Andy always was a hero — and an anti-hero. Photo: Jeff Flindt
Andy always was a hero — and an anti-hero. Photo: Jeff Flindt


Not surprisingly, our inboxes (and eyes) were flooded this week after the news of Andy Irons’ death. Most of the messages we got expressed unyielding praise for Andy and his surfing — but the letter below was something different, and in its own way, extra powerful:

I know you’re going to get quite a few letters about Andy Irons, but I implore you to give this one special attention.

The year Andy won the world title where it came down to that one heat at Pipe with Kelly Slater, he was on top of the world…literally. He was living a rock star life, making tons of money, and getting paid to surf the best waves in the world — a lifestyle many of us would be pretty envious of.

A couple of days after he won the title, I drove out to North Shore to get a rare surf in before I had to go to work. I didn’t have much time, so I just parked at Dave Wassell’s house (where I usually stop first) in front of Off The Wall, didn’t even look at the waves, grabbed my board and paddled out.

I surfed OTW for a few waves and saw a couple of barrels over at Backdoor and not many people out, and I paddled over to try and luck into a little barrel or two. There were like four groms out, two sponger chicks, and…Andy Irons. My cousin grew up on Kauai with Andy and Bruce so I had met them several times, so I exchanged head nods with Andy and after looking at my watch realized I had to pretty much catch my next wave in.

A set came in and Andy catches the first wave. I was too deep for the second, so here comes the third wave, about four feet and an absolutely sick Backdoor wave. I’m in perfect position, and there is nobody even around except me. Andy is on the shoulder watching me catch this wave. I catch it and am about to get a really good Backdoor barrel except for Andy looks me right in the eye, gives a little half smile smirk, and just absolutely burns me, causing me to have to straighten out and lay down and go in because I had to go to work.

I was REALLY pissed. Here’s Andy Irons, just won the Triple Crown, Pipe Masters, and the ASP World Title, living just an absolute dream life. Then here’s me just wanting to get a good one before I have to go to work to pay the rent on my shitty duplex in Kalihi.

This experience caused me to hold a grudge against Andy for a long time. I couldn’t think about Andy Irons without thinking about that wave at windy, uncrowded, not-that-good Backdoor. But the fact is I was just blown away by Andy’s surfing — by far my favorite surfer to watch. Andy was, is, and forever will be a legend of the sport of surfing. I cried when I found out about his passing. Even though he did burn me on a really good one at Backdoor with barely anyone out, I still cried.

I’m writing this letter because I forgive you Andy. I finally forgive you.

Much Love, Aloha, Respect, and Condolences to Andy’s Wife, Brother Bruce, Family, and all the Kauai Boys.

Sage Spalding
Haiku, Maui

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