And he competed the same way. Ever since he first put on a colorful singlet. Freddy Patacchia, Andy’s closest friend and North Shore standout and North Shore legend, remembers: “It was, like, a Junior Pro. It was the first time I thought, ‘This guy is radical.’ I had known Andy and Bruce for a while, but this must have been one of the first events or something. It was at V-Land. And Bruce was beating him in the final and had this little barrel and Andy purposefully tried to get in his way. He, like, bailed his board and tried to hit Bruce in the barrel, but Bruce still made it out and won. And you know Bruce, he rubbed it in.
“Andy chased him around V-Land for a minute and then we all left, and as we were leaving I saw Andy’s trophy jammed in a tree. I thought, ‘Holy shit, this guy’s on another level.’ He wouldn’t take losing. Didn’t accept it. Wasn’t in his vocabulary. To see him get rid of his trophy.... I would have been stoked just to have any trophy, but second place wasn’t good enough for him.”
Andy won an event at Pipeline as a 17-year-old. He won Teahupo’o too, later that year, but of course it took a hot minute for him to really dig into the World Championship Tour format — with the judging and the monotony and the procedural expectations and the blah blah blah. But by 2002 he was there. He arrived, competitively, just in time for Kelly Slater.
King Kelly. Royal hand around the neck of competitive surfing. Too good to stay interested in the other plebes blaséing about the water, too bored of beating them senseless, so he left for three years. And when he became too bored of whatever else he was doing in those three years — Pamela Anderson, acting — he came back. To rule for another thousand years. But blocking the gate to his kingdom was a carved granite jaw and two blue eyes touched with pterygium blazing pure hatred.
CJ Hobgood, world champ during one of Kelly’s three absent years, witnessed the boil. He recalls, “Andy was the first person who came along that hated Slater. He hated everything about him, and I know hate is a strong word, but he really hated Kelly.”
Hate. Rage. Rage. Passion. Brodie Carr, CEO of the Association of Surfing Professionals, describes the passion: “He attacked and destroyed waves with an element of flair that only he has. Competitively, he was UFC meets ASP. He attacked every wave of every heat of every contest.”
And those attacks and that hatred and that passion and that style and that flair and that hatred meant victory. Kelly banished. Kelly locked out in the cold. The sexiest moments in competitive surfing’s history, those battles. And three in a row to Andy. The Champ cometh. The Champ cometh. The people’s champ.
Victory meant cocksure swagger. Andy would strut around the parking lot, the club, the award show, the Foodland, and everyone would know he had it. Was it. Barking, chest-pounding. And in an era of humble athlete love, Andy’s “Here the f--k I am” was the greatest show in town. We all enjoyed.