11.04.2010

RIP Andy Irons



Andy Irons was a three-time ASP world champion surfer. He was born in 1978 on Kuai, Hawaii. He briefly retired from the sport before rejoining the ASP World Tour this year. After a slow start to 2010, he picked up a win at the Billabong Pro Teahupoo and looked to be making his way back before disappointing finishes at the European ASP events in France and Portugal.

While waiting for swell at the current ASP event in Puerto Rico, Irons apparently contracted dengue fever and was on his way back to Hawaii when he was deemed too ill to travel after a layover in Dallas. He was later found dead in his hotel room. Currently police are investigating whether an adverse reaction to medication was partially to blame, as there were prescription drugs in his room.

I don't really have much more to say about his professional career or anything; he was a great surfer who was respected for his powerful style and competitive fire, and there's a ton of tributes in words, video, and pictures at places like Surfer Magazine and the ASP tour site.

I always found myself fascinated more by his well-documented 'dark side.' He famously walked away from the lucrative professional tour last year for what were widely suspected to be drug-related reasons. Irons himself, however, told a story of competitive burnout and lack of desire, which is the story I bought into.

Drugs are easy to blame, and the human mind is a far more complex and changeful thing than we will ever fathom--not unlike the ocean itself. Some people are at the mercy of their own mind in ways that could never be explained in words to someone who doesn't endure the same torment; the same battering swell every day of their lives. For people like that, drugs are an end, not a beginning.

Anyway, I remember reading an interview with him last spring where he discussed his decision to leave the sport, and it resonated with me for a number of reasons, not the least of which was a recent step away from my own professional field. His story interested me on a personal level, and that was moving, in a way, since I had always admired him as a surfer. I felt engaged by his ordeal.

I kept tabs on him, and found myself pleased when he decided to come out for the tour again. It is a hard enough decision to walk away from the job that makes your name, but it must be torture when you decide to come back--especially given the media focus one attracts as a professional athlete. The video I posted above is pretty much all you need to know about how he was handling his return to competition.

Andy is survived by his wife, unborn child, parents, and brother Bruce who is also a pro surfer. I offer them my condolences, and for myself, I really hope it wasn't drugs.

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