Within the close-knit community that is the pro surfing world, it came as a surprise to many when Andy Irons first went to rehab for drug and alcohol abuse. Kelly Slater, 11-time World Champion and Andy’s closest rival, shares how the news was squashed, even swept under the table, and that he felt that the news should be shared with the world to help out his fellow competitor. While there was intense rivalry during competition, Slater knows that he cared about everyone on the tour, including Irons.
Looking back, Slater shares his feelings towards Irons: “Andy was... There were times, I remember times just feeling like I hated the guy so much, but getting through that and realizing he gave me such a gift to access things. He accessed something no one could access in me. So I would always come back to feeling appreciative somewhere. But you can't let him know that, you were still competing. But it did eventually come out probably in '09 when we talked, or somewhere around there, 2008 maybe. Yeah, it was... I wish I had been... I wish he was able to be public about it. And I felt like there were forces stopping that from happening.”
After Irons completed rehab more than once, Slater saw a change in his character, saying “Yeah. It was beginning of the year 2009 on the Gold Coast and Andy came up to me and he had just completed rehab, I don't know how long for, but that was the second time. He was super clear headed. He was looking me in the eye, talking to me like I was his best friend. So loving and happy, just beaming with life he had never known. He came up to me and he goes, "Hey can we talk?" and he said, "Hey, I just got out of rehab. Man, I'm learning so much." He was like, "I feel like I got lucky to start over. I feel like I've been given a second chance. I feel like I didn't deserve this but I got it and I can't believe how lucky I am, how fortunate I am."