As his closest rival, professional surfer and 11-time world champion Kelly Slater got an intimate look at who Andy Irons was, and how his surfing shaped an entire generation. Competing at the highest level, the two surfers had a bit of a love/hate relationship, with Irons often getting in Slater’s face during competitions.
“I've never heard the diagnosis or whatever but, I mean, yeah I fucking know Andy was bipolar. You kidding me? [chuckle] And he seemed like his normal self when he was drunk, that's when he would come up and hug me and be cool. And then during the day he'd be like, "You're the fucking devil, I wanna kill you." But when a contest ended and we had a couple beers, he'd be hugging me and telling me he loved me too, just like I did on the beach that time and he thought I was messing with him. But we were just opposite. Yeah, we... I don't know that you could get two people in their prime that are more opposites in more ways.”
The abrasiveness during contests soon turned into something more. Slater recalls a moment from getting into a fight on a trip to Fiji:
“And I get in the back seat and I'm next to Jon Roseman and I go "Hey Jon, I'm gonna punch Andy in the face", and he goes "You are?", I go "Yeah", and I go, "I don't know, I'm just gonna punch him." And so I jumped back in the pile and I just like, and I find Andy, and I just boom, I just give him a good one, I think I actually punched him in the ribs, and, it was like, strong enough to know it wasn't like a fun one but not hard enough to hurt him, but it was kind of like, that was a serious one, and... So anyways, everyone's scrambling, and we're so drunk he didn't really know where it came from. And so as soon we get off the bus I'm expecting Andy is gonna punch me in the face, because I punched him in the ribs so I'm going "I'm gonna get punched in the face," but after I punched him I leaned back and Jon Roseman is still sitting there and he goes "Did you do it?" and I go "Yeah, I punched him in the ribs," and I'm like, "He's gonna kill me, I know it, he's gonna kill me." And he's like, "I can't believe you did that! I can't believe you did that!" and I'm like, "Yeah I did it, I told you I was gonna do it." As soon we get out of the van I'm like, "Oh, Andy, he's gonna jump me right now, he's gonna want to fight for sure.”