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Joel Parkinson Talks About Andy Irons’ Otherworldly Surfing Ability

Editor's Note: This clip is part of our new video series "Andy Irons: Raw Outtakes," which serves as an intimate glimpse into the anecdotes and parting memories that didn't make the film, told by Andy’s friends and family with insights on bipolar disorder and substance abuse from leading medical specialists. This digital series sets out to expand what we know about the world champion surfer's life and the hidden struggles he faced including substance abuse and bipolar disorder. For more information about the feature film please visit tetongravity.com/andy.

That Andy Irons was a spectacular talent in surfing isn't exactly breaking news.

RELATED: Get tickets to, and view showtimes for, Andy Irons 

The Kauai-born surfing legend's career accolades are beyond reproach: 20 world tour event wins, three world titles (tied for the third-most ever) and–at the time of his passing–the only surfer to win at every venue on the Championship Tour schedule.

But the stories of Andy's seemingly innate relationship with the ocean go far beyond competition. He had an ability to manhandle big surf in a way few have ever possessed. 

"When the waves were big and scary, he seemed to have, I don't know whether it was a power over it, or a power over himself, or something that he channeled through all that stuff," Joel Parkinson, the 2012 surfing world champion, told TGR. "It was pretty amazing, the way he stayed calm in all those heavy situations, I thought.

"(Andy) always will be regarded as the most fierce competitor ... He was scarier when he was losing than what he was when he was winning," Parkinson continued. "He pulled out so many rabbits out of hats and he was so good at that. Once he was fired up, he was fucking untouchable."

Surfing fans will never forget Andy's shining moment in the 2006 Pipe Masters final–widely regarded as the greatest competitive surfing final ever–where he scored a perfect 10 in the dying moments of the contest to defeat Kelly Slater, but that flair for the dramatic never seemed to allude Andy. And while some may assume it was just raw talent–as Dr. Mark Vonnegut told TGR–much of it may have been the result of how bipolar disorder affected Andy's brain. Put simply, his mind could operate on another level when it came to surfing.

"He was like an encyclopedia. He knew everything," Parkinson said of Andy's intense competition study habits. "What year, what heat, who axed who, who I lost to in the third round. Not even him, he knew my stuff... He used to watch all the surf movies and be like, "Oh, watch this next wave." And he new the next wave that was upcoming... I don't know how much time he must have put into that shit, but he had a good memory with it."

That level of intense dedication bore itself out in Andy's competition results. He won his first of three consecutive world title just years after dropping off the Championship Tour, and did so by conquering venues that didn't always come naturally to him.

"He was never a good J-Bay surfer at the start (of his career)," said Parkinson. "He sucked at J-Bay. I remember he used to just go and watch footage of J-Bay of guys that can surf it well. And he just basically learned to surf J-Bay from watching footage, and was talented enough to be able to go out and go, 'Oh, that's what I gotta do' and go out and do it."

From The Series: Andy Irons: Raw Outtakes

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Maya Gabeira on Her Record-Breaking Wave and Female Surfing
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Maya Gabeira on Her Record-Breaking Wave and Female Surfing

Maya Gabeira on Her Record-Breaking Wave and Female Surfing

Breaking a Guinness World Record is never an easy process, but Maya Gabeira’s quest to break the biggest wave ever surfed by a woman was as hard as it gets. For one, she nearly died during her attempt at Nazaré on October 28th, 2013. But five years later when she achieved her goal by riding a 68-foot wave at the same spot, the WSL and the Guinness Book of World Records didn’t seem to care.  Refusing to give up, Gabeira started a petition and garnered 20,000 signatures, which ultimately

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Stream the Portuguese Surf Film Festival for FREE
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Stream the Portuguese Surf Film Festival for FREE

Stream the Portuguese Surf Film Festival for FREE

It’s certainly been a weird time for surfing. The WSL's season was canceled. Who knows when we’ll be able to safely hop on a plane for that dream surf getaway. Not to mention all the beaches throughout the U.S. that have been closed altogether because of the pandemic. These days a little good news wouldn’t be so bad, which is why the Portuguese Surf Film Festival decided to offer their incredible line up of films for free through a virtual event. Sure, it doesn’t beat being on the beaches of

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VIDEO: Frigid and Beautiful Surfing Along Canada’s West Coast
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VIDEO: Frigid and Beautiful Surfing Along Canada’s West Coast

VIDEO: Frigid and Beautiful Surfing Along Canada’s West Coast

This video from SURFER comes with a fairly provocative title: "Is The Canadian Boat Trip the New Indo Boat Trip?" For a number of reasons, I think it's safe to say that the answer to that titular question is "No." First and foremost, Indonesia has a major temperature advantage. You can claim all day that you don't mind wearing a wetsuit and shivering uncontrollably for half an hour after getting out of the water, but I won't believe you. That said, the British Columbian coastline is one of