Nothing, not the loss of sponsors, not hitting the dreaded age of 40, not even the at-times overwhelming conditions at Princeton-by-the-Sea, could stop Grant Baker from capturing the 2014 Mavericks Invitational on Friday (Jan. 24).
Baker managed to ride the surf to two perfect scores of 10, overcoming howling winds and treacherous conditions to win his second Mavericks title. The first, which came in 2006, happened when Baker was at the top of his game—just experienced enough to know what to do but still young enough to compete physically.
He spoke of the difference between his two victories after Friday's ride, per Surfer Today.
"I feel amazing," Baker said. "There's no feeling like it. Two of my favorite surfers were in the final: Shane Dorian and Greg Long and to beat those guys in a final is an amazing feeling. To win Mavericks...I did it 2006 and eight year later I'm older, slower, but I still have a beat in me."
The reality was the result wasn't even that close. Baker's overall score of 29.33 put him well ahead of Shane Dorian and nearly 13 points ahead of third-place Ryan Augenstein. Tyler Fox, Greg Long and Anthony Tashnick rounded out the finalists in that order.
Baker wins a $12,000 first prize for his victory at the Californian event, which is considered one of the biggest, if not the biggest, surfing event on the calendar. Dorian receives $6,000 and Augenstein receives $5,000, per Reuters' Laila Kearney. The one-day event typically draws crowds from all over the nation, who look to see whether the world's best surfers are able to handle the oft-frustrating conditions.
And, of course, to see what type of wipeouts would transpire.
For most of the day, the waves were not the problem. They hung around the 40- or 50-foot range, which were massive but still manageable for this level of competition. However, high winds that threatened to postpone the competition earlier in the week wreaked some havoc as even those who made the finals described what it was like to ride in those conditions.
"It's like riding a bicycle down a giant stairway going 50 miles an hour," Tashnick said, via Elliott Almond of the San Jose Mercury News. "And the stairs aren't the same. After awhile you're going to mistime it."
Mark Healey, one of the more respected surfers on the planet, succumbed to the Mavericks in the morning. He wiped out while riding a swell and needed to be rescued by the safety professionals on hand.
"That put me on the back foot immediately," Baker said, via Almond's report. "It just made me really nervous, looking like he did after that beating. I've never seen Healey like that."
But no matter his nerves, Baker put on an excellent display on Friday. He looked to be in a zone riding the waves, smoothly getting through the worst of the breaks and impressing the judges. Better known as "Twiggy," Baker was riding without a sponsor after being dropped six months prior to the Mavericks—a mistake that could lead to a widespread chase for his services.
In fact, this year's Mavericks were a display for older surfers. Dorian and Baker are both in their 40s. In a competition where conditions were at their worst in recent memory, it seemed like experience triumphed over youth. Steadiness over overzealous youth.
Perhaps that's an oversimplification of the stellar ride from Baker, who looked well within his prime on Friday. He now has two straight big-wave competitions under his belt, and he'll obviously be a force to be reckoned with on the rest of the calendar.
Either way, following his second Mavericks victory, Baker has plenty of reason to be optimistic about the future.
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