Room 1415, Westin Hotel in Sydney’s CBD, Wednesday, July 1. I wasn’t sure who the Andy Irons I was supposed to be meeting would actually look like. Almost six months to the day, I’d spent a night in Hawaii sharing a bottle of red wine and stories with a bitter and depressed Andy in the crib we were staying in at the front of Off The Wall. This was before he’d announced he was quitting the tour. That night, he wasn’t good. He was angry. At anyone. At everyone. It seemed as if he had no desire to ever surf again, he said he wasn’t competing in 2009 and he was completely over being in the public eye. The next I’d seen of him was a pastier, chunky version on the webcast in Tahiti.
When we entered the room for a Stab shoot, we were greeted with the Irons of old. He was alive, up out of bed and willingly introducing he and his girl Lyndie to the hair and make-up, photog and stylist. His face was tanned, he rocked a plain Billy’s grey marle tee and a pair of relaxed fit raw denim jeans. He’d ditched some weight but still looked thicker set than those halcyon days of his world titles. Stab has always had a soft spot for AI. When everyone else spun out for his candor and opinion in Blue Horizon, we applauded his rawness and passion.
On this morning, although diplomatic, you could feel his confidence and brashness was simmering back to the surface.
Before the tape rolled and during the shoot, Andy was shooting from the hip. Here’s some of the gold he was dropping, which, in isolation and taken out of context would have gotten the old Irons in strife…
On staying off the booze:
Says Andy: “Bro, three months is hard, six months is the hardest and a year is getting easy.”
On being told he couldn’t keep some of Billabong’s sample product after the shoot:
Says Andy: “You sure I can’t keep this? Oh, oh, I know the story, it just goes straight to Taj. you’ve got to send it direct to Taj or Joel. I know how it goes. Every time I see those fuckers they’ve got the new shit.”
On his movie producing biz with Bruce run by his manager, Blair Marlin (Irons Bros Productions).
Says Andy: “Irons Brothers productions is going nuts right now! Our Julian movie is gonna redefine! You wouldn’t believe how many good airs Julian is making. And, you should see these double flips he’s nearly making. He makes this one flip and almost goes into two but rides out fakie. That one boat trip Taj just got off, they all went so mad (along with Dusty, Julian, Dane).”
On his flight home, and the life insurance renewal test he has to do when he lands.
Says Andy: “I can’t even take an Ambien of the plane! I’m so clean but I still gotta stay awake during my flights? You got to be kidding me, right?”
On Mark Mathews recent in wave in West Oz.
Says Andy: That’s the fucken XXL winner right there. Look at the size of that fucken thing! That’s like Snips’ wave but a tube. Give him the cheque right there.
When we spruiked photos of a recent fashion shoot we did with Steph Gilmore:
Says Andy: “That. Is. Not. Fucken. Steph. Gilmore.”
We then sat down in front of a laptop for 10 minutes and let Garageband capture some of his current colourful headspace…
Stab: You’re definitely back on tour next year?
Andy Irons: I’m gonna do it. I’m not gonna tell everyone every contest, I’m might do it, I might not do it, do you want me to do it? (Laughs) I’m gonna do it. I miss it.
And, you’re back for Billy’s Pipe event.
Yeah, but not Jeffreys Bay, no Mundaka. It’s my year off and after not doing a contest for that long I’ll be excited for the triple crown.
Do you ever fear going back, and be like, whoa, it’s left me behind?
I see all the flips and stuff. It’s new surfing, for sure. For a while there I freaked out. I was like, “Holy shit! I gotta do flips! I can’t do flips!” Flips are the new airs, but I think good surfing will always be recognised. It must have been the same when Mark Richards first saw someone land an air. The thing is, the guys like Pat Gadauskas, who make it on tour doing flips and no rodeos, they won’t be able to do em on tour because you can’t really do em where we surf. Maybe Duranbah, Snapper, Trestles, like two or three events but there’s 10 or 11 events, only a quarter of the tour.
Since you’ve been off the tour in December, what’s been your highlight turn/wave/session as a surfer?
I haven’t surfed until this last month. I haven’t really surfed for six months. I’ve surfed here and there, but not really. I was so fat and so out of shape I was over it. When you get out of shape, it’s heavy. It sucks when you feel your stomach rolling around. It suuuucks. You’re surfing in trunks and it’s just flesh on wax. Since Tahiti is when I started surfing again, I like it again. It was scary for a while. I didn’t think I was gonna like it there for a while. Before, I felt like I was forcing surfing but now I wanna surf. It was fun for so long then it turned into a job and then it wasn’t fun anymore. When you fall out of love with surfing, it’s fucked, so then you’ve got to fall back in love with it again.
You packed it on, how much did you put on?
I put off, brah. How much have I lost this past window?
Oh, okay, how much have you lost, and how heavy was the obese Andy Irons?
Yeah, I was loving it. This is my year off. I figure if I’m gonna take a year off, I’m gonna do it complete full throttle. I got to 197, almost 200 pounds, that’s heavy, yeah (almost 90 kilos). There was some cellulite. There was no shortage of ice cream. I’d wake up and eat ice cream. I had no contests, no workout regiment, I was just cruising and the waves weren’t good for quite a while so that helped and the couch was comfortable. I’ve lost 20 pounds (9kg) already. My fighting weight is down around 170.
