Andy Irons, no longer having to make this trek down to Lowers for the contest. Well, at least not in ’09. Photo: Straley
With the 3x World Champ finally getting to feel what it’s like to not be on the Gold Coast in the beginning of March, he’s got a bit of time on his hands. And seeing as how some movie just came out about the rivalry between himself and Kelly Slater, ESPN decided it was a good time to sit Andy down and find some things out for themselves.
As reported by Jake Howard on ESPN.com.
While taking a year off from the tour to try to get to a place where “surfing’s fun again,” don’t think for a second that Andy Irons is just hanging at Pine Trees and sitting on the couch twiddling his thumbs. Right now he’s on Kauai, preparing for his annual contest for the kids. He’s also heading up his own production company, Irons Brothers Productions, which is where the new film “A Fly in the Champagne” comes in.
As Andy will tell you, it’s easy for people to speculate about things they know little about. “Sometimes they just make s— up, which I just don’t understand,” he’ll say, a confounded tone in his voice. But after spending the better part of this decade playing Prince of Darkness to Kelly Slater’s White Knight, after enduring the surf media’s cruelest microscope, he is finally ready to clarify, to talk, to put all the hearsay and heresy from those infamous glory days to rest — or at least that’s the premise for “A Fly inn the Champagne.” And to be honest, the film does a good job of achieving that.
Andy does a much better job of walking you through the filmmaking process than a donkey like me ever could, so without further adieu, let the man speak:
Where/how did the idea for a movie with Kelly come about?
It kind of came about a couple years ago. I’d say probably sometime around 2004 or 2005. Kelly actually had the idea for a similar type of trip, like going on a boat trip or something, and doing a documentary kind of thing. I wasn’t really into it at the time. Things between us were still kind of intense, we weren’t really comfortable around each other — or at least I wasn’t comfortable around him — and I didn’t think it was the right time. But a few years go by, you know, he’s won his titles, Mick won his, and my competitive drive hasn’t been all there, and then as we got to talk more over the last couple of years we developed a closer relationship other than just being competitive towards each other. Then I got my production company started and the idea for a trip came back up. I thought now was the right time to do it, before we go 10 or 15 years and still haven’t addressed or documented any of those issues.
So, did Kelly just walk up to you back in ’04 and say, “You wanna make a movie?”
Sort of. Well, he e-mailed my manager about it, then he said something to me about it, but I didn’t really know what he was talking about. At first I thought it was one of those Kelly things, you know. But then later on, last year at Snapper, I got to talking with Matt Beauchesne, who does a lot of filming and creative stuff for our production company, and he had me go ask Kelly about it. I went up to him and said, “Yeah, you remember that idea you had for a trip a few years ago, would you still be into doing something like that? Maybe if you have time this next year we can get something going.” I told him, wherever he wants to go, whatever friends he wants to bring, we’ll do that same formula he talked about before, but let’s get it going.
The rivalry’s less intense these days?
It’s mellow. It’s cool now. We’re older. I’m not as brash, I’d say I’m a little more mature now. Kelly’s done everything nine times over, you know, so he’s not worried about proving himself — he’s just worried about surfing good. We actually hang out and talk now; it’s weird. There’s a friendship there, a friendship I never thought would be there. It’s a trip.
Let’s talk about the production company.
The production company’s awesome. It’s me, my brother, Blair Marlin and Matt Beauchesne. We’ve had this idea for a while. Skateboarders and snowboarders have always had it, you know, each professional has their own production company and owns all their own footage. That’s the thing we wanted to do, we want to own our own footage and control what we do. Most of the time the big companies own all of that and make money off of it, and all the surfer gets is the publicity, which is great and it keeps him going, but I think if the surfer is going to go out and put their life on the line, I mean, if I go out and surf a heavy day at Teahupoo, I want to own that footage. And I think it’s an important time for surfers to own their own stuff.
Besides that, we have some killer projects going right now. We just did the DC movie, “Dude Cruise,” and that killed it. Then we have “A Fly in the Champagne,” which is just coming out. Then we’re working with Julian Wilson on a yearlong project. It’s going to be unreal. I’m really excited about that one. He’s one of my favorite surfers right now. He’s amazing, a really nice kid, a great attitude, he’s going to go far. So yeah, I can’t wait to go on a trip with him and watch him do a couple sushi rolls over my head.
Anyway, back to the production company: Is part of it a reaction to the way you’ve been portrayed in other films and a way to keep some creative control?
Oh yeah, “Blue Horizon” you mean? Yeah, that sold a lot of copies and was seen by a lot of people, and it was two years of filming that literally turned into one huge sequence of every bad mood I was in for those two years. Worse, I never got to see a preview of the movie before it was shown. The first time I saw it was in front of 1,000 people. And when I saw that, right then and there I knew I needed to know what goes into any and every movie that I’m in — before it comes out. Seeing myself be a p—- for an hour and a half, that was the biggest shock. And that’s where the production company comes in. It’s all about getting creative rights and having the control because it’s too easy for people to put stuff out there that’s fabricated or taken out of context. I’ve learned the hard way on that one, and now I can make sure that doesn’t happen again.
As long as you learn, right?
Live and learn, live and learn. Unfortunately, some people like to remember what you did wrong and not what you did right, and I hate hearing about it.
And I have to ask you about the tour. Happy with your decision?
I’m so psyched right now. I couldn’t imagine having to be on the Gold Coast right now. Mentally, I’m just not ready to compete. Having this freedom to go surf is amazing. I’ve already done two trips this year and I’ve already got the buzz back. I feel like I’ve taken 10 years off. I feel like a grom, just psyched to go surfing. I’m having fun ordering fun boards. It’s great to have the buzz back. It was scary there, not being excited to go surf, that’s a scary thing — when you don’t want to do something you’ve loved to do your whole life.
Sounds like life is good?
I’ve already done more fun stuff in one month than I did in four years. I went snowboarding, surfed Salt Creek, hung out in Laguna, went to Micronesia, Tahiti and Fiji, then the movie premiers, it’s been amazing. Good things ahead.