I want to make the tangled emotional mess of Kissed by God, the new documentary on the life of Andy Irons that I recently had a chance to see, bigger than it is – about the co-mingling of genius, madness, and religious ecstasy, or about the unknowability of another’s experience of the divine, or about how and when a sport transforms into art. But instead, I keep coming back to brain chemistry.
The late, great Andy Irons was surfing’s Vincent van Gogh. He was a mad genius who described riding a wave as being “kissed by God.” He too painted, with water, light, speed, and a stoke bordering on rage. He was also profoundly mentally ill, medicating his sickness with adrenaline, drugs, alcohol, rivalries, more drugs, and more adrenaline.