A Fan’s Tribute To His Fallen Hero

Mike Gadol with his Andy Irons tribute T-shirt

Months after passing away in a Dallas, Texas, hotel room, Hanalei’s Andy Irons still has fans inspired by his many feats in and out of the ocean.

“For me, as soon as he passed away, I was just like, ‘Oh, wow’ – it was sad, going through the pictures and magazines I collected of him,” Mililani resident and avid surfer Mike Gadol says.

The 34-year-old, who called Irons his favorite surfer, decided to pay tribute in a way that would remind not only him but others of what the three-time world champ was all about.

“He was the type of guy who’d take the shirt off his back and give it to you,” Gadol says. “That says a lot, as part of him being grounded and not forgetting where he came from.”

So came the idea of creating memorial T-shirts, especially since the holidays were right around the corner.

“It was Christmas time,” Gadol says. “I could’ve gotten my friends Costco cards like I usually do, but one day I was thinking and seeing his memorial, I just thought I had to do my part to remember him.”

Gadol, with the help of a friend in the T-shirt business, printed 30 shirts and handed them out for free.

“It’s just my way of saying ‘Aloha Andy,” he says. “This year, it made Christmas more special to put something together in honor of Andy.”

Gadol’s admiration began when Irons first got his foot in the professional tour.

“Growing up, it was all about Kalani Robb, but when I found out about Andy and saw him surf, I was hooked,” Gadol says. “I just followed him throughout his career. He’s even on my fantasy surfing team.”

But to Gadol, Irons wasn’t just a fantasy from afar. In 2003, while working at the Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Mandara Spa, Gadol met his idol.

“My co-workers told me surfers would be coming in, so I asked them who it was and I thought they were screwing around,” he says. “Not even 15 minutes later, Andy and others came walking through the door.”

Gadol got the experience of a lifetime, hearing firsthand from the champ.

“He gave me feedback on his life and all about the tour,” Gadol says. “He told me he didn’t like losing. I was spaced out the rest of the day, wanting him to win everything, and he taught me that you can achieve whatever you want in life, and he’s proven that.”

Since giving out those Andy Irons memorial T-shirts, Gadol has received a tidal wave of feedback and support.

“By making the shirts, it’s just something to remember him by in a nice way,” he says. “I think he’d like the fact that he’d be remembered. I might be a stranger to him, but it’s just my way of paying my respects to someone I look up to.”

Gadol says he may print more shirts and donate whatever proceeds he gets to the Irons family.

If you’d like to learn more, e-mail Gadol at: Cmart_alakai@yahoo.com.

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