The 2014 edition of ESPN's award show is open for voting and two ASP surfers have made the cut. Carissa Moore (HAW) has been nominated for Best Female Action Sports Athlete and reigning Big Wave World Tour (BWWT) champion Grant "Twiggy" Baker (ZAF) is up for Best Male Action Sports Athlete.
Twiggy's prowess on some of the world's most daunting rides was recognized earlier this year at the 2014 Billabong XXL Awards, where the 2012/2013 BWWT champ also took home Surfline's award for Best Overall Performance.
The ESPYS air July 16 and voting is open to the public. Baker is up against snocross specialist Tucker Hibbert, skateboarder Nyjah Huston, motocross champion Ryan Villopoto, and Olympic freestyle skier David Wise. ASP caught up with Baker to discuss his nomination.
Tweets aside, what significance does being in the running for an ESPY have for you (if any)?
It's great to be recognized alongside those types of athletes. But if we are honest with ourselves what they do are sports and they are true athletes, while I'm just a traveling surf bum from South Africa who managed to win a few events along the way to keep myself on the road and have a good time. Seems strange to even be considered in this type of league, but I'll take it!
You occupy a unique part of the sports world that’s still niche in many ways, even within the surfing community. Do you think awards like the ESPYS might help increase general awareness of big wave surfing and its athletes?
That's the goal I guess, get more exposure so that the next generation can make a few bucks doing what we are doing for the love now. I've had a great time working on a reality TV show for ESPN the last few months. They seem like a cool bunch of guys who will do the lifestyle justice when the time comes to air, so yes, it's all good.
Should there be more awareness of and media attention for big wave surfing?
Yes and no. It's great to get some attention, but at the same time we would do it anyway because it's what we love to do. Plus the crowds, it's a double-edged sword because the more attention we get, the more surfers come and join us, and no one likes too many surfers in the water (laughs).
The first surfer who won an ESPY was Sofia Mulanovich, in 2005. What do you think has changed for big wave surfing -- or professional surfing in general -- since then, in terms of how it’s seen and understood outside the sport?
Hopefully not much, as we are a subculture and should be recognized as one. We are surf bums: Low-down, dirty, vagabond degenerates who "waste" our lives chasing the next wave and that's exactly how we should be perceived! Here's to us going back to the times of Pottz [Martin Potter] and Occy [Mark Occhilupo] and as far away as possible from the neatly packaged pro surfer of today.
What’s changed for big wave surfing? What would you hope to see in the future?
We are now able to catch bigger waves with our bare hands because of the increase in safety features, due to the work of amazing individuals and companies who have the best interest of the surfers at heart. This is setting us up for an unprecedented future of even bigger and heavier waves that will be tackled by younger, stronger, fitter, and more prepared surfers and I can't wait to watch it all from my couch.
Where in the world are you right now, and what wave do you want to tackle next?
I'm on the North coast of Zululand in South Africa at the moment and the waves are pumping, the diving is pristine, and I have nothing to do all day except to do it, so it's basically paradise.
And even though I'm pretty stoked on this nomination, if I can ask that people -- rather than wasting time on voting for me -- please take that time to go to LIV-village dot com and donate something to my family's orphanage in Africa, with which I'm also busy working. It's a cause that's so much bigger than riding a few waves.
We also have some new big waves up our sleeves that we will be tackling this season in the South while waiting for the ASP events to run, so watch this space.