It can be said with an air of certainty that Andy Irons loved the mountains for the same reason most of us do: they’re a place to escape. Escape whatever clutter we find in our lives. Ripping powder, playing with gravity; it just does something for the soul. “This type of stuff, it keeps the kid in you alive,” he said in his familiar, excitable delivery in the video above. His tone sounds so much like, well, us. And it’s that type of quote that allowed us to relate to Andy Irons wholeheartedly throughout the course of his career. “I think sometimes you need to be reminded. This is the best thing for me. Brings the inner kid out (and) keeps me psyched.”
As it turned out, Steve and Todd Jones of Teton Gravity Research—who created Andy Irons: Kissed by God— facilitated the mountains for Andy like no one else did (the above short flick was made by their edit team). They provided a joyful avenue for one of the greatest surfers of our time to escape to.
If you follow surfing exclusively, you may be wondering why a company born in the mountains with seemingly little experience covering surf scored the opportunity to tell what might be the most important story in the sport to date.
Well, Todd and Steve Jones related to Andy as easily as we did. “Todd and I were always big fans of Bruce and Andy,” Steve says. “We saw them surf and they just caught our eyes, they both were so wild and raw.” The brothers Jones were licensing their work to Fuel TV (now a part of Fox and other subsidiaries) in the early 2000s, moving into surf when they met the Irons brothers. Working with Billabong, they traveled to South Africa and Hawaii to shoot with them.
They hit it off with Andy right away. “The first trip we connected with him, there was no bullshit,” says Steve. “We got comfortable and it was really easy. We told him about Jackson Hole and he was like ‘That sounds awesome.'”
Irons and the Billabong team began making annual trips to Jackson, utilizing the Jones’ family connections. Cat and heli-ski adventures were the norm (as you can see above). At one point, Andy Irons, Joel Parkinson, Mark Occhilupo and Ian Walsh visited the Tetons together. Talk about a heavy lift-line. “They were like little kids,” Steve says. “They were going nuts. So that became an annual thing. Lyndie came out as well.”
The mountains can create strong bonds. Spend any amount of time riding powder in the wild with a stranger and you’re bound to become friends. Snow is the great equalizer. And it became a reprieve for Irons, who used the annual sojourns as a way to escape his life in surfing’s public eye. One that we now know was absolutely tearing him apart.
“We saw glimpses of darkness on the few surf trips we did, especially on the North Shore where he was much more guarded,” Jones said. “But not in Jackson. Here he was like a little kid. It was a breath of fresh air not having people tugging on him. Lyndie liked it out here. He felt comfortable.”