When three-time ASP world surfing champion Andy Irons died on Nov. 2, 2010, at the age of 32, the surf community lost one of its most dynamic competitors. But big-wave heavy Bruce Irons lost something more: his big brother. He calls the two years that followed the darkest, most challenging of his life.
His brother's cause of death continues to provoke debate within the surf community. The coroner's report said the primary cause was a heart attack due to coronary artery disease, but it also listed five drugs, including a by-product of cocaine and methadone, as significant factors. In the ensuing years, Bruce separated from his wife, removed himself from his friends and rarely surfed. Then, last November, he shocked the surf industry when he split with longtime sponsor Volcom and signed with Fox Head, a company known for its motocross chops and, like the 33-year-old, looking for a fresh start in surfing. These days, Irons speaks openly, smiles more and surfs for himself. But most importantly, for the first time in a long while, Bruce Irons is happy.
We sat down with Irons in Venice, Calif., in late February after he and girlfriend Hailee returned from a weeklong snowboard trip to Jackson Hole, Wyo. "It's not all about surfing for me anymore," Irons said that day. "It's about finding balance in life." In May, the couple traveled to Spain to attend the Barcelona X Games, visit Fox's new headquarters and make a quick vacation stop in Venice, Italy. Then Irons returned to California to visit his kids before flying home to Hawaii for a few days. Irons was still at home last Tuesday morning when Oakley announced he had officially accepted a wild-card entry into the Oakley Pro in Karamas, Bali, on June 18. "I haven't surfed an event like this in a long time," Irons said in a follow-up phone interview last week during a layover in L.A. "Pipe Masters is a WCT event, but it's not this type of surfing. It will be exciting to surf this wave. It's high performance and has everything, from getting barreled to doing big airs and fast speed turns. It's an action-packed wave. It's perfect."
The last time the World Tour passed through Bali -- the 2008 Rip Curl Pro Search Uluwatu -- Bruce won the event. It was his first and only World Tour win. This contest is the first WCT event Irons will surf in Fox gear, and he says he very much wants to make his new sponsor proud. "It's been incredible at Fox," he said. "The people there make me feel very good and important and warm. I want to go to Bali and do really good, so I've been doing some training and am taking it really seriously. The only pressure on me is pressure I'm putting on myself. I'm on my way down to Mexico because there's a big swell and I'm going to surf a lot before I leave for Bali on Monday. Then in a couple weeks, we'll do this interview again. And we'll be talking about my victory."
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