Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Wave Of Loss Sweeps The Surfing Community As A Great Ocean Warrior Departs, Andy Irons Passes-Away On Tuesday the 2nd of November 2010

Tragic news sweeps the Surfing World! Three-time world surfing champion Andy Irons died Tuesday. He was 32.

Irons contracted an illness in Portugal in October and missed his Round 1 and 2 heats at the Rip Curl Search Puerto Rico comp on the ASP WCT on Saturday. He was in route home to Hawaii to see his own doctor and had to stop on an overnight layover in Dallas. He was found by staff at the Grand Hyatt Hotel at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport after he failed to respond to a wakeup call.

An official statement by Billabong, one of Irons' main sponsors, said he was suffering from Dengue Fever. "He fell ill in Puerto Rico and went to see the contest doctor," said Stephane Tenailleau, European spokesman for Billabong. "The doctor told him to withdraw from the contest and go back home to fix the disease." Tarrant County Medical Examiner Nizam Peerwani said a ruling on the cause of death could take several weeks, pending the conclusion of a number of lab tests. A report in the Honolulu Star Advertiser, citing the same medical examiner, said that Irons' death is being investigated as a possible methadone overdose and reported the drug was found along with other prescription drugs at the scene; but who knows if the public will ever know what really happened and does that really matter as much as the fact that another historic surfer has fallen and will be truly missed. In addition to why he was permitted to travel in his condition in the first place.

Irons was arguably the most dominant surfer of the early to mid 2000s. In addition to his three consecutive world titles from 2002 to 2004, Irons had 20 World Tour victories and four Triple Crown Of Surfing titles. But more significant than the statistics was his reputation as perhaps the only true rival nine-time World Champion Kelly Slater has ever known, and the two engaged in some of the most memorable heats and title races in history. Andy returned to the WCT this year after a one-year hiatus. Fans and fellow tour competitors were happy to see Irons back in the hunt and with a win at the Billabong Pro Tahiti in August signified a return to form in the kind of powerful, barreling surf in which he made his reputation. Arguably one of the greatest modern surfers in 6-8 foot waves (Hawaiian Style *Wave hight measured by the back of the wave and heavily under size cuz thats' how we do when you start surfing for real, this is not fishing bro*).

Fellow surfer Reef McIntosh, who grew up with Irons on Kauai, said Wednesday from Hawaii: "I talked to Phil [Irons], I talked to Bruce [Irons] -- everyone's just crying. I was surfing Mavericks with Shane [Dorian] and everyone else and saw all these missed calls. My girlfriend called and said Andy had died. I didn't return these calls because I didn't want to drive and cry at the same time. Everyone on Kauai is crying right now."

Professionally, Irons was a fierce competitor as well as a dedicated and driven athlete. Out of the water, Irons was remembered as a humble person who loved Hawaii. He was also intensely devoted to his family, friends and fans.

"Andy was incredible. I think he was a person that always wore his heart on his sleeve. He didn't try to impress anyone. He was just all about what he wanted to do. He was an amazing competitor," Australian surfer Mick Fanning said.

Philip Andrew Irons, "Andy" was born and raised in Hawaii, where he was married three year ago. His wife is less than 8 weeks from giving birth to their first born son. Revered by many on Kauai, along with his younger brother, Bruce, also a pro surfer. The Irons' father taught the brothers to surf on the North Shore at a young age and both pushed each other to climb to the top of the surf world.

In Puerto Rico, more than 130 surfers along the island's north coast paddled out Wednesday to clasp hands and form a circle as tradition dictates to honor a surfer who dies. Fanning threw flowers into the middle as others cheered and splashed before they broke off one by one to catch a wave in honor of Irons. "We're a surfing family," Fanning said in a statement. "We're all hurting right now." The Association of Surfing Professionals said it would suspend competition again Thursday out of respect for Irons and expected the 2010 Rip Curl Pro Search to resume Friday. Slater was among those who paddled out. The surfers grabbed their boards with one hand and clutched bright yellow flowers with their other as they shuffled quietly through the sand and entered the water. "Although he and I butted heads a lot a few years ago, I have so many good memories of Andy and we have become pretty good friends since," Slater said in a statement. "We're just baffled that he's gone."

In Hawaii, a surf tournament was held on Sunset Beach with 20- to 30-foot waves pounding the North Shore. The mood was somber with some grief-stricken surfers pulling out of the event.

"I paddled out this morning with a lei to put in the water and it hit home again. It makes you want to do it for him and be the animal that he was in the water, but at the same time you know that there's a piece of surfing that's not replaceable," friend Rainos Hayes said. "There's only one Andy Irons, and he was it."

Meanwhile, a flood of messages were posted online.

"RIP buddy you will always be in our hearts," tweeted Sunny Garcia, a former world champion from Hawaii.

Irons' family released a statement thanking the surfer's friends and fans and requesting privacy "so their focus can remain on one another during this time of profound loss."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Only a few months back I sat with Andy and his wife on a bench in a grassy front yard overlooking the impossibles section of Super Tubes(J'Bay) talking to him about his features in my over 700 page youth culture coffee table book I am releasing later this month in South Africa and next year internationally. Now I look back and feel blessed to have had a real conversation with him. My thoughts go out to his wife and family, he has marked surfing with a lasting footprint....

One of the many great images I shot of Andy...

This is a link to a short video from J-Bay 2010, about half way through AI makes a comment and gets a double barrel....

This is a really good short clip of the man in action and why he was such a stand-out, big up Andy much Aloha... enjoy-