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