Without Andy Irons, pro surfing’s nine-time world champ, Kelly Slater would not be such a legend. But then, Andy Irons is a legend of his own with three world titles in the Association of Surfing Professionals.
Andy Irons won a string of three world crowns in 2002, 2003 and 2004. For the final pair, Irons bested the come-back king Kelly Slater. Since 2005, Slater has regained dominance, but Irons has remained to nip at his heels.
Their rivalry is similar to the historic Bill Russell versus Wilt Chamberlain in basketball or Jack Nicklaus versus Arnold Palmer in golf. When Surf Magazine rated pro surfing’s all-time rivalries, Andy Irons versus Kelly Slater earned the top spot, even ahead of East Coast versus West Coast and U.S.A. versus Australia.
Andy Irons, at the age of 30, already has gained a place in the Surfing Hall of Fame.
Andy Irons is bigger than the average surfer and in competition sometimes displays a competitive football spirit that caused one analyst to remark, “You might think he’s an intense frothing madman.” However, his fellow pro surfers say he’s really a friendly and fun guy. Andy Irons is even making peace with Kelly Slater after all these years, according to reports.
The size of Andy Irons should not belie his finesse . He grew up on the shores of Kauai, where waves are not always at their peaks. Therefore, he learned to rip and scoot on the two-footers, as well as showcasing on the 12-footers.
Andy Irons is the first to admit that he sold himself short early in his pro career, as a young adult, with too much partying. He was in his early 20s before he finally came into his own.
Big, “frothing” Andy Irons is actually a gentle do-gooder. He joins his surfing brother Bruce Irons each year to throw a free surfing contest for the kids on Kauai called the Irons Brothers Pinetrees Classic.
Still, entering 2009, Andy Irons would like nothing better than to achieve another takedown of Kelly Slater.