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Hawaiian charger injured in Mexico

Monday 27 June 2016 | Published in Regional

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MEXICO – South Africa’s Grant “Twiggy” Baker has taken out the Puerto Escondido Big Wave Tour Challenge in firing 20-to-35-foot surf that saw Hawaiian champion Makuakai Rothman injured in the final.

The final heat also included Greg Long, Pedro Calado, Carlos Burle, and Will Skudin.

Last year’s Big Wave Tour (BWT) runner-up and 2014-15 champion, Rothman, suffered an injury twenty minutes into the final and was not able to come back to the competition.

Rothman charged through a deep, heavy barrel, but was wiped out by a powerful wall of water.

Rothman was in fine form in Mexico for this event, winning both his round one and semifinal heats. But he limped away with a sixth place finish and now starts the season sixth on the BWT rankings.

“I just want to apologise for not being able to put on a show for all the folks at home. I did my best, and I was trying to represent Hawai‘i. I just went up and over the falls, and my ten-foot-board hit me in the ribs,” Rothman said back on the beach.

The Mexican beach break delivered one of the most solid swells of the last couple of years. The first event of the 2016-2017 Big Wave Tour season was held in giant waves in the two days of competition.

In the hard-fought final, “Twiggy” Baker managed to get barreled and score a perfect 10-point ride which put him in the lead of the overall rankings.

“Yesterday was pretty difficult out there, so I didn’t have a great heat, but I made it through. This morning when I woke up and saw it was my favourite size for Puerto, and I was so happy,” Baker said.

“I’ve been coming here for 20 years, and I love it. The waves are amazing, and I want to thank all the locals for being so hospitable and making us feel so welcome. To my wife and baby at home, this one’s for you.”

Californian Greg Long, two-time BWT champion, captured second place at the event.

Long’s chances were in doubt during the semifinals when he had yet to catch a wave with five minutes left in the hour-long heat, but his experience at Puerto Escondido let him catch a single excellent-range wave at the last minute which was enough to put him through to the final.

Long’s runner up finish in the Final puts him in second on the leaderboard and in position to defend his WSL Big Wave Title.

The BWT competitors are given just 72 hours notice to turn up at the various locations where the competitions are held.

Two further events, the Quiksilver Punta de Lobos Challenge in Chile and the Billabong Pico Alto Challenge Peru remain in the Southern Hemisphere window with potential to run, conditions permitting, before August 31.

The Northern Hemisphere window runs from October 15 to February 28, 2017, with the locations being Nazaré, Portugal; Pe’ahi (Jaws), Hawai‘i; Todos Santos, Mexico; Nelscott Reef, Oregon; and Punta Galea, in Basque country.

Makuakai Rothman was born on the North Shore of Oahu. He is the son of Eddie Rothman, who in 1976 founded Hui O He’e Nalu (literally, “Club of Wave Riders”), shortened to “Da Hui”, in Oahu.

Da Hui, consisting of native Hawaiians (Eddie Rothman himself is Jewish and is from Pennsylvania, while Makua’s mother is a Native Hawaiian) was established as a reaction to the tourists who were traveling to Hawaii and were not respectful of the local culture and surf etiquette on the North Shore.

At a young age Rothman surfed with his father, who pushed him to surf waves much bigger than those his peers were surfing.

A formative experience occurred in 1992, when he was eight years old. He paddled out to surf at famous big-wave spot Waimea Bay during a ceremony held for deceased surfer Eddie Aikau.

Rothman first made headlines at the age of 18, when he caught a 66-foot wave at Maui’s big-wave spot Pe‘ahi (also called Jaws), winning $66,000 for that ride, unheard of for a person his age at the time.

Rothman attributes his love of surfing and the ocean to his father as well as several professional surfers he grew up around including Garcia, Myles Padaca, Johnny Boy Gomes, and Dane Kealoha. He also has a budding music career.

“This has been a dream come true, since I’ve been a child, and I love music, but this is who I am – I am a surfer. My name, Makuakai, is ‘father of the sea.’ I’m like a fish, and if you don’t put me in the water, I might not live anymore,” Rothman said in a recent interview.

“It is amazing. My ancestors created the sport of surfing, and I have a direct bloodline to the people that created this sport. I couldn’t ask for much more to represent my people, my culture and my land.”

While Rothman is now among the elite of big-wave surfers in the world, it was becoming a father of two – son, Thor, 4, and daughter, Hikianalia, 1 – that has given him a sense of purpose.

Striking the balance between professional surfer and family man is what he hopes to maintain so he can be a good father and provider.

“My daughter was born in my arms, I gave her a kiss, wrapped her in a blanket and left to go to Peru for my first event, ever,” he said before his 2014-15 win. “But, Daddy has to go to work because this is what I do to provide for my family. I did my job and I won.” - PNC sources