wrapped in lettuce that I love. It has great Mexican food and tasty ice-cold schooners.

Fave board at the moment?
I have three: I just got a new Cooperfish that is so sexy and to die for. It is a classic! Big, heavy, and great for small summer days. I also have a 5-2 quad setup, Hoyte, I am in love with. It’s super tiny for me but wide enough that I can still ride thru flat sections of the wave and glide really fast. Finally, an 8’10” Patagonia FCD custom tri fin shaped by Fletcher Chouinard for when the waves get bigger and faster. This is my all around board that goes great in all conditions. It turns great, is lightweight, fast and still noserides

Fave libation when out on the town?
Red vino.  I love a very good bottle of wine.

Mary O flashing that California smile.

Fave thing to do if not surfing?
Surfing is still my favorite thing to do. When I am not surfing I am usually doing something active like tennis, riding bikes, or just hanging at the beach. When I am home in Ventura, I am usually pretty busy running my surf camps, women’s retreats and my salon, Solymar Tan. You can track my crazy adventures at www.maryosbornesurf.com.

Fave charity you have been involved with?
5 Gyres-  http://www.5gyres.org
Project Save Our Surf, http://www.projectsaveoursurf.org/

For more on Mary, visit, www.maryosbornesurf.com.

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Tim Bluhm Talks: Behind Beyond, Surfing San Francisco, and Staying Fit on the Road

Tim Bluhm, front man for the San Francisco rock group, the Mother Hips, is an anomaly in the world of rock. Most musicians tend to be singular in their passion for music eschewing things like outdoor adventure and fitness. Not Bluhm. Equally comfortable charging a big northwest swell at his home break at Ocean Beach, or telemark skiing deep in the Sierras, the California native is as adept and experienced in the Great Outdoors as he is penning memorable, imaginative songs or rocking on stage to his legions of fans.

For the uninitiated, Bluhm’s California rock group, the Mother Hips, has been slugging it out in the business of music for over twenty years, and along the way has built a rich catalog of music, a devoted fan base, as well as a reputation as one of the best live acts in rock today. They have just released their eighth full-length album, Behind Beyond — a fantastic collection of songs that seems to be an accurate reflection of where they have been and where they are now.

Bluhm — a regular musical contributor to Surf Stronger videos over the years – took some time to talk to us about the new album, surfing San Francisco and staying healthy as a musician who is constantly on the road.

The Hips are putting out their eighth album, Behind Beyond. Your shows have been selling out, you just came off another successful festival in Big Sur (the annual Hipnic) you’re doing some radio. What is the vibe in Mother Hips-land these days? Everyone feeling pretty good?
Things are feeling pretty upbeat in the Hips camp these days, yeah. We’re stoked on the new record. It came out really well. The few folks that have heard it have seemed to agree. We’ll see. Letting the songs loose in the world and watching what happens is the true test.

The fifth Hipnic was the best one yet, and we’ve announced the first annual Desert Dust-Up in late September. It’s a small two-day festival near Joshua Tree.

We’ll also be doing some east coast dates in November.

Bluhm doing his thing in Big Sur, Ca. (Photo courtesy Andrew Quist Photography)

Bluhm doing his thing in Big Sur, Ca. (Photo courtesy Andrew Quist Photography)

What was the process like recording the new album? How did it go?
In the beginning, we went into Mission Bells and just did some rudimentary recordings of us messing around with ideas. We collected a few hours of that, and then went away and listened to it for a few months, soaked it in, smoked on it.  We found the best parts and then went back and recorded them again. From that point we just took a lot of time and made damned sure that everything sounded like we wanted it to.

You’ve written many fantastic songs over your twenty-plus year career. Where does the inspiration for new songs come from these days?
Pretty much the same place it always seems to come from. Dreams mainly. And books. If I read a lot, my dreams are smarter and more interesting.

You have been known to include historical references to the West in your songs (“Grizzly Bear” and “Later Days” come to mind), is there any of that on the new album?
Yeah, for sure. “Jefferson Army” is kind of a futuristic/historical fiction thing drawn from articles I’ve read about the State of Jefferson, Jack London’s novel “The Iron Heel,” and historical accounts of the Lava Beds War of 1873 in northeastern California, in which the Modocs tried to defend their homeland from the US Army.

Do you still draw inspiration from your travels through California and the West?
Absolutely. Again, it’s mostly about history for me, and there’s tons of it! Right by my house (in San Francisco) there’s a ravine where the “last notable American Duel” took place. A US senator and a Supreme Court judge got in an argument over slavery and the senator was killed. Crazy!

I’ve been traveling through the east coast a lot more lately and have been taken by all the history there too. The battlefield national parks are totally amazing.

You have been called a rugged outdoorsman, no doubt based on your hiking treks in the Sierras, backcountry telemark skiing, as well as your surfing exploits. Any outdoor adventures on the docket this summer?
As I’ve gotten busier with the Gramblers my lifestyle has changed considerably. I still make a point to get outside and experience those things, but I have to plan it out more now. I’ll spend a couple weeks in the High Sierra this summer for sure. My brother and I are going to go check out the Kings-Kern Divide in a week or so, and then I’ll be doing a pack rafting trip in Alaska in August.

Are you doing the singer-songwriter back packer trip this year?
Don’t think so. Any time I get in the mountains this summer I want for myself!

Tim Bluhm telemark skiing

Bluhm drawing a nice line in the Sierra Nevadas.

What have you learned about surfing having surfed Ocean Beach over the years?
I’ve surfed OB since ‘98 or so. You learn a lot there. Fitness is key. There are few casual days. You kind of learn to figure stuff out for yourself because there isn’t always a pack of guys sitting in the right spot. If you watch closely you can often see subtle patterns and signs that let you know where the next set is gonna break. Anticipation, ded reckoning and intuition can sometimes put you right where you want to be. It’s a great feeling to paddle off in some seemingly random direction and then hook into a nice wave as the other guys are like, “How’d that happen?”

Miles from home, searching.

As a site focused on health and fitness, we are curious: How do you stay healthy and fit with so many days on the road, and the rock and roll lifestyle? Any tips or tricks for staying healthy as a musician on the road?
That’s a huge challenge for me. I’ve been lucky throughout my life in that my lifestyle has afforded me plenty of time to surf, ski and hike. “Working out” has seldom been necessary. But now it is. I try to get outside and walk around the towns we visit, and I wake up and hit the hotel gym most every morning. Elliptical, bike or treadmill for 30 minutes, going pretty hard, and then some upper body stuff on a machine or free weights. Tons of Frisbee too. We toss the disc at every gas stop, and usually for an hour or so in the hotel lot before we go to sleep.

Check out the new album, or learn more on the Mother Hips at  motherhips.com.

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Laird’s Radical Fitness

They say “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and we sure have been flattered a lot lately!

Check the title of Laird’s latest “Radical Fitness” column.

Laird Radical Fitness

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