November 3, 2010
Andy Irons dies en route to Hawaii
Three-time world surfing champion Andy Irons died Tuesday. He was 32.
Irons contracted an illness in Portugal in October 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. "He fell ill in Puerto Rico and went to see the contest doctor," said Stephane Tenailleau, European spokesman for Billabong. "The doctor told him to withdraw from the contest and go back home to fix the disease."
On Wednesday, Tarrant County Medical Examiner Nizam Peerwani ruled out trauma and foul play in Irons' death, but said the cause and manner of death are pending due to completion of lab tests, which could take several weeks.
A report in the Honolulu Star Advertiser, citing the same 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.
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."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.