Though the health of the ASP may always be in question there’s little doubt anymore as to the credibility of the surfers on the tour. Today, the top 10 on the WCT are undoubtedly the best performers in the world from two feet to twenty, hands down. And they’re only getting better. With five former world champions (more than at any other time) clashing against an incredible group of up and comers at a dream list of venues, the drama on tour today is better than ever, a fact proven during last year’s extraordinary world title race. By virtue of his being there, Kelly Slater has defined much of the past two seasons on tour, stealing a majority of the headlines from the other guy, you remember? Andy Irons? The world champion?
Seemingly lost amidst all the excitement of last year’s showdown was the due recognition for Irons’ incredible feat of winning back-to-back world titles amidst today’s highly competitive field. Only Mark Richards, Tom Carroll, Tom Curren and Slater himself have done the same, which means Irons’ is among the best ever, even though he hardly seems aware of his accomplishments and has yet to convince himself he’s the champ. Perhaps it’s time we all accept it. Andy Irons is the world champion, and he’s doing his best to stay there. — Chris Mauro
SURFERmag: How inspired are you right now by the level of surfing on the tour?
ANDY IRONS: That’s the best part of the whole thing. The level on tour these days is awesome. That’s what makes it so fun.
SURFERmag: How much has it changed since you started?
ANDY IRONS: It’s seems like it’s gotten better every single year. Guys are definitely stepping up their game. I remember the first couple of years that we went to Tahiti nobody was really going for it–catching sets. Maybe a handful of like three or four guys. But these days guys that wouldn’t even look at a set a few years ago are having a good go at it. I mean they’re charging full bore, and that goes for Tahiti or big Sunset or Fiji, wherever, and in small wave stuff guys are just going off. Mick [Fanning] is out there just shredding–Taj, guys like that, they’re moving so fast it’s amazing. It’s funny though, as fun as it is to watch these guys sometimes I’ll catch myself trying to surf the way they surf. I try changing my surfing, which is the absolute worst thing you can do. Everyone surfs their own way. If I try to surf like someone else I look like a dork.
SURFERmag: I want to run an interesting stat by you. Did you know the only world champions to win back-to-back titles are Mark Richards, Tom Carroll, Tom Curren, Kelly Slater and you?
ANDY IRONS: Wow. Really? I never even–I mean I know the greats, but man, I didn’t know those were the only ones–that’s crazy.
SURFERmag: How does that feel to be part of that elite crew?
ANDY IRONS: I can’t even believe it, to be honest. That’s pretty incredible company. I don’t really feel worthy.
SURFERmag: Another interesting statistic is that you’ve won almost every event on tour at one point or another.
ANDY IRONS: I knew that one. It’s funny because I always go over the schedule and look where I’ve done well. This last year I was like, “Wow, I’ve done good there and there and there.’ The Gold Coast was the spot where I’ve never had a good result, but I finally made the final this year, so I can’t exactly check that one off yet, but I didn’t do too bad. I was super stoked to check Fiji and Japan off my list last year, I didn’t think I’d ever do well in Japan. But yeah, being able to surf well anywhere is one of the best things I’ve got going, a lot of that has to do with refining my equipment at each spot.