“When Andy was on, when he was at his peak, I have never seen a man so confident and so unbeatable,” Mick Fanning tells Tracks. “At those times he would walk into a room and supercharge it. It’s hard to describe the effect he had on people.”
Now the surf media, and that obviously includes Tracks and myself, aren’t known for our honest portrayal of our heroes. We have no problems celebrating the best about the world’s elite surfers. Andy Irons was lionized both for his surfing and for that ‘supercharge’ effect Mick describes. His charisma could be blinding.
Yet that approach also comes with a willful neglect to publicise the flaws of our heroes. Whether that be personality traits or drug dependency, it wasn’t something we touched. Now I don’t really have a problem with that approach. It’s not exactly truthful, but at Tracks we weren’t about hard hitting truth nor salacious gossip. Surf journalists also tend to become (relatively) close with some of the surfers. Now for me that has meant I’ve often traded friendship for telling personal truths. It’s a trade I’m okay with and hopefully you the readers can understand why.
Andy, of course, was the most obvious case for both his flaws and his talent were so extreme. I remember a Red Bull Fiji boat trip I went on back in the 2000s. Andy was fresh off his third world title and at the height of his powers, while Bruce, Fanning, Jamie O’Brien, Alex Gray and Ian Walsh were also on board. One morning that stood out was after a wild evening that had involved an all day drinking session, then a night of poker, which culminated in Andy losing a big hand to Bruce. Andy blew his top, as only he could when losing to his brother, and went back to his cabin and vented his rage by hurling his own laptop into the Pacific.
By the time the sun rose the next day, the air was pregnant with that sick, sullen hangover tension. There were no waves, the heat was oppressive, and Andy was on deck with a sore head, leaving the rest of us treading on eggshells around the unspoken, but well known, fact of the overboard computer. He could supercharge a room, but he was also capable of turning off the lights. Now that was an incident that didn’t make it into my feature in the magazine at the time. Sure, I didn’t want to piss of Andy off, so career self-preservation was a big part of it, but it also shone a negative light on Andy when 95 per cent of that time he’d been at his best; engaging, funny, cutting and warm. I chose to focus on that aspect of my experience with Andy.
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His new biopic Kissed By God, however chooses to take a more honest and brutal looks at all sides of Andy’s personality. It’s a celebration of his life and his achievements, but also the true story of his struggles with bipolar disorder and opioid addiction that ended it.
“The time to tell Andy’s story is now, not because we want to glorify his life or accomplishments but because Andy wanted to share the truth of his struggles to educate future generations,” said Bruce. “We wanted to share the whole story – both the struggles and the triumphs – and give intimate insight as to who Andy was as a whole.”
Along with Bruce those closest to Andy; his wife Lindy, mates likes Parko, Fanning, Kai Garcia and Kelly Slater finally come clean on the struggles Andy had, and the effect that had on them. Tears are a common theme and many of the participants have claimed the interview process was like a therapy session. The results are confronting. Truth, as the saying goes, hurts. And we all know that this particular story has a tragic ending.
“They changed him,” says his wife Lindy in the film, simply summing up how Andy’s addiction, coupled with his bipolar disorder, eventually robbed her of a husband and her son Axle of a father. This can’t have been an easy film to make, yet it is both brave and honest; rare commodities in the modern world. By telling the untold story of Andy’s life, the aim is to tear down the myths associated with these two ferocious diseases suffered by millions around the world.
The world premiere will take place in Los Angeles on Wednesday, May 2nd. The Los Angeles premiere will be followed by special screenings and events in Hawaii on May 6th and New York on May 10th. For more information head to www.tetongravity.com/films/andy-irons-kissed-by-god