It’s all on film somewhere. In this digital tsunami of documenting everything and anything, certain moments shine through the murk. Some huge and public. Some dark and private.
Two days later, Slater was back on top. Kelly pulled Sherm onto stage and had him shoot reflection shots in his world title cup. A cup Andy Irons would never hold again.
Five years was forever ago. And yesterday. The wind blows and a wave is born. Ghosts of energy drifting blind across the sea. Untamed at first. Gaining discipline and losing force. Travelling across the great expanse of water, time and nothing. You think any wave knows what’s waiting upon the shore? That sudden doom. That final crash.
Back in France, the swell was massive. Thunderous. Slater was gone, but Andy Irons found himself in a make or break heat with his younger brother Bruce. Two hellmen Kauaians reared on brotherly brutality in the kind of waves most men just walk away from. Huge pits. Vicious lips. Incredible spills. And this. This was the moment. The last true blaze of Andy Irons. A hack from hell on a wave from heaven. Brilliant. Raw. Unnameable.
Andy won the event. Sherm’s image ended up on a T-shirt. And I ended up wearing that t-shirt for the next five years. Through the Kelly and Mick years. Through the 9th place and 13th finishes. The “sabbatical.” The kinda-almost comeback. Like a teenager wears his favourite concert t-shirt to the reunion tour. Faded and peeling. Ill fitting and awkward. I wore my AI shirt till it fell off my back, then I hung it on my wall.
When Andy passed away, Billabong printed the shirt again. Other magazines also ran this shot. It turned up in commemorative slideshows. Websites. Black-bannered ads. A true moment. Blazing amidst the murk. And no matter how many times I see it, I still get a rush of AI-infused adrenalin. As if I was there, battling away. Hanging on. Burning bright, one last time.
A million waves cross the ocean to die upon the shore. A rare one or two do it so much better than all the rest. Andy Irons is gone. His legend rides on.