The Loss Of A Hero In Andy Irons

Thousands gathered on shore while hundreds of surfers paddled out in Hanalei Bay to pay tribute to Andy Irons

Growing up in the 1970s and early ’80s, wae all idolized several big names on the professional surfing tour. There was the unforgettable style of Australia’s Mark Richards and Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew and the smoothness of South Africa’s Shaun Tomson.

But for many local boys back then, it was all about Dane Kealoha. I was such a fan I even named my first son Dane after him. It’s a bit extreme, but you have to understand, he was my childhood hero. Several years ago I got the chance to tell Kealoha about my son and he was blown away. He was humbled to tears.

Heroes have that kind of impact, and it can continue for years. The family of Kauai’s Andy Irons will come to understand this one day.

Andy touched many lives in his 32 years, many young impressionable surfers who looked up to him.

“I was always one of his biggest fans and wanted to surf just like him,” says Billabong team member Keanu Asing. “I got the chance to know him a little bit, and he remembered who I was, and that was just a cool thing for a kid my age.”

At 17, Asing is a rising star in the surfing industry, and like thousands of other young surfers, Andy was his hero.

“Being from Hawaii and being young, he was always a prodigy, and that always gives me the confidence to try to be a new prodigy from Hawaii,” says Asing. “When he surfed he was like a boxer in a ring. He would always go for the knockout. He’d surf like he knocked everybody out.”

The surfing world recently said aloha to the three-time world champion at Hanalei Bay. Thousands gathered on shore while hundreds more took part in an emotional paddle-out outside the sandbar at Pinetrees. It was where Andy and his brother Bruce learned their trade and hosted surf meets for young surfers. It was also where Andy wanted his ashes scattered.

“It was a beautiful ceremony and wonderful moment,” says George Kam of Quiksilver. “It was very mellow, very respectful, chickenskin.”

“He was by far the most decorated competitive surfer that Hawaii has ever seen, and he put Hawaii on the map, being able to do it on a worldwide level,” says Billabong team manager Rainos Hayes. “All the kids praised him as a hero. He was what you wanted to be like if you were in competitive surfing here in Hawaii. It’s a very large loss.”

It’s still unclear what killed Andy Irons. As MidWeek goes to press, the cause of his death remains under investigation.

But on that sunny Sunday, it wasn’t important. What was important was celebrating the life of the man Surfer magazine considered the ninth greatest surfer of all time.

“He was like my baby brother, always wanting to surf and always interested in doing well in the events, and obviously wanting to beat Kelly Slater,” says former ASP world champion Sunny Garcia.

“Him being so recognizable and a million kids wanting to be like Andy was based on what he did in the water,” adds Hayes. “Andy was the face of surfing for Hawaii, for sure, and definitely the face of a world champion and the consummate professional.”

Friends and family members say Irons was looking to make a comeback on the pro tour with a new drive and a new focus. His wife Lyndie will give birth to their first child very soon.

Garcia will have a message for their child later in life:

“I’ll say your dad was a great person and I know that he was very, very excited to become a father and looking forward to spending time with you. He was always full of life and he’s going to be missed.”

It’s what heroes do, they affect lives. Andy Irons did and will continue to do so.

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