I heard you were training a lot in Yamba, running from Angourie into town, surfing and training, and then running back again (about six Kays) Yeah, it was just the basic stuff, trying to get trim again. We trained with Parko’s trainer, Wes. Joel came down for a weekend. He brought the family, that was pretty cool.
How fit is Joel?
He’s as fit as anyone gets right now. He’s been training full-on for about a year now, non-stop. He’s ripped.
You saw Mick at his peak when he won his world title, how’s he compare?
Mick’s ripped right now, too.
Is Joel as fit as what Mick was?
Yeah, he’s as fit as what Mick was and he’s fast. He’s a fast runner, a fast swimmer, strong in the water, he doesn’t get tired. All those elements.
Can Mick win another world title?
Sure! He’s already won one, he knows he can win another. I mean, it’s game on. I’d my money on Mick giving Joel a run for his money. Taj is in second now but he’s never won a title. It’ll come down to confidence. Joel’s so confident now and Mick’s confident with having that winning experience, so he knows the formula.
But, now, at this part of the year, you wouldn’t put your money on Mick over Joel?
Both, depending on where it’s at, are pretty fierce. I don’t want to pick one at all. Look at this next leg. Mick’s won J-Bay, Mick’s won Brazil, Joel’s won Trestles, J-Bay. Mick’s won France, Joel’s won France. If you look on paper, Mick might even have the nod but I think Joel’s confidence right now might be hard to beat. I think Taj can win a world title now, I mean, kids are doing flips and he’s doing em, keeping up with them. It just seems like he always gets second, it’s like he’s gotten second 80% of the time.
Have you ever seen Kelly like this before, like, not winning heats?
He’s still surfing really, really good. I spoke to him a couple months ago. It’s just that the guys he’s coming up against are going out and beyond of their surfing means. Like Aritz (Arunburu) was getting barrelled at Teahupoo with his eyes closed. Like, literally, waves and the lip were landing on him and he couldn’t see and he was coming through barrels, big sections. Sometimes people can have that run. He’s in Brazil right now, everyone said he wasn’t going to Brazil, so I think this year is gonna be good for him to recharge a little.
Do you think he’s out of the race?
Anything can happen and if anyone’s gonna come out of nowhere do it, it’s him. He’s won at all of these events from here till the end of next year. He’s won every contest. Joel and Mick and Taj have already had a good start. He’s already counting a 17th after three events but Kelly’s just so fucken so good.
And, do we want to be the last humans on earth to comment on Kelly’s little board?
Well, that was heavy. I don’t like the way those boards look and I don’t think the judges do either. They must be fun to ride, good for messing around but they just don’t look right. He’s gone too extreme. That board he won at Snapper against Mick that one year was exceptional. Wide, 5’11” short, pointy nose. Now it looks like he’s riding a fish that Wardo was riding 10 years ago.
Do you have any sympathy for what Kelly’s going through now? How hard is winning a world title then starting the next year struggling to win a heat?
He’s been through it before and it’s just growing. It’s stuff that happens. It was hard for me. It’s something you grow through. You just have to realise that you’ve been the best and you can win contests and not many people accomplish that. Some people get close, but it’s not that same as getting one. You’ve just got to go back to that. Kelly actually said it, “When you’re losing, you work on yourself the most.” I think it’s been good for me, not being in contests and not winning. Now I’m gonna try to go back to what did work and find that headspace again.
How hard is it knowing the webcast is going and you’re not part of it?
It’s awesome. It’s not stressful at all. It’s so hard being a part of those webcasts. Some people backing you, some people talking shit, I don’t like it. I don’t like the web stuff at all, the web stuff freaks me out.
Do you read the comments and blogs?
I steer way clear of it but this year I read it because I’m not on the tour. You seen Fantasy Surfer? It’s funny. They sit in their office and talk shit about everyone because they’re ripping the hardest. They’ve surfed every wave in the contest better in their heads than everyone else in the contest. Then, they talk so much shit that they end up fighting amongst each other.
Our site lights up. We get so mauled but we live by the sword, die by the sword, I guess.
Oh fuck. Yeah, well, you guys write shit enough then your readers are like, okay, this shit is on. “We’ll kick your ass, you fucken kooks don’t know what you’re talking about.” It’s fucken funny. You’ve got to laugh it off otherwise it’ll drive you crazy. You’ll lose sleep over it. I’ve done it, don’t worry, It sucks.
Lyndie: I’ve been on there and they’re saying stuff about me and I cried! It’s really sad.
So, how hard is it to finish a day where you’ve had good waves and you’re feeling enormous, just to ignore the urge and walk away from a couple of beers?
It’s tough. If I avoid one, I’m cool. If I have one beer, then I figure there’s no harm in another and then I just want to keep the buzz going. I know the signs, I know who to steer clear of.
So, it’s almost two months without a beer?
Yup, no toxins in me, it’s good. All that stuff doesn’t work for me. I’ve a bad track record. Every time it starts mild it turns out bad.
Maybe that addictive personality is that same headspace that turns you into being an animal to get world titles?
There’s something good in it and there’s something definitely bad in it. You need to be a little weird to get world titles. A little crazy. You need some craziness in you. – Sam McIntosh