Andy Irons has died at the age of 32.
It saddens me to hear this news. To the point that instead of working, or surfing, I’m hanging out with my wife and daughter today…because Andy’s death has reminded me how valuable life is.
Andy’s wife is due with their first child soon. To me, this is darkness and light. See, I understand what it means to lose a Father, I just lost mine (well, I guess it was over 3 years ago, but it feels like it was yesterday). Though the experience is all still very dark to me, the positive thing that comes from my Father’s death is his children. We are my Father’s light, carrying on a piece of him in us, as Andy’s child will carry on a piece of Mr. Irons.
I also know what it is to be a Father, I had my first child almost 3 months ago. When my daughter’s crying, and I pick her up, and she calms down and smiles at me, I know that I am one person on a very short list that makes her happy. To know that Andy’s child will never experience a Father’s embrace makes my eyes well up.
I also know what it is to be a brother, a son, an uncle, a nephew, a cousin, and for all these things my heart goes out to Andy’s family and friends. He will be dearly missed.
I remember the last time I saw Andy, at a poker tournament several years ago. He wasn’t playing, but he stopped by to say, “Aloha” to the boys. During the game Andy smiled at me from across the poker table and began singing a Bob Marley song:
“Keep your culture
Don’t be afraid of the vulture
Grow your dread lock
Don’t be afraid of the wolfpack”
Andy was referring to anÂ incidentÂ back in the day, when we were on a bus ride to Haena from Hanalei School. Our bus driver was high as a kite, and he was singing these lyrics to all the students on the bus. It was a moment in time that stood out in my mind, and obviously stood out in Andy’s too.
Later on that night I got heads up (one other person and I battling to win the tournament), and Andy was there rooting me on…in his own way.
“Come on, Justin,” Andy scolded, “You gotta smoke this guy.”
For those of you who knew Andy, then you knew his competitive spirit. Losing was not a part of Andy’s vocabulary, making me extremely nervous that night, I didn’t want to let the champ down.
Fortunately, Andy’s pep talks gave me the advantage and I won the poker tournament. But more importantly, I was reminded how a strong will can overcome any obstacle, and Andy had a very strong will.Â Determined, Andy accomplished his goal and became surfing’s World Champ…on multipleÂ occasions.
I know I won’t see Andy out surfing anymore, but I look forward to the day I see his child out in the water. With competitive juices running through the child’s blood, I’m sure the grom will burn me for every wave, and I’ll just smile, because that was Andy.