As an 11-time surfing World Champion, Kelly Slater knew who he was up against. Throughout his storied career, he faced the likes of world-class surfers like Tom Curren and of course Andy Irons in competition. On tour, the surfers would often face off in gnarly conditions, and it was clear that Irons’ Hawaiian background lent him comfort in not only tough conditions and scary barrels, but also let him be creative in small waves like those found on his home beach breaks.
Slater shares: “He read conditions really well, he could adapt to different styles of surfing, he could do airs, he could throw the tail, he was good at grabbing his rail and spinning the tail out and doing those club sandwich, the early club sandwich kinda rotation. He had a crazy power base to his surfing. And he rode boards that were bigger and heavier than what I rode, so he really had to push them around.”
That expertise showed in his wins on tour. Slater adds, “There was one year in 2004, I believe it was, that we got to the final day, and I remember Andy walking down the beach, it was 10 to 15 foot out and we were gonna have to surf these big huge rights out to sea, and Andy walks on the beach with a 6'8 Simon Anderson. And I just looked and I remember saying, I might've even said it out loud to myself, no one was around me, but I remember saying in my head at least, "He's got this thing locked up, he's got the right board and these waves just suit him." And then him and Bruce made the final. I lost to Bruce in the semis, but him and Bruce made the final and it was pretty much all Andy in that final. But all day long Andy was just on point and unstoppable. But yeah I think he had that magic like Tom Curren had, and that was the guy I always thought was unbeatable.”