Three-time world surfing champion Andy Irons died Tuesday. He was 32.
Irons was ill and missed his Round 1 and 2 heats at the Rip Curl Search Puerto Rico stop on the ASP Men’s World Tour on Saturday. He was traveling back home to Hawaii when, on an overnight layover in Dallas, was found by staff at the Grand Hyatt Hotel at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport after he failed to respond to a wakeup call.
An official statement by Billabong, one of Irons’ sponsors, said he was suffering from Dengue Fever. Additionally, a report in the Honolulu Star Advertiser, citing the Tarrant County Medical Examiner, said that Irons’ death is being investigated as a possible methadone overdose and reported the drug was found along with other prescription drugs at the scene.
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner, reached for confirmation of the Star Advertiser’s report, would not confirm it, saying only that a statement would be issued after an autopsy was performed Wednesday.
Irons was arguably the most dominant surfer of the early to mid 2000s. In addition to his three consecutive world titles from 2002 to 2004, Irons had 20 World Tour victories and four Triple Crown Of Surfing titles. But more significant than the statistics was his reputation as perhaps the only true rival nine-time World Champion Kelly Slater has ever known, and the two engaged in some of the most memorable title races in history.
Irons returned to the World Tour this year after a one-year hiatus. While his results had been inconsistent, a win at the Billabong Pro Tahiti in August signified a return to form in the kind of powerful, barreling surf in which he made his reputation.
Fellow surfer Reef McIntosh, who grew up with Irons on Kauai, said Wednesday from Hawaii: “I talked to Phil [Irons], I talked to Bruce [Irons] – everyone’s just crying. I was surfing Mavericks with Shane [Dorian] and everyone else and saw all these missed calls. My girlfriend called and said Andy had died. I didn’t return these calls because I didn’t want to drive and cry at the same time. Everyone on Kauai is crying right now.”