May Issue 2009 Surfing Magazine


"The toughest thing about being a success is that you've got to keep being a success," an old songwriter once said, obviously feeling the pressure to follow up after his latest chart-topper, obviously wondering whether he could dig deep, conjure up those same emotions and pour his heart out all over again. And again. And again.

Now apply this to a profession where no matter how much you train and prepare, your ultimate measure of self-worth hinges on the whims of the ocean. Where the random scores of five humans in a tower will put you either on Cloud 9 or down the deepest, darkest spiral. Where you're out of the country, sleeping in strange places and uprooted from any foundation for 11 months out of the year. Where your only routine is having no routine. This has nothing to do with money, fame or the job we all wished we had. It has everything to do with the price of being on top of the world for three convincing years, and clawing to get back there ever since.

Andy Irons loves to surf and he loves to win. It's been this way ever since he was the big bully in the NSSA, stomping airs all over kids' dreams. And during all this time, surfing and winning is what's defined him. He doesn't fish. Isn't obsessed with golf like the rest of his peers. Isn't big on the gym or exercise balls. He's always said his best training is riding waves. It's how he relaxes. How he fires up. His work is his play is his work.

So this past December, when he joined us for a swell-chase down to Micronesia's world-famous righthander (See "Would You Rather...", pg. xx), I saw no point in sticking a tape recorder in his face and interviewing him about his decision to take a year off from the tour. Like, duh. The dude's been going {{{90}}} mph since '97. Of course he needs a breather. For the same reason Curren disappeared for three years before winning his third. For the same reason Kelly went on sabbatical before returning bigger, balder and - eventually — more unbeatable than ever.

Intensity at that level must fall off a cliff at some point, and Irons, despite his talent, needs to disconnect and rediscover why he fell in love with surfing in the first place. And when he does, regardless of whether he goes on to win three more or never competes again, it will not change what he’s already given to us. One of the best there ever was. The only surfer to truly get inside Slater’s head. And 12 solid years of classic hits, forever playing in our iPods. – Evan Slater