It’s been nearly five and a half years since three-time world champ Andy Irons died in a Dallas hotel room, leaving the surf world shocked, saddened, confused, and confused some more. AI’s approach to surfing, his sometimes volatile personality, sometimes volatile relationship with his brother, untimely death and the peculiar circumstances around it – all of it screams for a documentary. And despite scant media coverage, and not a single press release on the project, a movie is indeed underway. Questions abound. What kind of film is this? Who’s making it? And how will it tackle AI’s beautiful life and messy death? Herein, some answers:
What? Someone’s making an Andy Irons documentary?
Yep. In the time since his death, Andy has received every superlative his talent and personality deserved, as well as having the tag line “In Memory of Andy Irons” attached to the Billabong Pipe Masters. But until now, no movie. For the last year, though, a crew has been stitching together a 90-minute documentary from new interviews and footage captured since AI’s boyhood on Kauai.
Who’s making it?
Teton Gravity Research, the ski/snowboard-porn filmmaking shop that brought you “Deeper,” “Further” and “Higher,” the trilogy about big mountain shredder Jeremy Jones is putting this project together. The Wyoming-based filmmakers, who include Jeremy’s brothers Steve and Todd, have racked up nominations for Emmys and Webbys. They’re known for jaw-dropping visuals of snowboarders, skiers, BASE jumpers and mountain bikers shot in remote locations or from helicopters. But not so much for confronting controversial subjects like the sudden, drug-related death of a world class surfer and the layered meanings behind such a complex, nuanced moment.
What was the project’s genesis?
Andy was a snowboard frother. With the Billabong team, he pilgrimaged annually to the Teton Range accompanied by Joel Parkinson, Mark Occhilupo, Ian Walsh, Shane Dorian, Enich Harris and others. Steve Jones showed the snowboard-obsessed surfers around, guiding them into the backcountry and taking them heliboarding. “The whole thing came about from having a relationship with Andy,” Jones said.
“For a long time,” Jones said, “nobody could really talk about Andy’s death.” But in the fall of 2014, Harris told him that Lyndie (Irons, Andy’s wife) seemed ready to tell AI’s story. “We went to the Billabong house and had a really positive meeting. Lyndie was really comfortable and liked the vibe. I have brothers so I understood that Bruce-and-Andy relationship,” he said. “Lyndie, Bruce and everyone feels Andy would want the full true story to come out.”
Is it a celebration of Andy’s life? An examination of his death? Both?
Since Andy’s death, it’s become well known that he suffered from bipolar disorder, experiencing “manic highs and depressive lows,” took psychiatric medications and partied – sometimes using illegal substances. At the time of his passing, Lyndie was in the third trimester of her pregnancy with Axel, reason enough for a judge to delay the public release of the cause death. For six months, until the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s report was out, the public was told by Billabong that AI succumbed to dengue fever and by a doctor hired by the family that substances had nothing to do with the failure of his young heart.
Jones was reluctant to share much about how the documentary will treat the difficult truths of AI’s passing but promised “total commitment to journalistic and documentary integrity.” What, in this case, does that mean? “There’s no intention to fabricate a false sense of truth because someone might have thought it was a better story. We didn’t want to do the film as a fluff piece and we didn’t want to do it unless Bruce and Lyndie were committed to telling the full story. They committed to that, and that’s the directive we tried to stay true to,” Jones said.
He adds that, understandably, many people close to Andy were unable or unwilling to speak after his death. But that’s changed. “After Andy’s death, there was a lot of initial shock. It seems to me things went haywire. But everybody’s so far past that now,” he said.
Who’s in it?
Jones can’t say exactly who viewers will see until the final version is cut. But expect to hear from Bruce, Lyndie and the Irons brothers’ parents. No AI doc would be complete without perpetual rival and frenemy Kelly Slater. The Champ sat down for a “super in-depth” interview with the filmmakers, so expect his gorgeous shiny head to grace the screen. Who else? Andy was close mates with Joel Parkinson; he and some or all of the aforementioned Billabong surfers and assorted friends may make appearances, too.
When will it be out?
Not for a while. By the time this drops, you may be living in an orange-hued Trump-ian dystopia. Or attending a “yoo-ge” free college. The release date will probably be in early 2017.
In 2013, we sat down with Lyndie Irons as part of our (HEADSPACE) series. Watch the full interview with Lyndie here.