Professional Surfer
Andy Irons and Keala Kennelly

I was up most of the night trying to finish this. This is one of the hardest things I have had to write about. I don't feel like anything I write will be good enough to honor Andy. Photo: Keala Kennelly Archive

The Inertia

For the rest of my life I will feel like something really important is missing, something that can’t be replaced.

As a person and as a surfer there will never be another Andy Irons. He was like an older brother to me. Somebody I looked up to, somebody I counted on to inspire me and to show me what was possible in this life. When Andy surfed, he surfed with a passion that was so raw, so balls-to-the-wall-all-or-nothing-explosive, you never knew what he was going to do next. I think Occy said it best: “Andy surfs like a cat on acid.” Being able to grow up surfing with him made me a better surfer.

Out of the water, his contagious smile and his magnetic, larger-than-life personality won him the adoration of millions, but it was his pure heart that will always be remembered by those of us that were closest to him.

They say time heals all wounds…I am not so sure about that. It might dull it a bit, but I think the pain of losing somebody that close is the kind of thing that will always stay with me.

Time does heal the initial shock; I don’t feel like a hole is going to open up in the ground beneath me and swallow me like I did when I first heard the news. I don’t cry every day like I did in the first few weeks after Andy’s passing. In some ways, time makes things easier, but the one thing that becomes harder is the more time that passes the more I miss him.

I was already missing him before he died, because he was back on Tour and I was not and hadn’t seen him in awhile.

After he died I just continued to tell myself he was on Tour or he was off on a surf trip somewhere. It was so much easier than telling myself the truth. Like so many other grieving people, denial had become my favorite coping mechanism.

I still look for him in the water sometimes and half expect to see him. I just want him to be there so badly.

It’s the one-year anniversary of his death and with winter now approaching on the North Shore, the lies I tell myself about him being away on Tour don’t work anymore. The Tour is coming here, and all eyes will be on Pipeline – where Andy dominates. The fact that he won’t be there for a second year in a row is really hard truth for me and for the rest of the world to face.

It feels like it was yesterday we were watching him out there at Pipe coming from behind in the last minute to snatch the World Title from Kelly Slater in 2003 in one of the most exciting heats in the history of surfing.

Andy was the only one that could get to Kelly, and watching them go at each other in a heat is the stuff that dreams were made of.  I don’t know if the sport of surfing will ever see anything like it again. Not that the Tour isn’t boiling over with talent, but Andy brought something different. It’s indescribable really; watching him surf made us feel like anything was possible.

About six months after Andy died I had a dream about him. We were sitting on a bench in a park talking about life. His son Axel was playing in the grass with Andy’s mom a few feet away from us, but I don’t think they could see us. Andy said he didn’t mean for things to turn out the way they did – that he still wanted to be here with us. I just kept hugging him and saying, “I miss you Andy. I miss you so much.” And even though that was all I could say, he understood all the things I couldn’t say: “I love you Andy, I have always looked up to you. Thank you for being you and touching my life. You will never know how important you were to me.”

I woke sobbing uncontrollably.

When I finally stopped crying I felt better, though, because the dream was so real that it actually felt like I got to see him again in that moment.

It was almost as if we got to say goodbye.  As Andy’s family, friends and fans all find their own ways to say good bye there is one thing I know for sure – we will never see another Andy Irons and we are forever lucky to be able to live in his wake.


Thank you to all who shared their thoughts on the anniversary of Irons’ passing. Read Kelly Slater’s moving tribute to Andy Irons here and view a collection of photos from Tupat here.


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