Finally. After four and a half years of tough losses and sporadic highlights, the once-touted "best freesurfer in the world" will soon be back out there to reclaim his crown. At the end of 2008, no matter how he finishes on the ASP World Tour, Bruce Irons is going back to what he was born to do: not compete, but create. Now at 28, Irons admits his stint on tour was not what he expected it to be. No matter how dreamy the Dream Tour is, it's still a bunch of contests, which just never quite fit Bruce's style of surfing. Sure, he had some high notes. His second-place finish to brother Andy at the 2004 Quik Pro in Hossegor was a storybook contest in storybook conditions, and we figured that was only the beginning of Irons-clad finals. But it was never to be. After finishing 9th in 2005, Bruce has steadily dropped off, disappearing – as he calls it – "in the back of the cattle truck." So, after thinking about it for the past few months, he's decided to break out of the cattle truck and roam free. He wants to finish his commitments on this year's tour and take one more shot at winning a contest, but after that, Bruce 2.0 will be unchained and on the loose. Look out.
[Interview conducted in between the Tahiti and Fiji events at Bruce's home in Princeville. After a solid quarterfinal finish at Teahupo'o and catching four onos the day before, he was in high spirits.]
SURFING MAGAZINE: When did you start thinking you wanted to be off tour?
BRUCE IRONS: I've just kind of been stuck in this rut. Same places, same schedule. It's gotten to the point where I don't like surfing heats. When it's not good, I don't have the motivation. And then I was really worried all along that if I fell off tour, Volcom would drop me. I wasn't communicating with them about that and I was struggling on tour. I didn't like the way I was surfing. I wasn't happy with it at all. So, I talked to Volcom and basically said I wasn't happy on tour. And I asked them what they thought of me not doing it. They said they'd be stoked if I wasn't on it. They said they could see my struggle on tour. That I tried it and it wasn't my thing. I prefer to go back to how I started my whole surfing trip which is to go on surf trips and make videos. That's where I'm most happy.
So, it's just been this buildup over the years…
I got there and I figured, after a while, that I just got to admit it. I'm not going to win a world title. You have to be on your game to win a world title and be good at every single spot. Some spots I found myself struggling every year. And if you're not there to win a world title, I really don't think there's any point in being there. If I just stay on tour, I'll be stuck in the back of the bus like the rest of the non-contenders. If you're not in the Top 5, who are you? You're stuck in back of the cattle bus. I'm just going to step away now because I feel like I'm at a good point in my life to start that next chapter, that next phase in my career. Being in the mags again, making surf videos. And having fun.
What surfing plans do you have once you're off tour?
I'm not dreaming up crazy varials and rodeos like Dane guys. I've never even come close to doing a rodeo and I've tried hundreds. Varials, I tried, asking Dane how to do 'em, and it was all just fins and shins every time. No good. For me, I still like just going down the line as fast as I can on a good-size wave and going for the high, lofty punt. High as you can go. Even if you land in the flats and get smoked, it still looks pretty sick. Plus, big Teahupo'o, slabs in Oz, big pits in the South Pacific, Pipeline all winter…I want to do all of that. My schedule is to not have a schedule. The schedule is the storms. For so long, I've known exactly where I would be at any given time of the year. It's stagnant. I like change. And it's time for a change.
[For the full exclusive interview on Bruce Irons' next chapter, be sure to check the September issue of SURFING Magazine, on newsstands in late July.]