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.
The really exceptional part of what they do, however, is their partnership with Books for Africa, which is a charity that collects books and sends them to...Africa. Right. Anyway, the sentiment and execution combine to make a truly fantastic opportunity to sport your literary pedigree, acquire a 100% distressed cotton tee, and give children in Africa access to great literature all in one fell swoop.
Tees are $28 ($22 for kids) and sweatshirts are $38 here.
In order to get from the noisy jetty port at the southern tip of Boracay to the air-conditioned bungalows on White Beach, a traveler such as myself must either brave the sweltering backwoods roads on foot, hike around the rocky shore to the southern tip of the beach, or secure a licensed Filipino to drive him. A traveler such as myself will choose the third option.
The only mode of land transport for a true backpacking impostor is the tricycle. This is basically an aluminum cart/sidecar welded on to a 50cc dirt bike running on bald street tires and watered down petrol. Top speed ranges from 2 to 15 miles per hour depending on the grade, and if you’re taller than 5’2” you’ll want to diligently brace your arm against the tin canopy and iron support frame or you could find yourself unconscious after a downhill pothole or flat on your ass in the street if you’re going up.
While you attempt to find someone to drive you, you will be accosted by people who want to sell you a place to stay. If you don’t have a place and have a knack for bargaining, you might want to try this out. If nothing else, you will have your interests zealously pursued by the man/woman who has attached him/herself to you in a way that, metaphorically speaking, is not dissimilar to an anaconda attaching itself to a capybara. If this sounds unpleasant to you, or you’d rather just find your own place to stay, say “no, thank you” frequently and vigorously to anyone who asks you anything on the quay, or just make reservations ahead of time.
For myself, I braved the cold embrace of the anaconda, and was rewarded: I wanted a quaint, simple place at the shore. With air-conditioning, of course, and a mini bar; anaconda wrestling is thirsty work in the heat of a Boracay afternoon. Also it was Tuesday, and the Red Devils of Manchester United would be facing off against mighty Scunthorpe in the League Cup. Satellite cable would be essential, as the premier sport in the Philippines is basketball, and I was sure that all the sets on the island would be tuned in to the perpetual reruns of the Seattle Storm and Atlanta Dream facing off in the WNBA finals. “Quaint and simple,” I said to the anaconda, “no need to fuss,” and the anaconda obliged.
After the jarring ride down the main road and up the narrow, winding ravine of an alley that ran between the faded pastel walls of deserted and padlocked shanties that would be packed to the gills come December, we arrived at my suite. After a quick analysis of the situation revealed my room to be almost, but not quite, the exact opposite of what I had asked for, I made my way back into the street where the anaconda swept me to and fro over the uniformly sandy and uneven cobbles to shithole after miserable shithole until, finally and without fanfare, we arrived at the final destination; the last shack on the block.
On the beach. Second floor. Satellite television. Mini bar. No fuss…? Had I been able to stomach the presence of that wretched woman for thirty more seconds, I would have attempted to explain to her, with measured words, that she had just wasted a disgusting amount of my time. After all the nonsense, I was just happy to be able to set my pack down, change my shirt, and drink all the cold beer from the minibar as quickly as possibe.