Bruce Irons is eggy. The late-afternoon, Huntington sun has him lit up like a neon sign on the corner of PCH and Main, and he still has another 20 minutes left of his “promo” — one of the many obligatory US Open poster signings his sponsors scheduled for him during the week. “How do you spell your name again?” he asks a grinning blonde in a lime green tunic top. “J-a-m-i-e. Here you go.”Bruce adjusts his Tamba baseball cap, glances at his watch again, then makes a comment to one of his fellow promo pros, Joel Centeio. Something, like, “We’re outta here in 10.”Irons has good reason to be eggy. He might not let on to the two-dozen fans patiently standing in line for their free, autographed posters, but Huntington Beach is the last place he wants to be right now. {{{Eight}}} months ago, he thought these do-or-die, bad-wave qualifying events were finally behind him. The 24-year-old talked about his long-overdue graduation to venues like Teahupo’o and Cloudbreak and J-Bay. He talked about making the Dream Tour even more exciting.But now he’s talking more about the possibility of exiting. After five events and five disappointing results (three 33rds and two 17ths after JBay), Bruce sits in a three-way tie for 40th in the ratings (the only new ‘Cter who’s fared worse than Bruce so far is Frenchman Eric Rebiere). And the scary thing is, up until this Huntington event, he hasn’t done a single qualifier all year. Translation: without a dramatic turnaround on the ‘CT, the younger Irons could find himself off the Tour and without a decent seed for 2005’s qualifying gruel.

It’s a bit unsettling considering his current status in the surf god pantheon. This is a kid who’s spawned a whole planet of young clones who pull off lazyboy, nose-tweak kickouts and disaster, frontside airs with equal nonchalance. A kid who — despite his horrible start on tour — continues to command the utmost respect from his peers — some even going so far as to call him the only surfer who knows how to dethrone his big brother, Andy. But these same peers aren’t about to roll over for him, which puts surfing’s new golden child in his current predicament. If his results continue on the same path, Bruce Irons could be facing a lifetime sentence of magazine spreads and video parts after only one year on the WCT. It just doesn’t seem right, which is why SURFING felt it needed to step in and plead a case in Mr. Irons’ defense. We’re not asking the judges to grant him immunity or throw him gratuitous 10s; we’re simply requesting they consider the full body of evidence before his next face-off with some lower-rung hyena. Bruce was born to be king; he just needs to be taught how to rule.

For the complete interview with Bruce Irons, grab a copy of the December issue of SURFING wherever fine magazines are sold. Or save yourself the trouble and just suscribe here.