When you grow up obsessed with a sport, you look at the people doing the best at whatever it is, and you Idolize them. Thats just the way it is. I started surfing when I was 10, and although I grew up in a remote area all I could think about was getting in the sea to surf, no matter what the conditions were. I would scrape together any form of literature about the sport and pretty much inhale it, and this is where I came across Andy Irons. Having just left the junior ranks and having mixed success competing, I watched footage of him and could never understand why he performed at one contest, but seemed to loose the will at others.
I began competing because I thought it was the done thing, and by my own admission, was never in the right head space for it, or that great a surfer. He overcame his mixed fortune, and went on to win three world titles, while I fell off rung one of the ladder back into obscurity, where I was quite happy. Now there is not really any link but for the fact this man was pretty much my Idol through all these times, that kind of off beat spontaneity and crooked back hand, to this day I watch it in awe. He never had the perfect shiny performance of Kelly, and I liked that. Rumors of drugs, and normal human temptations were always there, and I related to these things, and so it was almost a slight comfort to hear.
I don't usually react to high profile people dying with anything more than it happens to all of us, but when someone inspired you as much as he did me, not now, but in my impressionable years its difficult not to.
Probably the only time Andy Irons came to England, I was just 12, and went on my first trip to see the pros flap around in the 2ft slop at Fistral in Newquay. Pretty inspiring I'm sure you'll agree. He left the water looking pissed off and cold, and I was by myself at the waters edge watching. He walked up the beach and I set off back in my own little world, looking at the sand... I walked straight into the back of him. Now, if Im honest I shat my shorts. He looked down at me and said, "watch where your going kid" looking pissed off. But his face grew to a little smile, and he said "why dont you go surfing or something?". I did just that.
RIP Andy Irons.