airons.jpgFormer world champion surfer Philip Andrew Irons was hooked on the sport from his very first wave. In an interview with ISurfBecause, he described riding that wave as one of the purest moments of his life.
“I went left, right, left and the wave never broke. And I thought right then, ‘This is the coolest thing in the world,'” he said.
Born in Hawaii, Irons was raised by his mother, a shop clerk, and his father, a carpenter, in Kauai. He and his brother Bruce learned how to surf as children on the dangerous reefs of the North Shore. He joined surfing’s Top 44 on the 1998 World Tour when he was only 17 years old.
Irons struggled with anger issues, loneliness, substance abuse and a frustration with the promotional aspects of his career, but his inner demons were silenced when he was riding the waves. In the water, Irons’ talent and drive helped him to win three Quiksilver Pro France titles, two Rip Curl Pro Search titles and 20 elite tour victories including the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing four times from 2002 to 2006. He was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame in 2008.
His competitive nature also got him into trouble. Public, mid-competition fights with his brother were not uncommon, and his rivalry with champion surfer Kelly Slater made headlines for years. Slater had six world titles under his belt when Irons defeated him in 2002. Irons won again in 2003 and 2004, which earned him a reputation as a king-slayer. Slater emerged from semi-retirement, and reclaimed the title in 2005. The clash of titans came to a head the following year at the Pipeline Masters final when the pair battled the waves, and each other. After 35 grueling minutes, Irons earned a perfect 10 and won the competition.
Irons left the tour in 2009 to “get back to surfing for fun.” A year later he returned to the competitive arena to stage a comeback. Irons was supposed to compete in the 2010 Rip Curl Pro Search in Puerto Rico, but withdrew from the event for health reasons.
Irons’ body was found in a Dallas-area hotel room on Nov. 2. Cause of death is under investigation, though police said there were no signs of trauma or foul play. He was 32. At the time of his death, Irons’ wife, Lyndie, was expecting their first child.
[Update – Dec. 16, 2010: Andrew Axel Irons was born to Lyndie Irons, widow of Andy Irons, on Dec. 16.]
[Update – June 11, 2011: Autopsy results showed that Andy Irons died from a sudden heart attack due to severe hardening of the arteries. A secondary cause of death was listed as “acute mixed drug ingestion. Toxicology tests found found methadone, Xanax, benzoylecgonine and a “trace amount of methamphetamine” in his system.]

–Photo by Jose Goulao. Used with permission